SITE chapters from around the world were celebrated at the association’s annual conference, held online February 2-3, 2021.
This year, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence’s Chapter Excellence Awards drew 17 submissions from SITE chapters. These entries were judged anonymously by a panel of 29 volunteer leaders, who selected winners in each of the recognition program’s eight categories.
CHAPTER OF THE YEAR | Winner – SITE TEXAS
The SITE Chapter of the Year is the highest honour a chapter can receive. It is awarded to a chapter that exemplifies the values and mission of SITE, demonstrates value to members, and establishes a sound leadership structure. Accepting on behalf of the winner, SITE Texas, were Lauren Dunnaway, 2020 Chapter President, and Lorraine Mahoney, 2021 Chapter president.
Throughout the qualification period, SITE Texas amplified its focus on governance and operational excellence to deliver member value and ensure a strong succession to the chapter’s leadership. These efforts resulted in a year-over-year increase in membership of 12.5 percent, with a 35 percent growth in new members and a 78 percent member retention rate, as well as engaging 25 percent of its members in a volunteer capacity. Key to this success was the launch of a chapter needs assessment to members, which provided feedback used to refine the chapter’s strategy. Demonstrating its commitment to overall industry education and advocacy, the chapter contributed $5,000 to the SITE Foundation.
EXCELLENCE IN VIRTUAL ENGAGEMENT | Winner – SITE CANADA
This award recognizes the chapter that demonstrated creative and innovative approaches to engaging with their members through online, virtual and digital platforms such as a virtual event, social media campaign, webinar or other online activity. Accepting on behalf of the winner, SITE Canada, were Gabby Spanton, 2020 Chapter president and Pearleen Mofford, 2021 Chapter president.
SITE Canada’s member engagement program kicked into high gear once lockdowns were announced. The Chapter created a multi-pronged approach to stay in touch and support members virtually. Outreach included a newsletter, a gratitude campaign, an increase in social media posts, a “Seeds of Hope” campaign, and an impressive 22 virtual events during the qualification period. These events included bi-weekly cocktails and conversations, which provided a safe haven for members to connect, support, and motivate each other.
EXCELLENCE IN YOUNG LEADERS | Winner – SITE CHICAGO
This award is offered to a chapter that has supported a strong and vibrant young leader community through various chapter initiatives, with a focus on personal growth and development of these young leaders within the larger SITE community. Colleen Brzozowski, SITE Chicago’s 2020 president, accepted on behalf of the chapter.
SITE Chicago’s young leader program includes a combination of separate young leader engagements, along with intentional interactions between junior and senior industry professionals. These include private meet-ups before or after chapter events, along with opportunities for intimate conversations that are less intimidating for young leaders to participate. In addition, the chapter offers a strong mentor program.
Through these initiatives, SITE Chicago increased young leader membership by almost four percent year-over-year and touts a consistent representation of 20 percent of young leaders at all chapter events.
EXCELLENCE FOR A SUSTAINABLE EVENT | Winner – SITE POLAND
This award recognizes a single chapter event or activity that demonstrates excellence in sustainability. Accepting on behalf of the winner, SITE Poland was Grazyna Grot-Duziak, 2020 chapter President.
As part of a larger-scale project to focus on sustainability, SITE Poland executed an event themed around #12 of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, which outlines responsible consumption and production. The sponsoring hotel venue for the event shared how they manage their food supply and prevent waste during group conferences, demonstrating a 50 percent savings of food waste. The conversation continued post-event with chapter members pledging to implement similar measures not only in their programs but also in their personal lives.
EXCELLENCE FOR A SPECIAL EVENT | Winner – SITE CHICAGO
This award recognizes the chapter that demonstrates creative excellence in delivering a signature event or activity that highlights the benefits of SITE membership and promotes advocacy for incentive travel in a truly memorable way. Accepting again on behalf of the winner, SITE Chicago, was Colleen Brzozowski, 2020 chapter president and the board.
SITE Chicago’s flagship event, Holly Trolley, is a 5.5-hour progressive event featuring three Chicago venues with private trolley transfers in between. Aligning with SITE’s mission, the event was designed as a local-incentive-styled experience for members to increase engagement and build new business connections. Touches such as signature F&B experiences, gifting, and themed décor were incorporated, as well as an event flow encouraging networking with a wide range of attendees.
EXCELLENCE IN MEMBERSHIP | Winner – SITE TEXAS
This award goes to the chapter that has provided incredible value for its members during the qualifying period. It considers member recruitment, retention, and engagement. Accepting on behalf of the winner, SITE Texas, were Lauren Dunnaway, 2020 chapter president, and Randy Clark, vice-president, Membership.
SITE Texas approached member recruitment and retention with a multi-prong outreach process, utilizing phone trees, care packages, membership tables at events, and alignment with SITE Global membership campaigns. The chapter initiated its first member needs assessment to capture members’ voices and adjusted strategies based on the member feedback. These initiatives resulted in a 12.5 percent year-over-year increase in membership and the attainment of the chapter’s engagement goal of having 25 percent of its members volunteering for the chapter.
RISING STAR AWARD | Winner – SITE AFRICA
This award recognizes a developing chapter that delivered exceptional benefits for its members across a number of key areas. Accepting on behalf of the winner, SITE Africa, was Tes Proos, 2020/21 chapter president.
SITE Africa expanded from a one-country chapter, SITE South Africa, to cover an entire continent during the qualification period, necessitating a strategy shift to engage new regions. Chapter outreach utilized regional ambassadors and strong education to promote the chapter, as well as incentive travel in general, which is new to many regions of the continent. The approach successfully increased membership by 22 percent and the chapter continues to gain traction throughout all of Africa.
EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION | Winner – SITE TEXAS
This award goes to a chapter that delivers a strong industry education component in its events and communications, aligned with the SITE Education Curriculum and/or SITE Foundation research. Accepting on behalf of the winner, SITE Texas, were Lauren Dunnaway, 2020 Chapter president and Melissa Soto, vice-president, Events.
SITE Texas crafted a year-long schedule of events based on a member needs assessment and alignment with SITE’s educational curriculum and the Incentive Travel Industry Index. Highlights include a roadshow spanning three cities, touching more than 400 participants, and a 51 percent buyer/supplier ratio; offering CEU credits for most events; and executing a successful pivot to virtual at the onset of the lockdowns. The Chapter even used their virtual happy hour platform to integrate education in a more informal way with specially invited speakers and candid conversations.