2021 Heritage Tourism Award

For immediate release: August 11, 2021

Explore Up Close Awarded 2021 South Carolina Heritage Tourism Award

Spartanburg, SC: Explore Up Close, a regional tour company, is pleased to announce that the company was recently awarded South Carolina’s 2021 Heritage Tourism Award for their project, “Virtual Travel in South Carolina.” Prompted by the pandemic, their winning project promotes online education and exploration of South Carolina’s off-the-beaten track places and historic sites through storytelling, photography, and short videos.

The Heritage Tourism award recognizes an organization that best preserves and interprets South Carolina’s architectural and cultural heritage through tourism. It is given annually as part of the South Carolina Historic Preservation Awards, which are determined by Preservation SC, the SC Department of Archives and History, and the Office of the Governor.

A Pandemic Exploration Project
After nearly two decades of guiding small group tours, Explore Up Close found itself in uncharted territory when the tourism industry froze in March 2020. However, according to company founder Chumley Cope, “We realized that we had a unique advantage: our ‘bread and butter’ had always been exploring the backroads and hidden stories of South Carolina. Why not continue to showcase those places, and provide inspiration for future travel?” The company quickly pivoted to launch an email newsletter and online content for its followers, featuring regional history and short travel videos of their own creation. Even pre-pandemic, Explore Up Close trips regularly featured South Carolina sites that need preservation, from forgotten cemeteries to historic churches. “We’re passionate about preserving these special places, and this is our way in establishing public interest in the physical, built culture that reflects the diverse stories of our state,” said Cope.

The Economic Power of Heritage Tourism
The Virtual Travel series has transformed into a popular membership program, which Explore Up Close plans to continue even as it resumes its usual travel. “It’s resonated with a lot of people. We believe that our unique style of travel – travel that highlights the character of a place through authentic experiences with local storytellers, artisans and makers, chefs and hoteliers – is what people crave, but they are often unclear on how to discover these experiences for themselves,” said Cope. “Our travel in South Carolina supports small, hyper-local museums, arts organizations, historic inns and restaurants. We believe in the power of sustainably-scaled heritage tourism to drive recovery efforts in South Carolina, post-pandemic, and we look forward to being a continued part of that effort.”


About Explore Up Close
Since 2004, Upstate travel company Explore Up Close has guided trips for thousands of people in South Carolina and the Southeast. Designed for intimate small groups of just 5 – 14 travelers, Explore Up Close’s signature travel style features local history and culture, private site visits with local experts, regional cuisine, and historic boutique hotels and inns. Find out more at www.exploreupclose.com.

Press contact: Caroline Cope Khoury
Marketing Manager, Explore Up Close