James Bidwell is to quit his job as head of tourism for London to become managing director of the European business of a US-based fashion retailer.
Bidwell, who has led Visit London for three years, will leave at the end of this year to join Anthropologie, the sister chain to Urban Outfitters.
His departure from one of the top jobs in British tourism comes as the capital begins preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games. London's tourism industry was worth more than £16b to the local economy in 2007 and supports more than 250,000 full-time jobs, according to Visit London.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "James has made a tremendous contribution to tourism in London. He guided the industry through the tragic bombings in July 2005 when tourism faced tough times. Visit London has flourished under his leadership."
A spokeswoman for Visit London said the board would meet next month to discuss recruiting Bidwell's successor.
Earlier in the summer, VisitBritain was forced to make redundancies because of a real-terms cut in its budget made by the Government.
Last year the Department for Culture, Media and Sport slashed the national tourism body's budget by 18%.
By Nick Huber
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