Executives from the incentive travel market gathered last week as the Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) kicked off a new era of industry engagement in Scotland.

SITE Scotland launched its new board under the Presidency of Emily Shields, Senior Event Sales Manager at The Royal Yacht Britannia, as it embarked on a mission to spread best practice and grow its membership in Scotland.

Previously a dormant chapter, SITE was reconstituted by James Aitken, Managing Director of Cashel Travel, a Destination Management Company (DMC), in 2016. Aitken helped grow its membership base before passing the presidency to Graeme Dowie, Business Development Director of fellow DMC, Spectra, last year, who also drove the organisation forward. Emily took over the reins in 2018 and hopes to further increase the membership base from the current level of 25, and to support the work of SITE at an international level as well as develop links with the UK and Ireland chapters.

Members gathered this morning in the Dunvegan suite of the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh to discuss how todevelop the network of incentive travel operators in Scotland, which includes a potentially huge and diverse supply chain of hoteliers, exclusive use properties, event planners, transport providers, venue finders, travel bookers, sales agents and companies increasingly active in the ever changing landscape of incentive travel.

Emily said: “It was great to convene the first meeting of the SITE Scotland chapter and to remind members of the benefits of collaboration and sharing knowledge within this highly creative and engaging sector of business tourism

“Companies who see the motivating power of incentive programs to create business results are increasingly looking towards Scotland

“By working together, we can ensure that there are no missed opportunities for Scotland to promote itself to event planners who are looking for that authentic experience, which we have in abundance here in Scotland.

“I’m delighted that there appears to be such an appetite to come together, learn from experience and share best practice and knowledge within the industry.”

She said that the objective is to grow SITE membership, and to disseminate industry knowledge through monthly meeting and events which will rotate between ‘venue showcases’ and more formal gatherings which seek to bring to the surface hot industry topics, trends and potential insights from a range of interesting industry and non-industry speakers. One hot topic at the moment which is affecting the way bookings are made across the industry (particularly North America) is the emerging issue of the reduction in ‘commissions’ paid by venues to sales agents. SITE Scotland may explore this theme at its next chapter meeting, which will be held at the Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian – in Edinburgh over the summer.

In addition, Emily said she would like to explore ‘engaging’ ways to experience new venues and event suppliers, for example by organising ‘taxi treasure hunts’ or other innovative events in key cities and locations around Scotland. Most importantly, Emily stressed her desire to ensure SITE Scotland was not Edinburgh-centric and that it embraced all parts of the country.

The immediate goal of the organisation will be to update its marketing literature, re-launch its social media activity – across Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram – and to engage with media to ensure the activities of its members are broadly communicated.

And in the Year of Young People – Scotland’s current ‘themed year’ – SITE Scotland is looking potentially to launch a ‘young leaders’ group, which has already been done in London, and also to explore a possible opportunity to host fund-raisers for an industry charity, which could help develop the next generation of hospitality professionals.

The new Board of Site Scotland is as follows:

  • President – Emily Shields (The Royal Yacht Britannia)
  • VP – Zahra McDonald (The Balmoral)
  • Secretary – Gillian Rae (Spectra)
  • Events – Elaine Elder (National Museum of Scotland)
  • Membership – Fiona Fraser (K&N Travel Associates)
  • Marketing – Laura Henry (The Principal Hotel Company)