President & CEO
“Discover America, Land of Dreams” is the latest ad campaign from Brand USA which features Rosanne Cash, daughter of country legend Johnny Cash, amid images of both an iconic and modern America—friends at a dinner in California wine country, a bi-racial couple at a New Orleans wedding celebration, a man of Asian descent riding a Harley through the Redwood Forest, a blond woman in the Everglades, a gay couple embracing in San Francisco, two smiling Muslim women on a New York street, and Cash herself strumming at the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brand USA, just two and a half years old, was created to encourage international tourists to see the United States as a compelling destination with its diverse geographies, countless attractions and welcoming people, while also aiming to grow America’s share of the global travel market. Chris Thompson was recruited to lead the organization in late September 2012 and has already attained a level of respect, accomplishment and good will that characterized his 15 years as head of the Visit Florida tourism authority, his prior role.
Florida is well known for attracting foreign visitors to the US, and interestingly, also formed the basis for Brand USA as a public-private organization. Established by the federal government to promote and advertise the United States abroad as a travel destination, Brand USA relies on both business contributions plus matching government funds generated by fees collected from international tourists whose countries are part of the US visa-waiver program. Chris Thompson played a key role as one of a number of industry leaders who helped lead the effort to gain support for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, which formed the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now known as Brand USA.
While president and chief executive officer of Visit Florida, Chris Thompson was responsible for leading the state's tourism industry through the marketing aftereffects of the BP oil spill in 2010, which washed ashore crude from the Gulf of Mexico onto Florida’s Panhandle coastline. Known for forging relationships with state legislators, he also doubled the state’s public funding of tourism promotion, from $26 million a year to $54 million, during his tenure in office.
As president & CEO of Brand USA, Chris Thompson’s top focus is on building marketing strategies to increase inbound travel to the United States, with an eye toward increased US exports and employment. This means marketing, PR and partnership programs essential to the overall marketing of the United States as a premier world travel destination, plus communications programs to inspire travelers to explore the vast range of experiences the US offers.
Brand USA’s goals are ambitious. However, since its dramatic fall post-9/11 and an additional drop during the peak of the global financial crisis, international tourism to the US in 2013 reached an all-time high. Congratulations, Mr. Thompson.