Name: Noreen Martin
Job: Chief executive officer
Business: Martin Resorts
What she said then: In August 2011, The Tribune reported Martin Resorts had finished a renovation of the Paso Robles Inn, including revamping all 98 rooms and suites.
Its goal was to take the Spring Street hotel from its “traditional feel to reflect the modern American wine country of its surroundings,” CEO Noreen Martin said.
Headquartered in San Luis Obispo, Martin Resorts also owns Avila Lighthouse Suites, Pismo Lighthouse Suites, Shore Cliff Lodge and Shelter Cove Lodge.
Earlier in summer 2011, Martin had decided to close her other business, A&R Furniture & Interiors. Founded in 1977, A&R Furniture had locations in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, with nine employees.
What she says now: After the closure of her furniture stores, Martin has increased her focus on tourism.
President of the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, she is now one of two commissioners from the county to serve on the California Travel and Tourism Commission. The other is Jay Jamison, chief operating officer and general manager of Pismo Coast Village RV Resort.
“I saw all cities could work together to take our county identity to a level where we could compete with other counties,” Martin said. “At this stage, I want to work with other counties to compete with other states.”
In what Martin describes as a “hard economy,” she sees the Central Coast attracting a growing number of travelers and keeping them here a day or two longer.
Last year, transient occupancy taxes throughout the county were up about 8.5 percent from 2010. In the first quarter of 2012, those hotel taxes were 10 percent up from the same period in 2011.
“San Luis Obispo County is right in line with what the state of California is doing” in tourism marketing, Martin said. “We’re truly attracting the right experiential traveler to our county.”
The experiences attracting these “experiential” travelers include wineries and special events, she said. But they also include other agricultural tourism, beaches, hiking, driving tours and children’s museums.
With 290 employees, Martin Resorts continues to reinvest.
This year, the Shore Cliff Lodge in Pismo Beach is finishing renovations to its lobby, breakfast room and guest accommodations, including gutting 31 of its 100 rooms and suites. Exterior painting should be complete in a few months.
Other properties have been renovated fairly recently, Martin said, so no major projects are planned.
She keeps in touch with longtime employees of A&R, but feels her work in tourism has the potential to support greater local job growth.
Savor the Central Coast, an event the county bureau created in collaboration with Sunset magazine, attracts thousands of visitors for a few days of food, wine and farm activities each fall. It has spurred greater interest in local attractions yearround, such as a recent eight-page story on Morro Bay in the magazine, she said.
While there are plenty of lower-paid or seasonal jobs in tourism, she said the industry offers careers in management, sales, marketing, human resources and financial planning.
“We also offer head-of-household jobs, trailing spouse jobs,” said Martin, adding that there’s a growing focus on education geared toward these jobs. “We’re at a phase now as a hospitality industry to encourage new education in our own community.”