SITE Florida and Caribbean chapter president, Wichita Villacres is Owner and CEO of Eco Destination Management Services of Aruba/Curacao. A SITE member for 26 years, she has served on the SITE Florida Board since 2006. Wichita was instrumental in working with the Aruba team to secure the SITE International Conference 2009. As conference co-chair, Wichita spent many days travelling the world and promoting the conference and the destination. In 2011, she started a sponsorship program with SITE Florida to offer educational tracks in The Caribbean, thus, allowing Aruba and Curacao to be the first major sponsors and showcasing these premiere destinations to the North America market. Wichita demonstrates concern and commitment to the betterment of the industry and the community and actively promotes SITE to everyone who will listen. An inspiration to those that meet and work with her, Wichita strives to become the best at whatever she sets out to do. Her commitment, energy and dedication are an example to all. Wichita always states: “nothing is impossible except for death, until then, no mountain is too high to climb."
On Thursday 18 September SITE Florida and Caribbean is hosting an afternoon of professional and personal enrichment followed by a networking reception at Florida’s “Pink Palace” the Loews Don Cesar Hotel, St. Petersburg, Florida. Topics include: “New Kid on the Block – Tips for Successfully Navigating Work Transitions” and “The Meeting Pool – Dive into Event Technology” as well as a mentor match-up and CSR team-building activity. To learn more and to register go to www.sitefloridacaribbean.org.
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?
Wichita: My mentor has always been SITE's first president, Ms. Anne Wold-Graham. I met Anne in 1990, a couple of years after starting in the DMC world. Anne taught me that you have to be selfless and teach others as you go through the hospitality industry. I learned from and admired watching Anne giving the best motivational travel sessions, with all of her passion and devotion, at the various SITE Universities and Educational Forums in the Caribbean. Anne believed we should always involve and educate younger generations entering the field, especially those who have the passion and not just the interest to do this work, this always stuck with me. I wanted to carry on Anne's legacy to the best of my abilities through my role as a Chapter Leader.
SITE: When recruiting new members, what do you tell them are the greatest personal and professional benefits of being a member of SITE?
Wichita: The networking and educational opportunities are some of the greatest benefits of joining SITE. As our chapter encompasses both Florida and the Caribbean members are able to not only network locally but internationally as well and learn from one another. This year we have added 22 new members, half of them are from the Caribbean, so we form a very diverse group. We have hosted some wildly successful educational opportunities such as The Caribbean Incentive Workshop held in Aruba in May and the Young Leaders program in St. Petersburg this September. Both of these programs had the chief aim of promoting membership benefits. We not only talk about how to manage incentive travel but we demonstrate best practices through well composed and smooth running events. Even though there are many professional benefits to joining SITE we can’t forget that it is also fun and one gets to make many lifelong friends.
SITE: In addition to the event on 18 September, what are some of the other educational activities and events SITE Florida & Caribbean is doing to engage current and prospective members?
Wichita: One of the most exciting opportunities that are rolling out is our Mentor and Young Leader’s program where we pair experienced mentors who are SITE members with up and coming young leaders to create a mutually beneficial partnership. The mentor is able to guide the mentee through the incentive travel industry while the mentee can offer their knowledge on new trends that the mentor may not yet have heard of. This month, we are also starting a program called SOCIALIZERS. We have three events already lined up in Orlando, Boca Raton and Miami, thereby reaching our entire Florida state membership. These events are in conjunction with GMIC, which will provide some extra Green Meeting knowledge for our attendees while creating camaraderie, networking, lifelong friends and just plain fun. These are just several of many SITE events that I have been fortunate to create over the past 26 years in this business as a member.
SITE: Your chapter has been very successful in recruiting new members. What do you think are the reasons for this success?
Wichita: With such a great organization recruitment often happens naturally through word of mouth, but we also recruit through our website, enewsletter and through our multiple social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. We are afforded the opportunity to recruit through our many networking and education events and are actively recruiting outside the incentive travel industry through trade shows and successful partnerships with companies such as IMEX and Incentive Works. We are also visible through our CSR projects volunteering with organizations like the Children’s Home Society of Florida and Feeding South Florida. We interface with members on so many levels, truly enjoying the work that we do with SITE and that shows and naturally makes people want to join SITE.