Hilton Head Hospitality Association to go without an executive director

The organization that boosts one of the biggest sectors of Hilton Head Island's economy has chosen to go without an executive director.

The Hilton Head Hospitality Association is cutting expenses in part because of declining revenues, said board president Sean Barth, who announced the board's decision Tuesday during its monthly member luncheon at The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa.

Executive director Ann-Marie Adams left the association Thursday, Barth said.

"Being fiscally responsible, we couldn't retain somebody with Ann-Marie's qualifications," Barth said in an interview after the luncheon.

He characterized the split as "amicable" and said board members were happy with Adams and wish her well.

Adams had led the association since 2006 and received $65,101 in compensation in the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to tax records. Barth declined to comment when asked about any severance Adams would receive.

Adams was director of public relations for Technical College of the Lowcountry and Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York state. She has also taught communication skills.

The nonprofit association, established in 1985, is a trade organization that includes food and beverage providers and those in accommodations and related businesses. It offers networking opportunities and scholarships, provides training to hospitality workers and produces two annual events -- the Wine & Food Festival and the Seafood, Jazz & Brew Festival.

The association moved out of its offices in July to cut costs. Revenue from membership dues, festival attendance and the town funds it receives to produce its events have slightly declined because of the recession, Barth said.

The association remains in "good health" financially, although it might not have if it had retained Adams, he said.

Board members are prepared to voluntarily fulfill her duties for now, Barth said.

"We're going to do what we have to do," said Barth, also an assistant professor of hospitality management at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

The association might eventually seek to hire someone to either coordinate its festivals or run its operations as a trade organization, he said.

Adams said she plans to stay in Beaufort County and will continue to help the association as much as possible.

She thinks the association is poised to help its business recover with the economy.

"I believe the hospitality industry is going to rally," she said.