The SITE Young Leaders Program builds the next generation of incentive travel leaders by providing education and networking opportunities appealing directly to SITE members who are new to the industry. The mission of Young Leaders is to create a strong group of individuals who will become leaders in SITE, their local SITE Chapter, and the greater incentive travel industry. SITE members who are industry professionals aged 35 or younger, or have less than 5 years of experience, are encouraged to participate.
Greg Byrnes, International Event Sales Director, Northstar Travel Group and Jamie Lee Tiffany, Senior Sales Manager for L’Auberge Del Mar are serving as co-chairs for this year’s SITE Young Leaders Program Committee made up of 15 industry professionals representing a wide variety of industry disciplines from around the world.
Greg is responsible for the overall growth and development of the Northstar Meetings Group portfolio of products serving the global MICE community. Previously, he was the Business Development Director for Questex Travel Group and supplier sales lead for the Global Meeting and Incentive Travel Exchanges. Greg has been a member of SITE for 4+ years and sits on the board for the SITE Northeast USA chapter as Vice-President, Membership.
Jamie Lee has over 10 years of experience in the meetings and hospitality industry, serving in management level positions for hotels and a third party. She has cultivated relationships with professionals across the globe while serving on the SITE Southern California board of directors since 2015, as well as on the SITE Young Leaders committee. This year Jamie Lee is SITE SoCal chapter’s Vice-President Young Leaders after serving last year as Vice-President Education and Young Leaders.
In a recent interview they shared how their involvement in SITE has impacted their career and what the SITE Young Leaders Committee has planned to advance the program in 2017.
How has your involvement in SITE helped you grow your business and advance your career?
Greg: A graduate of the University of Lugano in Switzerland with a master’s degree in International Tourism, I knew that I always wanted to be in the travel and tourism industry. I didn’t realize that publishing/media was a possible career path until I joined Questex Travel Group as Business Development Director for the Global Meeting and Incentive Travel Exchanges. I led supplier sales and was able to network with professionals from all industry disciplines around the world. It was a great way to become immersed in the industry and dive deep into the different sectors.
I joined SITE New York (now SITE Northeast USA) in 2012 because I felt, as a more boutique organization, it was the best affiliation for both personal and professional growth. I quickly realized that, to get the most value from my membership, I needed to become actively involved. Chapter leaders Ngaire Duncan, Meghann Hussey & Matt Davis were instrumental in encouraging me to join the chapter board as Vice-President, Marketing & Communications.
Since day one, my experiences with SITE have helped me grow both personally and professionally and have been a key reason for my career growth. The SITE community is comprised of incentive travel industry leaders from all parts of the globe. I feel one of the greatest benefits is the opportunity to develop connections with like-minded industry professionals from around the world.
Jamie Lee: After graduating from University of California, I started my career with Hilton Hotels and, five years ago, was introduced to the SITE Southern California chapter by Nigel Bramich and Darrell Benning. I immediately got involved with Young Leaders and served as the chapter’s Young Leaders membership chair in 2014. Since then I have served on several chapter committees including holiday and charity events and this year assumed the position of Vice-President Young Leaders.
It can be challenging for a young professional to convince his/her employer why they should invest in a SITE membership or in travel to SITE conferences and events. I often get asked by my management, “What is the ROI on your SITE membership?” By showing data from actual bookings, I am able to quantify the return. However, the real benefits far exceed what is evidenced in the numbers. The hospitality business is very competitive and there is no other industry where your competitor can also be your ally. SITE has provided me a “world of friendships” not only within the hospitality sector but also with people in other industry disciplines around the world and I often receive business referrals from SITE colleagues. The education and professional development SITE and the chapters offer are authentic and relevant, providing practical tips that I can immediately apply to my business.
2016 was a very good year for Young Leaders with a successful conference, increase in membership and the initiation of several new Young Leader groups in chapters around the world. How do you plan to keep the momentum going in 2017?
Greg: 2016 was definitely a banner year, but we still have a long way to go! This year our focus is going to be on engaging with chapters globally and helping them to establish and grow their Young Leaders membership. This starts with our diverse Young Leaders Committee, made up of members from all over the world representing many industry disciplines who will serve as program ambassadors and provide advice and support. Eda Ozden, former chair of the Young Leaders Committee, is our board liaison and is an excellent mentor and voice for Young Leaders.
We want to put more focus on education with an emphasis on the importance and economic impact of face-to-face events and motivational experiences. We are planning to host several organic events and have a strong presence at industry trade shows such as IMEX and ibtm. We are also looking to host functions outside of the incentive community, as well as connect with hospitality and tourism students in the classroom (potential Young Leaders) to expose them to what types of career opportunities are available at graduation.
Jamie Lee: With SITE Young Leaders located in 20 countries, we are exploring innovative ways to use digital communications and social media to frequently engage with young professionals all over the world. Whether we use Facebook or Twitter chats or webinars, we are hoping to offer more “virtual networking” where young professionals can frequently come together to share ideas and address issues specific to their jobs and the incentive travel industry.
Last year’s Young Leaders Conference was extremely successful with 70 attendees from 14 countries and education that was over the top! We intend to build on that success and make this year’s conference even better with unique educational formats and more experiential networking activities.
In addition to Greg and Jamie Lee, Young Leaders Committee Members for 2017 include:
- Autumn Johnson, Allied PRA, USA
- Nitin Sachdeva, Venture Marketing, India
- Natasha Syed, Rocco Forte Hotels, USA
Education & Events:
- Nadia Yazmin Elosegui Duran, IVI DMC² Enterprises, Mexico
- Jenna Hinton, Delano Las Vegas, USA
- Rachel Levy, Waldorf Astoria, USA
- Dan Polulak, Miami Air International, USA
Marketing & Communications:
- Doireann Hicks, The Merrion Hotel, Ireland
- Boone Hugghins, Omni Air International, USA
- Gemma Smith, Wildgoose Events. USA
- Alisa Walsh, Eventworks, USA
- Erin Gremillion, Allied PRA, USA
- Lucila Verzoub, AV Business & Communications, Argentina