A veteran of the tourism industry and strategic destination marketing has been named president and CEO of Visit Franklin, the convention and visitors bureau for Williamson County.
Maureen Haley Thornton, who most recently served as the vice president of Strategic Tourism Initiatives at Visit Houston, was selected by the Visit Franklin board of directors following a national search and will begin her new role July 12. Thornton has a successful track record of working with destinations across the United States and internationally.
“I could not be more excited to lead the team at Visit Franklin as we look to the future,” Thornton said in a press release from Visit Franklin. “The county already has fantastic assets and much great work has been done, creating a strong foundation to build on. To come to a place that has so much to offer both professionally and personally is an unbeatable opportunity.”
Andy Marshall, CEO and proprietor of A. Marshall Hospitality who serves as chair of the Visit Franklin board, said he was impressed with Thornton’s response to why she was attracted to Williamson County.
“Maureen had an impressive resume and multiple interviews that revealed great knowledge, innovative ideas and passion that was exciting to the search committee,” Marshall said. “When asked what appealed to her about this opportunity, she answered in a simple way that spoke to why we all love this community. ‘I have a young daughter and when I think of where I would like to see her grow up, Williamson County checks so many boxes.’ That said a lot to me personally.”
At Visit Houston, Thornton developed and executed successful strategic tourism initiatives designed to increase leisure tourism visitation and ensure both consistency and quality of the visitor experience. During her time at Visit Houston, Thornton built and launched the Houston Experience Marketplace, a digital platform that curates and sells experiences directly to consumers, as well as the Houston Insider Program, a local ambassador program designed to help Houstonians be knowledgeable, engaged and prepared to welcome visitors.
In addition to her role as vice president at Visit Houston, Thornton serves on the board of Fresh Arts, an organization that champions local artists and creative entrepreneurs to succeed in the business of art.
Prior to joining Visit Houston, Thornton was vice president and regional director within the Tourism Practice for Development Counsellors International, the industry leader in strategic destination marketing. With DCI, Thornton managed public relations, travel trade development and marketing strategy for clients such as Visit California, Greater Williamsburg, Virginia, Visit North Carolina, and the US Virgin Islands. Additionally, she opened and grew DCI’s regional office in Toronto, Ontario.
A graduate of the University of Miami, Thornton began her career in media relations at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. She also spent time working as a marketing coordinator for a Miami area hotel and as an account executive at a pair of Miami-area public relations firms.
Thornton takes over after the departure earlier this year of Ellie Westman Chin as president and CEO. Lauren Ward, the organization’s vice president of Marketing and Communications, served as interim president.