2019 launched with a bang for the global incentive travel community with 375 of us gathering in Bangkok, Thailand for SITE Global Conference, our first time back to Asia since New Delhi, 2016. We were told we’d be bedazzled, beguiled and bewitched in beautiful Bangkok and we were. And so much more!
Over 3 intense days of connections, learnings and discoveries, we were enveloped by a destination in an on-going process of repositioning, regeneration and renewal under a compelling new MICE campaign entitled “Thailand – redefine your business events”. Partnering with SITE, Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) created a destination experience that reinforced all the existing positive brand attributes of the Thai capital while showcasing a new emerging destination with an attractive art scene, a burgeoning start-up culture and a dynamic core of creativity.
Picking highlights would be massively difficult. So many aspects of this year’s event exceeded expectations judging by the sentiment emanating from social media posts that, by mid-morning on the closing day of the conference, had already generated two million impressions. The AGM, re-positioned and re-vitalised under the leadership of CEO, Didier Scaillet, was an energetic celebration of an amazing 2018 under the capable captaincy of Annamaria Ruffini, CIS, CITP, CMP and a dynamic presentation of what’ll be a landmark year with the ebullient Philip Eidsvold, CIS, CITP steering the ship. Many of us remember when the AGM used to be a yawn-fest!
Phil Hansen’s astonishing keynote – “Embrace the shake” - set a reflective tone for the conference that was picked up again by the extraordinarily courageous TED talks delivered by SITE members during the closing general session. We came face to face with a key life lesson: adversity, set-backs and suffering in our personal and professional lives can be the fiery furnace in which we forge true grit, real character and, often, advanced levels of success. Huge thanks to Phil for sharing his story and for creating with the entire assembly a masterpiece made up of 8 little pieces of each of our lives. Bigger thanks, indeed, to our SITE family members, Ping, Tina and Paul for the raw honesty and unbelievable courage of their stories.
Bangkok is already known as a pulsating, vibrant, full-on sensory destination. However, thanks to TCEB and a brilliant local destination committee co-chaired by the marvellously creative El Kwang we were served up Thailand with a twist and treated to a deep and immersive destination experience as far from a “tour” as Bangkok is from Baltimore. The pre-event Bangkok Discovery Tours were truly hands-on while the Deep Dives revealed a new and unexpected side to Bangkok, all about a nascent art scene, a burgeoning start-up culture and a palpable sense of creativity bubbling up along the Chao Phraya river.
As the “I” in MICE, only SITE has the moral authority and entitlement to produce a “manifesto” for incentive travel, interrogating its true purpose and identifying its enduring value within the ever-changing business world today. And that’s precisely what we did in Thailand.
Assisted by the magnificent Martin Sirk, former executive director of ICCA, we channelled the collective wisdom of our community over 3 sessions, the entire assembly eventually selecting the 10 statements that’ll constitute “The Bangkok Manifesto” – keep an eye on SITEGlobal.com for further information about this exciting project. Big thanks to our great friends at Meet in Ireland who are sponsoring the initiative and to Sli.do, the audience engagement platform, born in Bratislava, that powered the final session.
I feel I’m touching the surface with this recap as there’s so much I haven’t mentioned – the social functions, the educational breakouts, the inspiring CSR action and truly powerful sessions on human trafficking in this, the month dedicated to the topic worldwide. This was truly a groundbreaking conference for SITE and for the incentive travel community worldwide. No pressure Vancouver!