Brand USA’s Chris Thompson shares predictions for U.S. tourism at IPW

Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, took his final bow as leader of the organization at this year’s IPW 2024, now underway in Los Angeles.

At a press conference, Thompson reflected on a rich career of generating international tourism visitations to the U.S. over the course of 12 years as president of Brand USA, reports Baxter Media’s Ted Davis, who is attending the conference and trade exhibition. 

“Thompson’s strategic vision and unwavering commitment to excellence have been instrumental in driving Brand USA’s success,” said a statement. “His dedication to fostering partnerships with industry stakeholders, government agencies and international organizations has strengthened the Brand USA position as a global leader in destination marketing.”

U.S. tourism rebounds

Thompson made his farewell presentation while also reporting that economic headwinds continued to blunt the speed of the recovery of the U.S. tourism sector in the post-Covid era.

A few hundred journalists from around the world assembled at the Los Angeles Convention Center to hear Thompson’s assessments and predictions for the American tourism industry. They were amongst a total of about 5,700 delegates who came to L.A. for the IPW – most of whom were either American tourist product supplier reps or international tourism product buyers.

 Thompson told the journalists that “we are facing challenges and headwinds that we can’t control.”

He reflected that in 2019, the U.S. welcomed just under 80 million international visitors, but that in 2020, “our world came to halt.” U.S. tourism has continued to recover since those dark days, and last year international visitations reached 67 million, just four years after a complete shutdown, said Thompson.

This pace indicates that international arrivals will reach 90 million by 2027, with spending of US$270 billion. “And some experts, including optimists like me, believe we will hit those numbers by 2026.”

Threats to economic recovery

But threatening to slow that recovery are economic factors including, for example, the delayed reopening of Asia markets, most notably China, said Thompson. 

For instance, China’s air seat capacity remained substantially below pre-pandemic levels in 2023. But the outlook for 2024 is more promising, with weekly flights increasing from 65 in January this year to over 130 by the end of 2024, he said.

Thompson will officially step down from the Brand USA president position on May 31 this year. His successor will be Fred Dixon, the current president of NYC & Company, the destination marketing organization for New York City.

Dixon took the stage during the IPW to offer congratulations and best wishes to Thompson.

Stay tuned for more coverage on IPW this week!