SITE Southeast USA President, Fred Edson is Director of Group Sales with the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. He has served this all-inclusive resort for nearly a decade and has become an industry leader in the corporate and incentive travel niche. He has also represented other Caribbean Hilton properties including Barbados, Nassau and Cartagena. Prior to this he worked for several AAA Five-Diamond resorts in the U.S. including the Boca Raton Resort & Club and The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.
SITE: Being a chapter leader is a volunteer position and requires a significant time commitment. What motivated you to assume the chapter President position?
Fred: I was never a “volunteer junkie”. About 6 years ago a friend on the SITE Board of Directors asked me to help with the registration for an event. I always laugh when I remember this because it was more of a directive than a request! With no opportunity to refuse, I got in involved and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. That led to a committee chair and then a board position. As the challenges got bigger, so did the rewards. I have always believed that the key to happiness is to challenge yourself, because when you overcome the challenges it is very gratifying. Also, the present board that I serve with is made up of some extraordinary leaders who I admire and respect very much. When the possibility of becoming President was available, the caliber of the other board members I serve with made the decision much easier.
SITE: When recruiting new members, what do you tell them are the greatest personal and professional benefits of being a member of SITE?
Fred: We have a dynamic chapter that not only adds professional value but also delivers unique and creative events for networking. I can’t count the number of friends I have met through SITE, both on the supplier and buyer side. The best member recruitment tool we have is to invite people to our events so they can experience it for themselves.
SITE: This year the chapter has already hosted some very successful events such as the Shamrock Shootout and Tech Summit. What are some of the other educational activities and events planned to engage current and prospective members?
Fred: We have some exciting events coming up such as our 9th Annual Southern Supper & Auction, 8 June, to raise funds for Wine to Water and for chapter educational programs. Along with the fundraising element, this is also a great networking event, which will be held a the Country Club of the South, a unique and interesting venue. We will also be hosting a “Lunch and Learn” with reception in September and the big annual Summit in December, to name a few.
The chapter has been successful in creating programing that appeals to buyers, both senior leaders and planners. By doing this, you automatically add value to the suppliers. We have programming and education for suppliers as well, but without a robust attendance of buyers, events can struggle. We are proud to have around a 50% buyer/supplier ratio at our, which benefits everyone and also attracts sponsors.
SITE: SITE Southeast has an impressive number of corporate buyers on its membership roster. How has the chapter been so successful in attracting corporate members?
Fred: We have made an effort to design specialized programing that focuses on industry specific areas within the corporate and incentive travel niche. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, we have stayed true to this niche. We utilize venues for events that our buyer members might consider using for their own programs, and the suppliers that are involved are typically representing destinations, hotels, products and services that appeal to buyers. We have positioned the organization as an invaluable source of professional development that adds value to the person, their company and their customers. What corporate or incentive travel company would not want its senior leaders and meeting professionals to be on the cutting edge of the latest trends and techniques?