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U.S. Travel names next chief executive

FREEMAN TO SUCCEED DOW AS U.S. TRAVEL CHIEF: The U.S. Travel Association, the preeminent trade group representing the travel and tourism industry, is naming Geoff Freeman its next president and chief executive. Freeman, who currently leads the Consumer Brands Association, will take the reins from U.S. Travel’s longtime chief executive, Roger Dow, beginning in September, the organization said. Dow has led the trade group since 2005 and announced his retirement last summer, kicking off a yearlong search for his successor.

— The hire amounts to a homecoming of sorts for Freeman, who spent more than seven years at U.S. Travel, rising to chief executive officer before leaving in 2013 to helm the American Gaming Association, which represents the casino industry. At U.S. Travel, Freeman helped lead the industry’s signature priority, the 2009 Travel Promotion Act and the creation of Brand USA, as well as the industry effort leading to the creation of TSA PreCheck.

— In 2018, Freeman was brought on as the head of CBA, then called the Grocery Manufacturers Association, amid an exodus of the century-old organization’s leadership and the departure of some of its most prominent members. He slashed the organization's expenses and helmed its rebranding as a trade group representing the broader consumer packaged goods industry.

— Under Freeman, CBA grew its membership by what he said was 30 percent in the year following its rebrand, and pivoted its lobbying focus to issues like packaging sustainability and supply chain issues.

— Freeman will take over for Dow after a chaotic few years for the industry marked most prominently by the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought most travel and tourism to a screeching halt. The association has spent the past year trying to shape the industry’s recovery, most recently with a successful push for the removal of pre-departure Covid testing requirements for international travelers coming to the U.S.

— While leisure travel levels have soared since the onset of the pandemic — which has created its own strain on airlines — the travel industry has warned that business travel has had a much slower rebound, with trade groups appealing to President Joe Biden personally this spring to take action to help revive the sector.

Christine Duffy, U.S. Travel’s national chair and president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a statement that “Geoff is highly regarded in Washington and well known across our industry for his strategic work to conceive campaigns and programs that opened new pathways for growth in the travel economy. Now, returning to lead the association, Geoff will continue bringing a fresh and strategic approach to advancing the mission of U.S. Travel in its next era.” Duffy led the nationwide search, supported by Heidrick & Struggles.

— “We are grateful for Geoff’s many contributions to our industry during his tenure at the Consumer Brands Association,” said Jeff Harmening, the chair of CBA’s board and chief executive of General Mills. He added that “under Geoff’s leadership, Consumer Brands advanced a turnaround strategy that has transformed the organization and established it as a powerhouse association in Washington, D.C.,” while increasing revenues nearly 50 percent over the past three years. Harmening said the association will work with Freeman on a transition plan and will begin the search for his successor.

This article originally appeared on POLITICO

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