Site Finland Chapter President Merja Hart is the Director of destination management company, The Travel Experience, creating and executing incentive travel programmes throughout Finland. Merja has over 20 years of experience in the international travel and meetings industry. She has been an active member of Site since 2005 and also holds also other important travel industry positions as Vice President of Finland incoming group at the Association of Finnish Travel Agents and as a board member of the Finnish Tourist Board.
Site: Site appreciates that being a Chapter Leader is a volunteer position and requires a significant time commitment. What/who motivated you to assume a Site Chapter Leader position?
Merja: Site is an interesting network of incentive and motivational industry professionals around the world. An international association like Site will not exist without significant involvement of its members as volunteers with shared goals. It is nice to have the two sides to this network – the international connections created during Site events, as well as our domestic chapter community within our home country. It is an interesting challenge to develop your own country´s appeal as an incentive destination through education and by connecting various people around this industry at our events where they can learn from each other. I personally think the more you get involved the more you get out of the membership, so to me being a passive member is not an option. I always try to have a positive influence in the society around me.
Site: When recruiting new members, what do you tell them are the greatest personal and professional benefits of being a member of Site?
Merja: It is a personal commitment to the motivational travel industry. You will gain the latest information about the incentive travel industry and how it develops from year to year. As long as you participate in the events and/or follow the information provided through Site you will gain a greater understanding of this exciting industry and what it offers as well as the benefits that companies can gain by using the motivational industry tools. The Site Global Conferences are also great for benchmarking purposes – you see what kind of venues and activities are provided in other countries for top incentive groups. Site events take you to places you might have never visited on your own and gives you the possibility to meet interesting people within our industry that you would have never encountered without Site.
Site: What are some of the educational activities and events Site Finland has planned for 2014 to engage current and prospective members?
Merja: Site Finland arranges 2-3 educational events every year. Our spring meeting was held on March 27th in connection of the Congress fair in Helsinki. Our speakers are from the hospitality industry and they share their views on how sustainability and creating unique experiences are part of the core mission of their companies.
Our main annual event is the Site Nordic Symposium being held this year in October. Our plan is to again bring the best possible speakers and topics to our interactive event and catch the interest of not only our own members but also those who are not yet Site members. We are looking into bringing together leaders from various organisations to brainstorm how we can get the society around us to recognize the value of the incentive travel, corporate events & meetings industry in and what the obstacles are that we need to remove from our path towards the target. We wish to create an event incorporating modern technology and an innovative atmosphere so that the memory of the event stays with every participant for years to come. We at Site Finland wish to create something that has not been created before.
Site: What are some of the key opportunities/issues/challenges that are positively or negatively impacting the incentive travel and motivational events industry in your region?
Merja: The Finnish economy has its own challenges at the moment and the taxation of motivational events is unfortunately not favourable to our industry. From a positive side, Finland as an incentive travel destination is gaining more and more recognition year by year. Happy clients tell their colleagues and friends what a great and unique experience they had in Finland and interest towards the north is increasing rapidly. We all know our incentive travel products are good and our main challenge is to get Finland into the mind frame of the corporate buyers and agents. Site Finland members know we can reach this by working towards the goal together.