Ken Lawson Named President and CEO of Visit Florida

January 10, 2017

One week after Will Secombe stepped down from the top post at Visit Florida in the midst of a controversy surrounding a $1 million promotional contract paid to musician Pitbull, Ken Lawson was named the bureau’s new President and CEO. 

The announcement was made following a unanimous vote of the Visit Florida Board of Directors during a meeting Jan. 10 in Orlando. 

Lawson, who currently serves as the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), will assume his new position with Visit Florida Jan. 11.

“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 strong leadership background will secure our continued success.” said William D. Talbert, III, CDME, president & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors.

Lawson, a native Floridian and former U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General, has spent 12 years serving and protecting the public 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 1 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,” Lawson said.

Here are some thoughts from a few other industry leaders on Lawson’s appointment:

“Ken Lawson will be a tremendous asset to VISIT FLORIDA and ensures the organization will be well-positioned to continue to play a key role in promoting the state to visitors around the globe,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors.  “VISIT FLORIDA needs a CEO with his impeccable capabilities and strong sense of responsibility to the public sector, and I am honored and privileged that he has agreed to take this significant leadership role.”

 “A leader with Ken Lawson’s proven track record will elevate VISIT FLORIDA’s efforts to strengthen our state’s share of the global travel market,” said Carlos Gazitua, President & CEO of Sergio’s Restaurants and member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. “He brings the perspective of best practices from both public and private entities to his new role that will help VISIT FLORIDA meet any challenges going forward.”

“I have every confidence that through Ken Lawson’s extraordinary leadership, VISIT FLORIDA will establish the Sunshine State as the No. 1 travel destination in the world,” said Maryann Ferenc, President & CEO of Mise en Place and Vice Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors.  “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.

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