Talking shop with Chuck Martin, executive director, Cape CVB

Monday, June 8, 2009
Chuck Martin is executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Fred Lynch)

Summer is approaching and many Americans will be traveling to their favorite destinations. Some will choose Southeast Missouri for a getaway, and leading up the efforts to boost the tourism industry is Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. Southeast Missourian business reporter Brian Blackwell visited with Martin last week to learn more about how he became head of the organization and what he thinks about tourism in Cape Girardeau.

Q: Tell us more about where you grew up and what life was like for you as a youngster.

A: My dad, Robert, was born in Virginia while my mom, Yvonne, was a native of Illinois. I grew up in Anna (Ill.), until I was 14 years old. Then we moved to the Stanton, Va., area. It was here that I'd say I had four of the best years of my life. The friendships I made while attending high school there are still with me today. They have been lifelong friendships that I expect to keep. It was also in Virginia that led me to develop a love for tourism. I remember the 1970s campaign "Virginia is for lovers." The slogan was saying that Virginia is for lovers of history, nature and the sea shore. Virginia has so much to offer and they were able to capitalize on that. The state was on the cutting edge in terms of tourism. My family would travel so much when I was growing up through high school that I learned to love it.

Q: Did you have any brothers and sisters?

A: I was an only child. And I didn't have a lot of cousins, aunts or uncles either. Some days I missed not having any siblings. But being an only child had its benefits, especially at Christmas. Yes, during each Christmas I had the gifts to myself. I also spent a lot of time in my grandfather's backyard and learned to love fishing because that's what he and I did a lot. Today I have a very tight knit family. My wife, Jean Flori, and I have two sons, Chris, 21, and Ben, 20. My sons have spent all their life here and I've been here most years since moving back to the area in 1973.

Q: What's a field you worked in that most people may not know you've done?

A: I worked in radio a number of years before going to college. I was program director, music director and general manager for a number of radio stations, Withers Broadcasting, KGMO and KGIR. It was at KGIR that I decided I needed to go back to school. Jean and I were getting serious in our relationship and knew it was time.

Q: What other jobs have you held prior to your current one that shaped you today?

A: After graduating from Southeast Missouri State I got a job as a salesman at Procter & Gamble in Monroe, Louisiana. Jean got pregnant with Chris and we decided we needed to move back closer to home. But a few years into the job I realized things were changing. It was obvious the handwriting was on the wall as far as sales to mom and pop operations were concerned. I knew I had to get out before big changes came. At one time when I was at the Procter & Gamble facility we had seven salesmen at one time. So I decided to go into non-profit work. For 12 years I managed services for children with disabilities. The first eight were as regional director for Easter Seals. I helped raise money to provide services to families with children at no cost to them. The last four years were spent at the Kenny Rogers Children's Center. At that point in time I had heard about the opening in Cape Girardeau for the Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2002.

Q: What made you so interested in the position?

A: I had always wanted to work in tourism. Life takes us down roads that may not be our first choice. I knew that all my prior experience had prepared me for the job.

Q: What are some other roles you're involved in besides the director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau?

A: I'm president of the River Heritage Association, which consists of 12 counties in the region. We try to have a lot of information about tourism in those counties. Through the website, visitsemo.com, people can discover all kinds of activities in each county that they may want to do on a particular day. I'm also treasurer of the Missouri Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Q: What has been the best part of the job?

A: The best part has been the opportunity to market the community of Cape Girardeau and see it grow as a destination. In 2002 we didn't have the nature center, Mississippi River mural, River Campus and Old Bridge overlook.

Q: What are the largest sectors of tourism in Cape Girardeau?

A: Our busiest weekends are May through September, when we have a wealth of amateur sporting events. Sports is a big part of our tourism industry. But we also have a lot of people who use our hotels and restaurants for conventions and meetings, group tours and leisure travel. They all are a big part of the travel business.

Q: What are some things you've learned since you began as executive director?

A: I've learned early on to develop a thick skin. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback but the critics have been many. If you poll 10 people on the street I guarantee you'd get six different answers on how business should be done. Some of the advice I've used to develop a clearer vision. I've learned to keep an open mind.

Q: What all does your office produce?

A: We oversee three websites, visitcape.com, visitsemo.com and capestorytelling.com. We also produce brochures such as the restaurant guide, visitors guide and downtown walking brochure. We also field requests from visitors, such as the recent 10,000 from people requesting information that was a result of inserts we've placed in visitors guides throughout the region. People may not realize all that we do but it's quite a bit to promote the area.

Q: What do you see as the future of the tourism industry in Cape Girardeau?

A: We'll hear a report June 18 from the DREAM team. A whole lot of what they put forth is in the area of tourism. I take a look at things like the children's museum, which is exciting that a dream will become reality. And there are many other pieces of the puzzle that can boost tourism. I'm excited about what the future holds.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: