Brand USA Names Christopher L. Thompson President and CEO
Brand USA, the tourism marketing entity responsible for promoting the U.S., named Visit Florida executive Christopher L. Thompson as its president and CEO. He will succeed Caroline Beteta, who has been interim president since Jim Evans stepped down in June. Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, will become chair of the Brand USA board of directors on Oct. 1.
Thompson, president and CEO of Visit Florida since May 2009, is working with the board of directors of Visit Florida to ensure a smooth transition and will announce a start date soon.
The appointment was applauded by the U.S. Travel Association. “Chris Thompson is one of the strongest destination marketing leaders in the country, and he is the best person to lead Brand USA,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “With nearly 30 years of experience, Chris knows that marketing the United States is a collaborative effort, and I look forward to the partnerships he will build across our industry as he leads Brand USA to new heights.”
Thompson appointment comes at a pivotal time in Brand USA’s growth. The organization enters fiscal year 2013 on Oct. 1 on the heels of its first campaign in Canada, Japan, and the U.K. The public-private organization also recently established international representation in eight markets — the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil — and completed its first sales mission, in India, and launched a Tourism Exchange Year with Japan. Over the past year, Brand USA also has established partnerships with more than 260 travel brands and destinations.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chris as Brand USA’s president & CEO,” Beteta said. “Chris is a proven leader with extensive strategic and operational experience who is widely respected throughout the travel industry and by elected and government officials. Moreover, he has extensive experience in generating nearly unprecedented growth in international travel to the United States and establishing mutually beneficial partnerships that have resulted in record growth. We are fortunate to have someone of his caliber at the helm of Brand USA.”
In his role as president and CEO of Brand USA, Thompson will be responsible for accelerating the organization’s efforts on building and executing marketing strategies to increase inbound travel to the U.S., resulting in increased U.S. exports and increased employment. These programs consist of marketing, public relations, partnership and communications programs.
Thompson helped lead the effort to gain support for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, which was signed into law in March 2010. He subsequently became a key member of the task force charged with guiding the launch of the Corporation for Travel Promotion created by the act, which today is Brand USA.
Thompson began with the Division of Tourism in the former Florida Department of Commerce in April 1983. He was appointed bureau chief over domestic tourism in April 1986 and in November 1988 joined the Leon County (Florida) Tourist Development Council as the organization’s first executive director. In April 1991, Thompson became president and CEO of the Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. In August 1995, Thompson founded MarketServe Inc., a professional management, marketing and planning services company based in Tallahassee. Two years later, he joined Visit Florida as senior vice president-partner development and was promoted to chief operating officer in May 2003. In May 2009, he was named the organization’s president and CEO.
Thompson has been honored with a number of industry awards, including being named one of the “Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing” by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International in 2009. He is a Certified Destination Management Executive and currently serves as a member or board member of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Travel Association, Destination Marketing Association International, the Association of Travel Marketing Executives, International SKAL, the Southeast Tourism Society, and the Travel and Tourism Advisory Council, Miami Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Brand USA was established by the Travel Promotion Act in 2010 to spearhead the nation’s first global marketing effort to promote the U.S. as a travel destination and communicate U.S. entry/exit policies and procedures. Formed as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, the public-private entity began operations in May 2011.
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