TMS. Could you please tell us about yourself and your role at SITE? How did you find yourself working in the incentive industry?
Rebecca Wright. A mid-career change led me to the hospitality industry where I discovered incentive travel, which resonated strongly with me, as it coupled motivation and reward with unforgettable travel experiences. SITE became an essential way for me to strengthen my professional skills and grow my network. I volunteered on the board of SITE Chicago in 2014, became President of the chapter in 2017, and was elected to SITE’s International Board of Directors in 2019. In 2020, I joined SITE as a full-time employee, as Head of Chapter Engagement, a role I reassume in 2023, after acting as Interim Executive Director in 2021 and 2022. Feedback Campaigns are a great way of collecting real feedback directly from your clients/members. What additional engagement initiatives is SITE running for its members.
TMS. Could you tell us more about #SITEunite and the message you would like to convey to the community in light of their comments regarding the revival of the incentive travel industry.
Rebecca Wright. SITE executed an inaugural member needs assessment in 2022, to identify which of our offerings were most valuable to members and how SITE could better support members in the future. These findings are directing our efforts and initiatives in 2023 to ensure we’re supporting our members and the incentive travel industry at the highest level. #SITEunite is a hashtag created prior to the pandemic which promotes two key aspects of our association and the incentive travel industry: 1) planning and executing an incentive travel program requires many professionals united together in harmony 2) SITE is united together globally to promote the value of incentive travel to corporations. As our industry rebounds from the pandemic in 2023, SITE is celebrating our 50th Anniversary. Throughout the year, we will commemorate our accomplishments and highlight how SITE unites international professionals to strengthen the incentive travel industry and connect us further.
TMS. What are some trends shaping up in the incentive travel? How have pandemic impacted the incentive travel trends?
Rebecca Wright. The most important metric of a successful incentive travel program remains the overall impact to the corporation, which is generally a blend of financial benefits as well as employee recognition, loyalty, and retention. The pandemic clearly demonstrated the value of travel to motivate employees. Corporations who switched to cash or merchandise didn’t realize the same benefits that incentive travel produces. Looking forward, we’re seeing more corporations placing a higher emphasis on reducing their travel footprint by either requesting more sustainable solutions or giving back to the local community in some way.
TMS. Can you please share with us the highlights of the SITE Chapter Leader meeting held at IMEX recently?
Rebecca Wright. The energy at IMEX North America was reminiscent of pre-pandemic days and the SITE chapter leader meeting felt the same. Over 70 SITE chapter leaders from 20 of our global chapters convened to share their successes and discuss challenges they face. A panel of leaders from Australia shared how they inspire and motivate within their professional workplace as well as their chapter. This panel also provided examples and suggestions on how to set boundaries and have difficult conversations with clients, and how these tips can be used in volunteer leadership, as well.
TMS. What are your comments on ‘The participation and leadership of women in this industry are essential to achieving economic prosperity?’
Rebecca Wright. The United States Office of Global Women’s Issues launched the first ever strategy on women’s economic security at the beginning of this year. This strategy is grounded in the wealth of evidence that advancing women’s participation promotes economic prosperity. Studies demonstrate that closing gender gaps in the workforce could add between 12 and 28 trillion dollars in global GDP over a decade and expanding access for women fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, with estimates suggesting that gender parity in entrepreneurship could add between 5 to 6 trillion dollars in net value to the global economy. So clearly, there is economic value to promoting further workplace contributions by women, and even more so in the incentive travel industry, as women comprise a majority of our workforce. Embracing their voices and experience at all levels of our industry is essential, and most especially within executive leadership levels.
These unique perspectives and views are critical to developing incentive travel strategies and initiatives that will drive our industry forward. SITE offers excellent opportunities for women to grow in their leadership by volunteering at the chapter or global level. There are no entry barriers to supporting SITE or a SITE chapter as a volunteer, and this leadership experience can propel one’s professional career.
TMS. Are there any learnings from past challenges that you think translate to the current situation?
Rebecca Wright. The incentive travel industry learned during the 2008-2009 recession the importance of articulating the tangible and intangible value of incentive travel to counter the perception that incentive travel is unnecessary indulgence. It is essential that SITE continues to advocate for our industry and the benefits it brings to corporations in the form of additional revenue as well as employee motivation, recognition, loyalty, and retention. With a global recession potentially on the horizon, incentive travel is an effective way to motivate employees to mitigate possible recession effects.
TMS. On another note, what do you enjoy the most about your work? Please share your hobbies, what keeps you busy when you are away from work?
Rebecca Wright. Our industry is comprised of individuals who are passionate about incentive travel. I have the incredible opportunity to work with these leaders from all over the globe who are willing to dedicate their time and talents to growing and strengthening the incentive travel industry. I learn from them and am inspired by them daily. What could be better? When I am not working, I enjoy being outdoors with nature or curled up in a comfortable chair reading a good book.
TMS. If you could give one piece of advice to those hoping to work in or just starting out in the incentive travel industry, what would it be?
Rebecca Wright. This is an extremely supportive and rewarding industry. Sometimes the hours are long, but the satisfaction in bringing these programs to life in incomparable. For someone just starting out in the industry, my advice is to get involved in an industry association where you can meet other professionals from a variety of industry roles and backgrounds. Be curious about all facets of the industry and take time to educate yourself through free resources such as webinars, blogs, and podcasts. Volunteer your time in support of the industry; you’ll gain valuable experience and meet leaders who can guide you toward your greatest self.