by Leo Jakobson | March 28, 2018
After five years under Kevin Hinton, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) has a new Chief Excellence Officer in Didier Scaillet, who took the helm in January. Scaillet is focusing on directing the organization as it lays out and transforms what it looks like by 2020.

Recently, Incentive spoke with Scaillet about why he joined SITE, his goals for the organization over the next three years, and how he intends to achieve them.

First and foremost, Scaillet, who is moving from Luxembourg to the U.S., says that filling the shoes of Hinton will not be easy.

"SITE is by far the most global organization out there," says Scaillet, who spent 18 years in various roles at Meeting Professionals International (MPI) before a more recent stint as vice-president business development for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). "SITE has better than 60 percent of its members in North America, and there's a significant presence in Europe, as well as in Asia. That's something that appealed to me."

Pointing to recent board presidents from India and Italy, as well as board members from locations as diverse as China, Turkey, Mexico, and Canada, Scaillet says the organization's goal is to continue expanding its presence outside of the United States (and inside it, of course). Another fact that appealed to him is that given its size, SITE "punches above its weight" in terms of attracting what he calls "heavyweight, impactful" industry leaders to its board and membership, and what it has been able to accomplish.

That said, Scaillet believes the nature of industry associations in general is changing, and a strong digital presence is key to attracting new members and keeping existing ones. Whereas you once had to join an association to network with peers and get professional education, online offerings outlets from Google to LinkedIn are now available. That means associations must create what he calls a "community of members" that is more cohesive and impactful than social media.

One way to do that is by creating a "digital network of incentive travel professionals" that not only embraces those who want to belong to an association like SITE, but also "incentive travel professionals who do not necessarily want to belong to an association, but would be very happy to pay X amount for decent research, or X amount for a certification program," Scaillet says. "So how do we capture that?"

Moving from that more traditional model to one in which SITE is "more flexible in terms of what we define as our community," he says, is one goal that the organization is aiming for as it heads toward 2020.

Another 2020 goal is to align SITE and the SITE Foundation behind a global research agenda, Scaillet adds. "SITE doesn't really have a research agenda," he says. "We have some flagship programs like the SITE index that we produce every year. But there really isn't a research agenda that projects the organization into the future."

And as SITE wants to own the "I" in MICE -- the acronym for the meetings, incentives, conventions, and events industry -- the organization needs to be sure that "every time we show up at a major industry event, we actually have something new to say. And research obviously allows you to do that," Scaillet says.

There are other ways to continue growing the organization besides research, of course. One is outreach, he says, pointing out that a very well-known and respected member of the industry, Padraic Gilligan of Sool Nua in Ireland, has just come on board as SITE's new chief marketing officer. And there is space in the budget for Scaillet to recruit an in-house head of events.

Another is to educate members of the incentive travel community and the business world in general that incentive travel is no longer the exclusive purview of sales and channel sales programs solely aimed at sales performance improvement.

"I do firmly believe that there are many more applications that exist, in terms of non-cash rewarding," Scaillet says. "One of our Crystal Awards winners this year is actually a company that doesn't use incentive travel for sales purposes, but for staff retention." By reducing its staff attrition rate from 9 percent to just 2.6 percent over the course of six or seven years enabled the firm to save nearly $25 million, he notes.

"I would say almost no matter what your end goal is, I think you could use incentive travel to reward your team," he adds. "The key performance indicators behind it don't necessarily have to be the amount of sale that you generate."