MYRTLE BEACH — Brad Dean, former Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, was recently appointed to a two-year term as vice chair of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
The board advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to travel and the tourism industry in the United States. Dean has been serving as the CEO of Discover Puerto Rico since leaving Myrtle Beach in April 2018.
“It’s prestigious, but it’s also a great privilege,” Dean told the Post and Courier Myrtle Beach.
“It’s just an honor and a privilege to serve my nation in this capacity, especially at this time. It’s only made possible, in large part, because of the time I spent in the Myrtle Beach area. I spent the most formative years of my professional career in South Carolina and learned so much from my colleagues in the public and private sector.”
Dean came to Myrtle Beach in the mid-90s to work with Hard Rock Cafe. He eventually became the chief financial officer of the chamber and then its president in 2003. Dean was instrumental in spearheading Myrtle Beach’s tourism growth beyond the summer months. He formed relationships with people like Duane Parrish, director of the state’s Parks, Recreation & Tourism, Helen Hill, CEO of Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Roger Dow, CEO if the U.S Travel Association, all the while working to evolve sports tourism in the region to what it is now — a $19 million-a-year industry to the local economy.
“One thing I’ve always admired was how, in good times and bad times, we were able to forge partnerships that nurtured progress,” Dean said. “Building upon that, when I was with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, it allowed me to not only learn and grow as a professional, but to make relationships throughout the state and also at the national level.”
Dean worked to expand air service at the local airport and led the chamber as online advertising launched.
Dean was testifying before Congress pertaining to infrastructure needs and connected with another peer who invited him to a Travel and Tourism Advisory Board meeting. He was then put in touch with Isabel Hill, formerly with the S.C. Department of Commerce and current director of the National Travel and Tourism Office at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. He applied and was chosen to serve on the advisory board about six years ago. He has served on the board since then, and was recently appointed vice chair.
“In my time on TTAB, the focus has covered a broad array of topics, from visa policy and aviation security to sustainability and the national travel and tourism strategy, very big picture, broad topics that cover many, many facets of travel and tourism, but, while I’m just one member of the board, I can anticipate for 2021, our top three topics will be recovery, recovery, recovery,” Dean said. “So, it’s not only a privilege to serve in this role, but at this time. The work that needs to be done to help guide travel and tourism back to where it was pre-COVID is certainly substantial.”
And Dean is optimistic about the travel and tourism industry, which he calls “resilient.”
“The question isn’t if we’ll recover, it’s a matter of when and how we’ll recover,” he said.
Dean pointed to Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts after 2017’s Hurricane Mari — the worst natural disaster to hit that area in recorded history.
“COVID has been like having three Hurricane Marias all in the same year,” Dean said. “Unthinkable before this… One essential element of any economic recovery is ensuring that public policy is aligned with the needs and the priorities with the private sector.
“A good collaborative plan that identifies the needs and the opportunities allows the public and private sectors to work together to accelerate the recovery. So as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to shape our policies and protocols to accelerate the recovery. It’s high time for sensible strategies and decisive action, otherwise, I fear if we don’t take the opportunity over the next two years to pursue sensible strategies and decisive action, the next endangered species may be the small business.”
He said the travel and tourism industries have recognized the necessity of managing public health and travel, beyond COVID and beyond a vaccine.
“My hope is that one of the outcomes of our efforts is that we prepare our nation for the next pandemic,” Dean said. “If we don’t learn from this, and become better and wiser, then shame on us.”
Dean said restoring consumer confidence, both nationally and internationally, will be a challenge for the board, too.
“With a lot of credit to Brand USA, the nation’s travel and tourism promoter, we saw explosive growth in international inbound travel in recent years,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s stopped because of the pandemic. International travel will eventually come back. The question is: What actions do we take today to ensure the U.S. recaptures its market share and gains market share coming out of this.”
Dean said he will take what he’s learned at the local level, at both Myrtle Beach and Puerto Rico, to align with broad sectors throughout the travel and tourism industry and help shape policies at the national level.
“This may be one of the hardest working volunteer assignments any of us has been involved with,” Dean said. “But it’s so important when you consider the scope and breadth of the travel and tourism industry and what it means for the U.S.”