Tourism creates jobs, income, new businesses, and a better quality of life. The International Tourism Research Institute exists to make this happen in your community and for your business. The institute serves international, national, regional, state, and local clients. The mission of the institute is to provide innovative tourism assistance to communities, development organizations, agencies, and businesses. We advocate for the tourism industry, focusing on tourism-related issues, providing credible data, and promoting the industry as a globally viable economic development strategy.
The institute serves economic development organizations, city and regional planners, resort and community developers, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, local governments, national governments, regional development organizations, and local, state, federal, and international agencies. It also provides services to individual businesses on a fee-service basis. Proposals for project work are free-of-charge.
Rich Harrill, Ph.D.
Director, International Tourism Research Institute (ITRI)
Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel and Tourism Industry Center
University of South Carolina, College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management
“Leadership in International Development through Innovative Economic Development and Tourism”
Dr. Rich Harrill has a strong record of success in and an international reputation for leveraging his academic and professional experience combining tourism with economic development and urban planning to drive local, regional, national and international business, tourism and economic growth. He brings an industry-driven business mode and academic entrepreneurship to the university level.
Currently, in his dual roles as Director of the International Tourism Research Institute (ITRI) and Director of the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel and Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina, he conducts on applied research to provide practical solutions to increase U.S. and international tourism industry competitiveness, resulting in additional revenues and strong economic development opportunities.
Since 2001, Dr. Harrill has been awarded more than $1.2 million in external funding for his research, including grants from more than 30 different government, business and industry clients, making him the highest earning grant recipient in University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management history. With this funding, he has delivered research results leading potentially to billions of dollars from increased tourism as a Principal Investigator on 35 major projects and Co-Principal Investigator for 11 major projects covering research in tourism planning and development, destination marketing and management, and economic development.
Also, Dr. Harrill secured a $1.5 million match from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that created the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel and Tourism Industry Center. Based on his economic development experience, he co-proposed and secured $4 million funding for a Center for Tourism and Economic Development (CTED) at the university under South Carolina’s Centers for Economic Excellence (CoEE) program.
Dr. Harrill has focused extensively on international tourism and economic development. He collaborated with the U.S. Travel Association and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries on the definitive study of future Chinese outbound tourism to the U.S., potentially leading to additional tourism dollars for both China and the United States. In doing this research, he directly influenced both U.S. and China federal policies to enable cultural and research exchanges. He is currently working with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism on a study of the recent decline in Japanese tourists to the United States. He also has conducted additional research in the Dominican Republic on tourism development, and accepted a two-month appointment as a visiting professor at the University of Aruba.
In addition to driving economic development through tourism, Dr. Harrill has vastly increased the reputation of the University of South Carolina in China by building strong international ties that have led to research and exchange agreements with top Chinese universities, including Peking University, Nanjing University, Nankai University, Shandong University, and Sun Yat-Sen University, along with the Institute for Tourism Studies, Macao, enriching the academic experience for students.
Dr. Harrill’s professional work has focused on recreation and open-space planning, land use and comprehensive planning, citizen participation, and survey research. With this background, he has received strong reviews for his ability to enhance graduate and undergraduate student skills while teaching courses on sustainable tourism planning and policy, destination marketing and management, community tourism development, international and national resort development and environmental planning. His research advocates for progress and innovation in economic development at the local level, successfully synthesizing urban planning, economic development and tourism for the benefit of communities.
Dr. Harrill published two guidebooks for practitioners, covering his research of 33 best-practice cases in tourism and destination management—Guide to Best Practices in Tourism and Destination Management, Volumes I and II. These books generated interest from tourism organizations throughout the U.S. and internationally, including China, Japan, Vietnam, Brazil, Guatemala and Uruguay, with many resultant speaking and research opportunities. His field experiences also include on-site tourism marketing and development workshops in Sudan and Yemen. His work is frequently cited by major media outlets, including USA Today, CNN Travel, National Public Radio (NPR, All Things Considered), Las Vegas Sun, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Daily Telegraph (Australia) and Reuters.
Prior to his tenure at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Harrill achieved success as a senior business associate for the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) Economic Development Institute (EDI) [now Enterprise Innovation Institute (EII)]. In this role, he facilitated a $6.5 million development proposal to Hacienda Piniella resort owners in Costa Rica by collecting, evaluating and analyzing sustainable development indicators. Dr. Harrill also undertook numerous projects for Georgia clients seeking to foster tourism as part of a local/regional economic development strategy, including projects with the Rockdale County Economic Development Authority to the Lower Chattahoochee Regional Development Center to the Golden Isles Parkway Association. During this period, his research helped to revive the Woodpecker Trail Association covering 10 counties, and enabled the Lake Hartwell Regional Marketing Alliance to better position itself for attracting tourists.
Later in South Carolina, he completed a strategic tourism plan for Kershaw County world-renowned for its equine industry and events. He also conducted a strategic tourism plan for the state’s rural, five-county Salkehatchie region, an effort that explored nature-based and ecotourism development opportunities. More recently, Dr. Harrill completed a development and economic impact study for the 14 counties of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor.
Dr. Harrill earned his Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management and his master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Clemson University. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the College of Charleston. He has published his research in urban planning’s top three journals: the Journal of American Planning Association, Journal of Planning Education and Research and Journal of Planning Literature. The Journal of the American Planning Association is the top-ranked journal for urban studies and number-two ranked journal for planning and development.
Dr. Harrill edited Fundamentals of Destination Management and Marketing (American Hotel & Lodging Association, 2005), the first comprehensive textbook for the destination management industry. He is also co-editor of the International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research and Research Notes Editor of Tourism Analysis.
Dr. Xiang (Robert) Li is currently an assistant professor and associate director of the International Tourism Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. He has conducted extensive research related to destination tourism marketing, tourist behavior, event management, and tourism planning, with special emphasis on destination perception, customer loyalty, and Internet marketing.
Before coming to the United States, Dr. Li worked as a destination marketing, event organizing, and tourism planning specialist in the city tourism bureau of Nanjing, China, for five years. In that job, he was a major drafter of the Tenth Five-year Plan of Nanjing Tourism Development (2001-2005) for the city government of Nanjing, and was the principal investigator of a destination image measurement project for the city of Nanjing. He was also involved in multiple county and district tourism planning projects.
Dr. Li earned his Ph.D. in recreation, parks, and tourism science from Texas A&M University. He holds a master’s in recreation and leisure facilities and services administration from East Carolina University and a master’s in physical geography from Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China.
A member of the Travel and Tourism Research Association; the International
Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education; and the National
Recreation and Park Association, Dr. Li has published his research findings in
several well-respected journals and books. He also has presented his research at
numerous national and international tourism and leisure conferences. Dr. Li has
been recognized for his research abilities with the following awards: Holland
America Line Westours Scholarship (The American Society of Travel Agents), TTIA/TTF
Scholarship (Texas Travel Industry Association/Texas Tourism Foundation),
Simmons Scholarship (The American Society of Travel Agents), International
Festivals and Events Association Foundation Convention Scholarship, and
Conference Scholarship of 14th Annual Northeastern Recreation Research
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