Today we officially announced that Chris Thompson will join Brand USA as president and CEO. This much anticipated announcement has been one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets—which tells us that good news travels fast and it’s simply impossible to keep great news a secret.
As you can imagine, we are thrilled that Chris will be taking the helm of Brand USA. Chris is an outstanding leader, and we are fortunate to have someone of his caliber in this critical leadership role. Over the last four months, as part of a very focused and disciplined search process, we were able to attract a number of highly qualified candidates. We especially thank board members Tom Klein and Diane Shober for their leadership in this effort. Our priority was to find the right person—with a strong track record of success in the travel industry, who also has the experience, passion, and commitment to build upon Brand USA’s current successes to take the organization to the next level. Chris Thompson is that leader, selected with enthusiasm and by unanimous agreement of the board of directors.
Chris excels in each of the areas we designated as requirements for the president and CEO position. He is a collaborative, widely respected leader with nearly 30 years’ experience in the travel and tourism industry—with specific experience in successful international marketing efforts. Under his leadership, the state of Florida saw record increases in international visitation and spending during one of the most challenging economic environments for travel and tourism. In fact, international visitation accounts for 15 percent of Florida’s tourism. The state welcomed 9 million overseas visitors to Florida in 2011, a 16.1 percent increase in overseas visitation from 2010 to 2011. Chris also has a demonstrated ability to develop and invest in programs and marketing that deliver a strong return on investment, as well as to build mutually beneficial and productive public-private partnerships with industry and government. In addition, as an integral member of the task force that supported the implementation of the Travel Promotion Act and launch of Brand USA, Chris provides leadership continuity with a deep understanding of what it takes to ensure continued support from and engagement by the industry.
Chris’ appointment comes at a pivotal time for Brand USA. Over the past four months, we have achieved a number of milestones through the commitment of the Brand USA team—maximizing contributions and accelerating partnership development efforts, enhancing relationships with industry and government, streamlining the process for submitting private contributions for the drawdown of federal matching funds, reducing expenses and increasing cost efficiencies, and strengthening our operational infrastructure. I am confident that Chris has the strategic vision to build upon these accomplishments and deliver on Brand USA’s mandate for the benefit of the industry and our nation’s economy.
Chris is currently working with the board of directors of VISIT FLORIDA to ensure a smooth transition from his current role to Brand USA and will be announcing an official start date soon. In the meantime, he will be in the Brand USA offices next week, and over the next several days and weeks will be sharing with you more of his plan and vision for making the United States the #1 travel destination in the world.
As Chris transitions to his new role and makes plans to relocate to the nation’s capital, I prepare to exit my position as interim CEO and move to my newly elected responsibility as chair of the Brand USA board of directors effective October 1. I thank each of you for being so welcoming and supportive of me over the past four months and for your ongoing commitment to the work of Brand USA.
You can read more about Chris on our website.
Chair-Elect, Board of Directors