SITE’s new chief excellence officer reveals how he plans to extend the organisation’s reach and relevance, and the digital transformation he is determined to bring about.
What new initiatives are in place to move SITE forward?
There are two this year. The first is CITP (Certified Incentive Travel Professional), a new certification programme that was launched in March, and officially introduced at IMEX Frankfurt where 11 people went through the programme.
CITP is aimed at middle management, from project mangers to directors, and is part of a suite of certifications (that SITE offers). The entry-level certification, CIS (Certified Incentive Specialist), is for people with five years of experience in the industry, while CITE (Certified Incentive Travel Executive) is the third-tier master level, for vice presidents and above. CITE will be redeveloped and relaunched (in due time) as well.
The second initiative is the Index. As you know, SITE conducts a regular SITE Index survey. This year we received 600 responses.
The IRF (Incentive research foundation) has its own survey. At one point, FICP (Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals) also conducted a poll, pinging its community to see how and where business is going.
I realised (the surveys) had very similar questions. That is why we – Melissa Van Dyke (IRF), Steve Bova (FICP) and myself – decided to work together and consolidate all three questionnaires. The resulting questionnaire was launched at IMEX Frankfurt and closed at the end of June with the results expected in mid-July. A full launch will be conducted in September.
This launch date is also a change. We used to publish the SITE Index in October, but this was way too late as marketing plans and budgets were out by then. With the earlier publication, organisations, third parties and corporate end users can look at the study and plan around it.
What are your plans for membership growth?
I am planning to grow the society, but I don’t necessarily look at the metric numbers of membership as being the most relevant.
That was how SITE used to measure success because for many years, the association was the place where professionals would go to find knowledge and information, networking and job opportunities, and potential employees. Nowadays, LinkedIn is doing 50 per cent of that, while Facebook is doing the other 50 per cent.
The role of the association has changed fundamentally. However, the membership value proposition is always going to be there for people who want to belong to a society. For them, belonging is important.
But next to that, there is an entire industry that is very willing to engage with SITE and our products and services without necessarily becoming a member.
CIS is a prime example. There are over 1,400 CIS-certified professionals now around the world, but only 10 to 15 per cent are SITE members. And that’s okay! There are people who just want the certification and we’ll see more of them. They might also want to attend our events or buy a piece of research. They want to engage with us without becoming a member.
My idea of growing the society is in terms of the impact it has on the incentive travel industry. (I would like to see greater) impact on professionals – their education, professionalism and recognition. That’s how I measure success.
Will SITE’s Asian chapters get more active?
We’ll be in Bangkok for a conference from January 11 to 14, 2019.
Asia-Pacific is our area of growth, where Thailand itself is a prime incentive destination.
This will be the first step in revitalising the SITE Thailand Chapter. We had a chapter up until a few years ago, but because we didn’t have any activity in the region, the chapter lapsed. We still have 15 members there, but the threshold is 20. We are looking at the conference as a means to re-energise the chapter.
What would be the single biggest change to SITE you seek to implement during your leadership?
Digital transformation is high on my agenda. We are fairly traditional in delivering our products and services. It’s mainly through events, but there’s a world out there that would be happy to engage with us digitally.
We will be revamping our digital strategy as well as our website. We’ve created a website called Motivate (motivate.siteglobal.com) which looks outwards. Our current website siteglobal.com focuses inwards, towards our community. Motivate is where we’ll put case studies on the power of incentive travel as well as incentive travel research produced by SITE and others. This will help transform SITE into a digital organisation that can reach and be reached 24/7, 365 days a year.
We are also looking at online videos. People now consume online content with the help of videos, so we’re looking into how we can build a SITE TV for example, and add more videos to our Youtube channel.