Wayne Wallgren started in the incentive industry in the fall of 1992 when he had a small marketing and advertising consulting business and a client asked him to sit in on a meeting with a travel agency hired to handle a cruise for 300 guests. When the client realized Wallgren was asking more questions about the group than the travel agency, he was handed the job and he never looked back.
And while the cruise was a memorable one, the incentive trip that stands out was for another client to Maui years ago. “Almost no one in the group had ever been before and they also weren’t well traveled. It was the trip of a lifetime for most of them and I loved having the chance to share my love for the destination with them. Witnessing how special they felt when we hit all the marks was a great feeling.”
He joined SITE in 2003 when, he said, it became apparent that if he wanted to grow, he needed to be exposed to those that he aspired to be like. “SITE was that place and being a member allowed me to spend time with people that functioned at a higher level making and/or influencing decisions. SITE helped those who wanted to be better in their industry become better. It was an easy decision.”
Wayne is so passionate about SITE he spent seven years on the SITE Texas board, including a year as President. “I took a five-year break and am back on the board as vice president of marketing now,” he said.
Throughout his career, he’s had a few mentors, including the one that gave him that cruise and a few in the incentive industry like Bill Boyd (founder, Sunbelt Motivation & Travel) and the late Bill Vastine (Galactic, LTD) who, Wayne said, “are probably the two that I most wanted to learn from.”
Off hours for Wayne are spent cooking for his wife Michele and figuring out where their next trip will be. “Right now I’m wrapping up details for her birthday trip in March, a summer trip to Vancouver and Whistler and a Rhine River cruise in September with her and two couples we’ve traveled with for years.”
Wayne used to be a runner and was a state champion (Oklahoma) in the mile. “I went to college on a track scholarship and ran track and cross country. Post college I continued to run and in 1980 was one of 176 people that qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials. I ran the trials but crashed and burned at 23 miles and rode to the finish line in the back of an ambulance drinking free beer. Not the finish that I had dreamed of. Now, it’s about cooking and travel. I love both,” he said.
When Wayne’s not travelling, he even loves travel-themed books and says the one that delighted him the most was Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”. As for favorite meal? He can name the dish and where he had it: “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic at Restaurant Tante Paulette in Lyon, France in 1987 on my first trip to France.”
And if he could host a few famous friends for dinner he’d invite Anthony Bourdain, “Because of his views and the ability to articulate them made me want to do a better job of understanding and explaining where I go and why; Barack Obama just because he’s cool, he’s articulate and he’s been President; Ann Richards because she was smart and funny and had a way of saying what I might be thinking before I knew I was thinking it--and knew when to call BS; Tom Petty because I love his music and appreciate it more every day that passes and Willie Nelson because he’s Willy.
And what would he cook them? “Maybe oven roasted salmon with mustard cream sauce, risotto with peas, carrots and leeks, broccolini and Lemon Colonel for dessert.”
Editors Note: SITE Texas has launched a new podcast - Incentive Talk with SITE Texas, about corporate incentive programs, gifting, suppliers, destinations and issues for SITE Texas members and anyone else interested in the incentive travel industry. The first episode, hosted by Wayne Wallgren, CIS, was recorded live at the 2019 SITE Global Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, and features Jonathan Richards with Maui Jim. The second podcast speaks to 2019 SITE International President, Philip Eidsvold; SITE Chief Marketing Officer, Padraic Gilligan; and SITE Texas founder, Laurie Sprouse, President, Ultimate Ventures talking about the accomplishments of the Bangkok Global Conference. Fans of the podcast can contact the chapter via email at email@example.com to provide feedback and ideas for future podcasts, or to discuss becoming a guest on the show. To listen to the podcast, visit http://sitetexas.libsyn.com, also available on Spotify (search for SITE Texas) and soon to be available on iTunes. See us on the web at www.sitetexas.org.