President and CEO, Brand USA
Christopher L. Thompson is President and CEO of Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Chris is responsible for accelerating the organization’s efforts on building and executing effective marketing strategies to increase inbound travel to the United States, resulting in increased U.S. exports and increased employment. These programs consist of marketing, public relations, and partnership programs critical to the overall marketing of the United States as the world’s premier travel destination, as well as communications programs to provide travelers with vital information that inspires and makes it easier to explore the vast range of experiences and destinations available in the U.S.A.
Chris has nearly 30 years’ experience in tourism, a nearly unprecedented track record in destination marketing on both a domestic and international level, and a reputation for building collaborative and productive relationships across the industry and with government partners.
Prior to joining Brand USA on November 1, 2012, Chris led the state of Florida’s destination marketing efforts as president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. Under his leadership, Florida realized record growth in international visitation.
He was one of the industry leaders who helped lead the effort to gain support for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act. He subsequently became a key member of the task force to guide its implementation and the launch of the Corporation for Travel Promotion (which today does business as Brand USA).
Chris began his career in tourism 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 the Leon County (Florida) Tourist Development Council as the organization’s first executive director. In April 1991, Chris took leadership of the Tallahassee (Florida) Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as president and CEO.
In August 1995, Chris founded MarketServe, Inc., a professional management, marketing and planning services company based in Tallahassee, Florida. 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 chief executive officer where he led the organization’s impressive growth on a local, state, national, and international level.
Throughout his career, Chris has been honored with a number of industry awards and recognized for numerous accomplishments, including being named one of the "Top Twenty Five Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing" by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International in 2009.
His past board memberships include the U.S. Travel Association and the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
Chris earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida in 1980. He and his wife, Susan, have two grown boys, Christopher and James.