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VISIT Florida president leaves to head up fed's new tourism org

Chris Thompson, the president and CEO of VISIT Florida, was on Thursday named president and CEO of Brand USA, a public-private partnership recently created to support the nation’s travel industry.

Thompson, who oversaw the expansion of VISIT Florida during the last three years, will join the federal government’s version of Florida’s public-private tourism promotion arm.

“I congratulate Chris on this exciting opportunity to replicate at the national level the successes he has achieved at VISIT FLORIDA,” VISIT Florida board chairman Glenn Hastings wrote on the organization’s blog. “In the past three years, Chris has proven he has the vision, passion and commitment to build and lead a world-class organization that will increase the economic impact of international visitors to the United States.”

President Obama signed the bipartisan-supported Travel Promotion Act in 2010, creating the Brand USA program. The program will spend $200 million annually to promote the US to potential travelers overseas. It is funded by fees charged to international travelers to the US, and private sector contributions.

Florida, which has seen tourism levels reach new highs in recent years tied to increasing international interest, could benefit from having Thompson at the helm of the national tourism group.

The group will be sending Thompson and other officials across the globe to promote tourism to the U.S.

With Thompson set to leave VISIT Florida—which saw its state funding boosted to $54 million—the state-run organization will be meeting Friday morning to begin a plan for replacing him.