Prevue caught up with SITE’s new CEO Annette Gregg to get the skinny on moving forward in a time of change.
Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA, formerly Chief Revenue Officer with Meeting Professionals International (MPI) took the helm of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) on November 14 in a time of profound change. In this exclusive interview, she shares her insights on the rebounding incentive industry and her plans on how SITE will navigate the road ahead.
What are your top goals and objectives for SITE moving forward?
Like most professional associations, SITE experienced a membership downturn during the pandemic. We’re seeing membership grow again and one of my primary goals is to continue that growth along with increasing our overall community. Regardless of membership, SITE is the premier voice for the incentive industry, and we provide education and resources for a global community. Through strategic regional partnerships, we can grow this global reach. Also, one of our main touchpoints is at the chapter level, so we’ll explore the tools and support that chapters need to continue to thrive. Secondly, our leadership team will focus on a strategic plan to ensure financial health and positive revenue growth. Thirdly, we will continue to be a voice for the incentive industry, aligning with other global associations to promote open travel and governmental support. We’ll also explore ways to connect our industry more powerfully to sustainability and DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] goals, to be true agents of change.
What are the top challenges facing incentive planners and how can SITE membership help to navigate them?
Issues related to supply chain and staffing are still causing flight delays and cancellations for travelers, and impacting hotel housekeeping and service delivery. In terms of event planning, incentive and event organizers are experiencing longer response times while also facing shorter planning timeframes. With a threat of global recession and inflation in major markets like the US, planners’ budgets are getting stretched. For incentive travel inbound to the US, there is still a roadblock for some countries with long waits for visas. SITE is helping members mitigate these threats with education like our on demand courses as well as co-creating education with planners and suppliers at our SITE Global Conference. We are also supporting the efforts of the U.S. Travel Association to reduce visa wait times for inbound visitors and workers.
What are the most significant and long-lasting impacts on incentive travel from the Covid pause?
With destinations opening up after the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in “revenge travel,” with people making up for the experiences they lost during 2020-2021. Even with increased costs and travel delays, people are still taking trips and often combining a work trip with leisure travel. This trend aligns with incentive travel, where many top performers bring families on their trips. As well, the need for community is underscored by more employees working remotely. Incentive travel can be a powerful vehicle to bring teams together.
How do you see the industry being affected by younger generations qualifying for incentive rewards?
By 2025, nearly 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials. This is a staggering shift from a workforce made up primarily of baby boomers. We need to look at our current members and our members of tomorrow to make sure we are offering values that resonate with these different generations. The younger workforce craves experiences rather than cash or products, so incentive travel will be even more appealing to them. They value purpose-driven companies and programming, unique and authentic experiences and a commitment to community. Younger professionals also want professional development for career advancement, and tools that help them plan programs with purpose. Beyond generational-specific needs, all incentive professionals need a community that will help them succeed in an ever-changing environment. SITE is planning to revise its success CIS (Certified Incentive Specialist) certification to reflect today’s needs.
How does SITE support sustainable travel?
Incentive travel has an opportunity to support many of the United Nation’s SDGs (sustainable development goals). Every program can benefit local communities where they’re being held by including projects around education, environment and promoting industry. This past summer, SITE’s Florida and Caribbean chapter had an event that specifically supported the UN’s SDG’s numbers 4, 7, 13, 14 and 15. Memorable incentive travel includes the unique assets of the location, and the more we can craft these programs with the authenticity of the destination, the more the destination benefits. The demand for authentic experiences will continue as more millennials participate in incentive programs.
What are you most looking forward to as you begin your new position with SITE?
I think the reason incentive travel has always survived economic downturns and remained a priority for achievement programs is our inherent need to experience new destinations. Humans want to be together, and are drawn to explore. The incentive market will continue to lead the way in presenting new locations, unique experiences and immersive programming. This is such an important time for SITE, turning 50 next year. For nearly half a century, it has helped elevate the transformative power of incentive travel and motivational experiences to move businesses forward and celebrate human achievement. I’m excited to tell the SITE story, and craft the direction for the next 50 years.