Successful Meetings: What made you decide, after 28 years at Loews, to step down and start your own firm, Charlotte St. Martin and Associates?
Charlotte St. Martin: I'd done all that I could. The entrepreneurial bug bit me and I wanted to spend time doing the things I love to do, such as branding. I love creating strategic plans from soup to nuts, the energy of implementing a strategy, and integrating marketing programs with operations to make sure the offering of a program is seamless for guests. Many hoteliers think of programs, such as Loews Loves Pets, as just marketing efforts but operations needs to also see them as a service to guests.
I'm also interested in destination marketing. My 16 months at the Dallas CVB were invigorating; I probably would have stayed there if I hadn't been on a leave of absence from Loews Hotels.
When my new company starts on January 1, it's going to help hotels and destinations create and implement strategic marketing initiatives.
SM: You're known mostly for your work at Loews. What can you add to a destination's marketing effort?
St. Martin: Many cities try to say their destination has everything, but that dilutes their message. I can help bureaus focus on their city's key strengths and reach the right customers.
SM: Where do you see the industry headed?
St. Martin: The hospitality industry has so much potential. Several new types of vacations, like adventure trips and those where you perform community service, have become popular. And any trend that affects individuals ultimately affects groups too. Eventually we will see meetings include elements for the many interests of attendees instead of just golf and spa.
SM: You've been a role model for industry women. What should they be doing to enhance their value?
St. Martin: Most women are not comfortable tooting their own horn, but there is a graceful way to do it. They have to constantly let the important people know of their contributions.
Women also have to demonstrate leadership, either in their companies or, if that's not possible, in industry organizations. I started doing that and all of a sudden my company said, "Charlotte is a leader in the industry. She should be one with us too."