Brand USA, the public-private partnership formed to promote international travel to the U.S., said Thursday that CEO Jim Evans stepped down after one year on the job, “as the organization pivots from a start-up endeavor to securing its place as the nation’s destination marketing organization.”
A search for a replacement has begun. The organization's vice chair, Caroline Beteta, was named interim CEO, effective immediately.
Beteta, the CEO of Visit California, is also in line to succeed Stephen Cloobeck as board chair of Brand USA.
Evans, a former senior vice president for marketing at Hyatt and CEO of Best Western, became Brand USA’s first CEO, and its first employee, a year ago.
He has been widely praised for getting the organization up and running and launching an overseas marketing campaign.
In announcing that Evans was stepping down, Brand USA said “the agreement was reached in consultation with the board.”
Beteta stated, “Our focus going forward is to build on the momentum the organization has established by increasing and deepening our partnerships with the travel industry, building out co-op marketing opportunities to attract increased private-sector funding, and enhancing our responsiveness and communications with our government partners.”
An industry official, speaking on background, said some DMOs, such as state tourist offices and local visitor bureaus, have been frustrated in their attempts to work with Brand USA to develop cooperative marketing initiatives and boost their share of international arrivals.
This, in turn, is said to have hampered fundraising from this segment of the industry.
In addition to a greater focus on destinations, the official said the board wants to develop better working relationships with Brand USA’s government partners, such as the departments of Commerce, State and Homeland Security.
In addition to developing an international marketing campaign, Brand USA was given a mandate by Congress to become a source of “official information” for foreign travelers and travel marketers regarding U.S. entry and security procedures and related matters.
The timing of Evans’ departure is likely to convey the impression that it was triggered by a letter from six Republican U.S. senators complaining about allegedly wasteful spending, but a Brand USA spokeswoman said the board’s discussions with Evans about his departure pre-dated the letter from Capitol Hill. A source outside the organization said the same thing.
Conservative Republicans in the Senate had sent a letter on June 14 to the Commerce Department and to Brand USA requesting numerous documents and records.
Beteta responded to that letter earlier this week, pledging full cooperation.