Despite torrential rains, spirits were not dampened and the group maintained a high level of enthusiasm with a record-breaking 650 registered participants from 42 countries at this week’s annual Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Global Conference in Vancouver.
“This is our largest conference ever,” said Jennifer Glynn, CIS, CITP, 2020 president of SITE and managing partner for Meeting Encore in Port Hope, Ontario. “The destination is driving that as well; it’s such a gateway for Asia Pacific attendees, it’s easy to get here from many parts of the globe and Vancouver has done a great job welcoming us with its natural beauty and inclusive, diverse and warm and welcoming environment.”
While the JW Marriott Parq hosted the SITE sessions, a plethora of city tours and offsite event locations showcased this favored seaside destination, including evening functions at the Vancouver Convention Centre and Science World.
SITE 2020’s conference theme? “Limitless.” And while the agenda curriculum offered an intense educational component, SITE sought to inspire and encourage improved self-care, a theme many incentive executives devote themselves to in the care of their attendees, but not necessarily themselves. Early morning 5K runs, SoulCycle classes and morning yoga were offered in addition to the Restoration Lounge by InHouse Physicians, a 10-minute retreat much coveted by conference goers.
“I've started prioritizing self-care more, so the R-Lounge was a much-needed escape,” said Vincent Murphy, vice president, Canada, for BizBash.
Friday’s program included a sold-out crowd for the CEO Track session “Purpose Built Culture: How to Create a Powerful Company Culture that Attracts and Retains the Best People.” Facilitator and Meetingmax CEO Jeff Duncan taught incentive travel operators to look beyond the immediate and go deeper, tapping into people’s purpose as both attendees and employees. As a first-time SITE attendee, Duncan was impressed: “This was my first exposure to SITE and I was thoroughly impressed at the education, logistics and opportunities for growth.”
On Sunday morning, speaker Ben Nemtin boldly asked: What do you want to do before you die? Nemtin is creator, executive producer and cast member of the MTV series The Buried Life (aired in more than 80 countries and MTV’s highest-rated show ever on iTunes), as well as co-author of the book What Do You Want To Do Before You Die? His inspired and high energy-talk brought the house down, and brought attendees to their feet with an uplifting message consistent with the limitless theme.
Throughout the weekend, a dedicated group focused its efforts on building and expanding on the Bangkok Manifesto, a 10-step core reference point for incentive travel professionals created in 2019. The Vancouver Manifesto, lead by Martin Sirk of Sirk Serendipity, was enthusiastically endorsed by Toronto-based Jason Thomson of Jigsaw, who worked closely on the manifesto with Kirk and his team.
“This session helped Martin Sirk and the SITE team generate extraordinary insights to develop the final document,” Thomson said.
Sustainability continues to be an important topic, with classes such as “Sustainability is the New Luxury” and “Sustainability: How I can Make a Difference...” demonstrating that yesterday’s buzzword is now a core issue among incentive professionals.
Each year SITE recognizes individual members and chapter organizations that have made exceptional contributions to the association and to the incentive travel industry at large. Over a Sunday group lunch of chilled local seafood and other delicacies, SITE presented its Crystal Awards to an enthusiastic crowd.
As her new tenure as SITE 2020 president, Jennifer Glynn enthused: “Our industry is on an upward trajectory; we increased the three E’s—enthusiasm, energy and education—to elevate and further empower our industry. With new educational initiatives and the certifications we’ve developed, the new education we’re launching inspires great energy globally. And this, in turn, helps incentive professionals to better articulate the value proposition of what they do.”
Glynn welcomes her future with SITE but also looks forward to embracing pan-industry issues such as sustainability, women in leadership and the fight against human trafficking.
“All of our industry associations, including MPI and other EIC associations, have an opportunity to work to partner together on these important issues,” she said.
Fortunately, dampened feet did not dampen spirits!
“It’s exciting to see SITE accomplishments in 2019 and opportunities in 2020 and beyond,” said meeting participant Nanci Gage, MBA, director, marketing and new business development for Proton Therapy Partners in Charlotte, N.C. “It makes me think about how I can connect the SITE community with my professional industry in a new way.”
SITE Member and Chapter Awards
Member of the Year: Anthony Kelly, Head of Marketing, Penguins & Head of New Business Marketing, DRPG, Great Britain
Kevin Forde Spirit Award: Max Boontawee Jantasuwan, CIS, Events Travel Asia Co., Ltd., Bangkok, Thailand
David Riddell Memorial Scholarship: Amanda Robinson, Sales & Marketing Manager, Custom Ireland, Dublin, Ireland; Mary Browne, CIS, Corporate & Incentive Officer, Meet in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Chapter of the Year: SITE Northeast
Excellence in Education: SITE Florida & Caribbean
Excellence in Special Events: SITE Midwest
Excellence in Membership: SITE SoCal
Excellence in Young Leaders: SITE Ireland
Rising Star: SITE Thailand
Sustainability: Florida & Caribbean