Q: What does the SITE past and legacy mean to you?
Although I’m only 18 months in the job, SITE’s past and legacy is massively important to me. SITE is an organisation with a deep connection to its past and a clear understanding that our reputation within the Business Events industry today comes to us because we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. The association was launched way back in 1973 by pioneers and visionaries who understood the business case for incentive travel both for its impact within the corporations that use it and the destinations where programmes are staged.
From the get-go SITE has always had this uncompromising dual focus and was never merely an association of supply-chain businesses. Thankfully many of these thought leaders are still with us and contribute to SITE through our past presidents’ council.
We’ve been reclaiming this positioning over the past number of years with a renewed focus on the business case for incentives. Our message is pertinent and relevant to 4 audiences – our membership, the MICE industry, the business world and society at large.
Q: What would you say have been the most radical developments at SITE during the last ten years?
The most “radical” developments over the past 10 years have been around returning to our roots and focusing more on the business case for incentive travel. We’ve done this in a variety of ways not least by increasing our focus on recruitment of members from within the corporate sector. Through the SITE Foundation we have also invested heavily in research and have been able to highlight how incentive travel is evolving with greater focus now on building company culture.
Another radical development has been in the area of certification. Over 2000 individuals now hold our entry-level, Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) qualification. Last year we launched a new certification – Certified Incentive Travel Professional (CITP) – aimed at mid-level executives.
Recognising the absence of a high-level think-tank around the nature, purpose and direction of incentive travel, we crowd-sourced The Bangkok Manifesto during our annual conference in Bangkok in January 2019. We now have a 10 statement document setting out our credo around incentives.
Our 2019 President, Philip Eidsvold, CIS, CITP has just launched a brand new digital transformation project that’ll have far reaching consequences for SITE as we position ourselves more effectively in the digital space and add an important extra dimension to our value proposition.
A final radical development for SITE stems from our focus on partnerships and our ability to reach out meaningfully to other entities and build value together. This is best illustrated with reference to the Incentive Travel Industry Index, a joint venture between SITE, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) and, of course, Global MICE Collaborative, our partnership with Meetings Professionals International (MPI) and IACC (International Association of Congress Centres (IACC).
Q: Today you are CEO of SITE – what’s behind that title?
SITE is a professional association governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. As the CEO I’m an ex officio member of the Board and my job is to manage the executive team that’s responsible for implementing the Board’s vision and carrying out the day to day business of the association. We are currently approaching the end of our 2020 Painted Picture. At our Board Meeting in June we’ll commence work on our next strategic plan, that’ll take us up to 2023, the year of our 50th anniversary.
I am also CEO of the SITE Foundation and sit on its Board of Trustees. The SITE Foundation raises funds for research, education and advocacy around the business case for incentive travel. A key aspect of my role as CEO at SITE and the SITE Foundation is to be a broker of ideas, that is, to bring a constant cascade of new ideas and initiatives to both boards for their consideration.
Q: What further digital business model can the SITE members expect in the future?
As mentioned above, our 2019 President has identified digital transformation as a priority for his presidential year and, thanks to great support of the SITE Foundation, we’ve just appointed an external agency to work with us on the first phase of a three phase project that’ll transform the way we connect on-line with members, industry, business and society.
Over the next 18–24 months, SITE’s 4 audiences can expect a brand new web platform at the heart of a fully integrated digital strategy that’ll bring together social media and e-comms and all the other ways that audiences connect outside of real people in real places in real time.
While “live and in person” will always be our core identity as an association we’ll use digital methodologies to extend the life and reach of our live encounters beyond the here and now, delivering enduring value to our communities. We are aiming to equip our members and supports with a new set of digital tools that will enable them build their own businesses by presenting the business case for incentive travel.
Q: SITE members are demanding. What can a SITE member look forward to?
First and foremost, SITE members are distinguished by the fact that they belong to the ONLY association dedicated EXCLUSIVELY to incentive travel, the fastest growing, highest spending, widest reaching sector of the MICE acronym. We bring value to our members at both global and local chapter level by networking, on-line resources, education, certification and advocacy. SITE is deeply committed to the new generation and operates a best-in-class Young Leaders programme and dedicated annual conference. SITE members can look forward to be part of an ever more engaged association fostering connections, education and destination discovery across the full spectrum of our community.
Q: Are there good development opportunities for young talents?
Over 10 years ago SITE launched its Young Leaders programme. Today 3 of the members of SITE’s Executive Board are graduates of this programme. Developing, nurturing and encouraging the next generation have always been crucial to SITE and we were one of the first industry associations to create a formal programme aimed at fostering young talent.
Our Young Leaders play a crucial role in our association and enjoy their own dedicated annual conference. We also encourage young talent in and through a number of annual scholarships named after deceased members and presidents of SITE.
Q: To change the MICE world you need to?
… realise that it is changing of its own accord and adapt nimbly by embracing technology, deep diving into big data, evaluating the place of live events in a world that has discovered augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). To be relevant in this changing world, individuals, corporation and associations like SITE need to read the signs of the times and provide compelling, contemporary responses based on what’s there now or what will be there tomorrow, not what was there yesterday.
Q: To finish – what do you wish for SITE?
I want SITE to be what only it can be – the indispensable go-to source for information and inspiration around all things connected to the universe of incentive travel in its widest possible iteration.