On January 24-27, a record-breaking 640 incentive travel professionals leapt into a new year, and the promise of an exciting new decade, at the 2020 SITE Global Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Representing 45 countries, we united for our signature event, that vital annual gathering where we connect, learn, discover and collaborate to shape the future of the industry.
So, how can one recount four days devoted to the theme of “Limitless” and the truly infinite opportunities which unfolded across that beautiful metropolis? Surely it won’t be easy, but now, we’re well equipped to tackle such a seemingly insurmountable task!
Our industry champions the use of travel as a motivational tool. And over the course of the Conference, we ourselves were rewarded with a festival-style showcase stacked with powerful demonstrations of the indomitable human spirit, worthy of a city dubbed “Hollywood North”. Centered in the event space of our hosts JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection, the event actually traversed this premier incentive travel destination––from downtown to seawall to rainforest to mountaintop.
The energy was running high from the get-go at the Annual General Meeting, as traditional lion dancers romped through the enthusiastic crowd to hail the Lunar New Year. We heard a recap of 2019 and the forecast ahead for 2020, and afterward, watched the presentation of several distinguished annual awards and the passing of the gavel to SITE’s 2020 President, Jenn Glynn, CIS, CITP, and to the SITE Foundation’s 2020 President, Carina Bauer.
Naturally, significant work took center stage, with both informal and formal discussions between attendees, including the Chapter Leaders Idea Exchange. SITE’s evolving Manifesto progressed, continuing on its course from Bangkok in 2019 to Vancouver in 2020, and from aspiration to action, following the recent survey results that pinpointed the three most important, impactful and relevant statements. We voted live on the top actionable items crafted during the Conference’s Manifesto Master Open Space Discussions.
At the Crystal Awards Lunch, we honored the 2019 winners of what’s considered the highest industry honor, for their programs that expertly proved incentive travel equals business results.
The Industry Stage, Dialogue Den, Learning Labs, Life Hacks, Tech Central and Breakout Sessions offered fascinating education encompassing many trends and hot topics. Several Special Sessions provided ways to learn outside of the traditional education blocks. They included the two-day Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) Workshop, CITP Testing, an engaging First Timers Session and an intensive CEO Track workshop.
We kicked off our mornings in rousing style with the SITE Thailand Talk in Vancouver Powered by TCEB, the Welcome to Canada Breakfast hosted by Business Events Canada and the Farewell Breakfast hosted by JW Marriott and Tourism Vancouver.
Evenings concluded with a series of mind-bending and relationship-building festivities: a wild-and-wacky Willy Wonka welcome bash fueled by pure imagination; a choose-your-own-adventure celebration at the Vancouver Convention Centre that made us ask ourselves, “What’s your Vancouver?”; and an ultra-fun, hands-on finale at Science World.
While all of the Conference’s awe-inspiring speakers are far too numerous to mention here, each galvanized us to push both our professional and personal boundaries. Our mystery keynote speaker revealed himself to be remarkable Joost Rigter, who became blind in his 20s. He blindfolded the entire audience, so that we could experience life out of our comfort zones, learn how to deal with change and find light in the dark.
Ben Nemtin, #1 New York Times bestselling author and star of the MTV show The Buried Life, challenged everyone to make their wildest dreams come true––and we began visualizing them immediately by filling up a Dream Wall of our own.
The Vancouverites welcomed us warmly, wherever we went. In particular, they granted an array of behind-the-scenes peeks only insiders usually get––and which enabled us to familiarize ourselves better with their appealing destination. These Cultural Immersions spanned locations and subjects such as Granville Island, the Vancouver Mural Festival, an Indigenous artists initiative, beekeeping and sustainable food at the Vancouver Convention Centre, a Chinatown adventure, stadium tours of BC Place and Rogers Arena and more.
Some attendees also opted for a City Tour, choosing between Urban Delights, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Snowshoeing Atop Grouse Mountain. Physical and mental health and well-being were on our brains, too, and offerings included a 5k Fun Run, SoulCycle rides, a yoga class and the popular R-Lounge, a restorative (and ahhh-mazing) experience using your own neurobiology, created by InHouse Physicians (IHP).
Rounding it out was a cavalcade of captivating entertainers, artists and suppliers, plus culinary creations and curious potions that tantalized––and yes, occasionally tested––our taste buds. (Edible perfume, anyone?) We surprised ourselves and each other. We enjoyed singular experiences and a number of firsts that, together, made this year’s Conference likely to linger and impact our lives forever, lived LIMITLESSLY. A huge “thank you” goes to every sponsor who helped make it all happen.
And lastly, a joyously delicious lunch proclaimed that our 2021 SITE Global Conference will swing into Dublin, the capital city where we met for the same occasion 30 years ago. We heard those Irish really know how to “bring the craic”––and are completely intrigued to find out just exactly what that means. See you there February 3-7, 2021!