TALLAHASSEE — Visit Florida’s new President and CEO Ken Lawson takes up his post today following a unanimous vote of the Visit Florida Board of Directors yesterday in Orlando. Lawson was serving as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
The news was the talk of Florida Huddle this week in Orlando. The annual trade conference brought 668 attendees to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, with 223 buyers from 15 countries meeting with 226 appointment-taking suppliers for a total of 14,906 appointments, easily surpassing last year’s total of 12,385.
Speaking about Lawson’s appointment, William D. Talbert, III, CDME, President & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Chair of the Visit Florida Board of Directors, said the work Visit Florida does to promote tourism “is vital to the continued growth of the state’s economy” and having someone with Secretary Lawson’s background “will secure our continued success.”
Lawson, a native Floridian and former U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General, has spent 12 years in numerous regulatory positions, including his most recent work overseeing – among other divisions – restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals with DBPR. During his six-year tenure with DBPR, Lawson managed a team of 1,600 employees charged with licensing and regulating more than one million businesses and professionals throughout the state.
“Florida tourism has great momentum with five consecutive years of record visitation, visitor spending and industry-related employment and I look forward to building on this momentum to take Visit Florida to the next level,” said Lawson.
Maryann Ferenc, President & CEO of Mise en Place and Vice Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, says she has confidence that through Lawson’s leadership, VISIT FLORIDA will establish the Sunshine State as the top travel destination in the world. “We need the type of zealous leadership he has shown at DBPR and I look forward to working with him in the years to come. Now is the time for the private sector to really get to work,” said Ferenc.
In late December Visit Florida announced that a leadership transition plan was in the works at Visit Florida following the resignation of three Visit Florida executives, including Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe, in the wake of the Pitbull scandal.
Florida Governor Rick Scott called for Seccombe to step down after Visit Florida refused to publicly disclose it paid rapper Pitbull US$1 million to promote the state. Visit Florida’s Chief Operating Office Vangie Fields and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps also resigned.
Seccombe had led the agency since 2012 after serving as its chief marketing officer for nearly five years. Seccombe is set to receive $73,000 in severance. His annual salary was $293,000. Lawson’s salary will be reportedly be $120,000 less than Seccombe’s amidst calls for cost-cutting. Governor Scott has asked Visit Florida to begin publishing its spending, contracts, salaries, audits and other financial information.