A Conversation with Sean Mahoney, Site Past President 2010

Sean Mahoney

Sean Mahoney is the Global Vice President of Corporate & Incentive Sales for Silversea Cruises, one of the world’s top-rated cruise lines. He began his incentive travel industry career in 1986 at Royal Caribbean International where he held various management positions and led the corporate and incentive sales effort with revenues exceeding 100 million dollars annually. Sean was recruited by the Walt Disney World Resort in 1996 where he helped to organize the incentive sales start up for Disney Cruise Line and represented Disney’s convention resort products and services. Sean served on the Site International Board of Directors for six years, including four years on the Executive Committee and a term as President in 2010. He is a member of Meetings Professionals International and a Hospitality Partner for the Financial and Insurance Conference Planners Association. He also sits on the Advisory Board for the University of Central Florida’s College of Hospitality Management.

In recognition of Site’s 40th Anniversary, Sean shares what being a Site Member has meant to him, personally and professionally, and reflects on how the past 40 years have equipped Site for the future.

Site has played an instrumental role in my personal and professional development for my career which has spanned 25 years. The industry and Site have certainly evolved over the years. While the core principles of incentive reward programs and travel have remained mostly the same, the industry continues to reinvent itself to keep pace with a rapidly changing business environment. Similarly, while Site’s overriding mission has endured since its inception 40 years ago, the association has adapted to meet the growing needs of its members and supporters.

The motivational events industry landscape changed considerably over the last few years…given a major economic downtown and highly publicized mischaracterization of travel reward programs. While things have steadily improved here in the Americas, there are lingering concerns about the global economic environment and recovery. Although business results are improving, some corporations remain cautious about how events will be perceived by shareholders and others.

Site has played an important role as a steward of the motivational events industry. Advocacy is not generally part of the Site mission but it is a role Site adopted with significant interest and vigor when our industry came under fire in some countries. Site collaborated with other industry organizations to defend and validate the use of business travel as a management tool. As a result, business leaders now possess the data to assess the link between business travel spending and the bottom line. Results from a variety of major industry studies have helped executives to make more informed decisions during challenging economic times.

Now, more than ever, taking the time to meet customers face-to-face, sharing best practices and incentivizing employees can strengthen a business and speed its recovery. Investing in business travel is a means of gaining market share from competitors who restrict their employees from face-to-face interaction. Benefits also include keeping customers, converting prospects, building networks and investing in people.

Site is committed to bringing people together from around the globe who buy, supply, and support motivational experiences to drive business results. Site powers the programs that contribute to personal development and professional growth…including the events, activities, tools, and resources that will make your career and business more successful. However, some organizations still question Site’s value relative to their overall business strategy and spend. After all, Site members and supporters are wearing more hats with less support, little direction and fewer resources. We’ve become “hyper vigilant” about how we spend our money and “time” (time starved). As a result, some are questioning return on investment to better justify spending, including whether or not to support industry organizations.

Site fills a distinct space in MICE marketplace. Members represent the most diverse community of professionals around the world. They are united by a “like-minded” passion for buying, supplying and supporting motivational experiences. This “fellowship” leads to special and productive business partnerships. This global perspective contributes to Site’s “thought leadership” in the industry. Site was purposely built to serve those who make a living in this field. The Site International Foundation further supports Site’s mission by conducting relevant research to validate the use of motivational experiences. Finally, while my Site involvement has produced direct business, it has also resulted in networking and learning opportunities that have made me a better incentive travel executive…which, have resulted in even more overall business.

SIte IC - Sean Mahoney as Chinese Emperor.jpg

This message comes with a bit of cautionary advice. There is a significant difference between BELONGING to Site and PARTICIPATING in Site. If you attend a chapter event and global webinar, you’re likely to learn something valuable and make meaningful contacts. If you serve on a chapter board or international committee and attend a global event like the EMEA Forum, an Executive Summit, Site Nite or the International Conference…the rewards grow exponentially.

While challenges over the last several years have proven difficult for many, the motivation events industry is here to stay. Most important, Site has demonstrated that business travel is the “solution” and not the problem.

Pictured: Sean Mahoney dressed as a Chinese Emperor at the Site International Conference 2013 in Beijing, China.

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