Q&A with Cate Banfield: 2025 SITE Crystal Awards

For organizations looking to shine bright, SITE is accepting submissions for the 2025 Crystal Awards from June 3-August 2, 2024

For organizations looking to shine bright, SITE is accepting submissions for the 2025 Crystal Awards from June 3-August August 2, 2024. 

While you’ll find all technical details about how to apply and what to include as part of your submission on our official Crystals web page, we’ve also sought out some top-notch tips from this year’s Crystal Awards Committee Chair Cate Banfield. 

An agency leader herself, Cate is a super source of knowledge on how you can make your application stand out and win your way to the awards stage next March. 

Here’s what Cate had to say and share with us. 

Q: How can winning a SITE Crystal set your business or team apart? 

A: The SITE Crystal Awards are considered the highest honor in our industry. These awards recognize the most creative, exceptional, and impactful incentive travel programs around the world that not only fuel attendee engagement, but also drive business results and drive incremental revenue.  

Winning a Crystal Award is an incredible accomplishment, recognizing not just a fabulous incentive travel program, but also rewarding the amazing team of talent behind the scenes who curated every moment with the attendee in mind.          

Submissions from around the world compete for these coveted awards, and winning a SITE Crystal award provides not just well-deserved bragging rights but also an opportunity to share best practices, innovation, and bright ideas across the industry. 

The SITE Crystal Awards truly exemplify those programs that have made the most impact on the attendees, communities and culture and celebrate the best of the best in our industry. 

Q: Can you share 2-3 themes, traits, or characteristics that winning Crystals programs — and the companies behind them — have in common?

A: We are lucky enough to be in an industry that provides so many of us with opportunities to travel to some of the world’s most incredible destinations. Pair that travel with the opportunity to collaborate with destination partners to design travel experiences that inspire, motivate and educate — that is one heck of a powerful connector. 

As we look back at agencies and organizations that have won a Crystal Award, they all have a few things in common:

Passion: an indomitable passion to create travel experiences that fuel connection — across attendees on the program and also between communities and cultures. The transformational power of valuing people shines through in the program design of winning entries and shows human connections in the best ways possible. 

Curiosity: all previous winners have embraced a strong curiosity that helps guide their destination selection and program design. They share a curiosity to learn as much as possible about attendee personas and design relevant experiences. There’s also a curiosity to understand a destination’s unique personality and bring it to life for the attendees; and a curiosity to understand how the program can make the most positive impact — not just for the traveler but also for the destination.

Impact: the best incentive travel programs create a lasting, positive impact on both attendees and the destination. Travel is a powerful motivator and provides people a chance to take time out from their day-to-day and embrace experiences that surprise and delight — while also helping reset priorities. The agencies and organizations that design programs with a perfect balance of curated experiences, paired with white space to choose your own adventure, are those programs that shine the brightest.

Q: What will judges be especially on the look-out for when reviewing this year's entries? 

A: Creativity, connection and collaboration. These are the non-negotiables in an incentive travel program today, that each contribute to incredible experiences. 

With so many things competing for our time these days, the SITE Crystal judges will be looking for those programs that promote a pause, create empathy and encourage connection across a group — while embracing sustainability and inclusion. 

A singular program design is no longer an option with so many differing personas in a group. Designing a travel experience that is diverse and inclusive, provides surprise and delight moments, while also minimizing its carbon footprint is critical. 

Almost every company investing in incentive travel to reward and recognize their employees is looking to align their program to their own ESG goals. Judges will be looking for entries to link back to environmental and social goals through their program design — and more importantly, illustrate impact through exceptional experiential design.

Q: For those who haven't attended a Crystal Awards gala (held each year as part of SITE Global Conference), can you describe what it's like to be in the room that evening? 

A: Have you always wanted to go to the Academy Awards, BAFTAs or Grammys? Well look no further, because the SITE Crystal Awards are THE industry awards and gala night, celebrating the best of the best. 

The most recent Crystal Awards were held at the spectacular Çırağan Palace in in Istanbul, in what can only be described as a pinch-me moment! Nearly 500 SITE members and friends attended this magical evening to share in celebrating our industry’s top incentive travel programs. Attendees dined on an incredible five-course dinner and watched beautiful local entertainment, in the most brilliantly designed ballroom. 

Centuries of kings and queens celebrated in this very same ballroom: truly an incredible one-of-a-kind evening for the industry. We loved celebrating and seeing our peers shine!

Q: Any final words of advice for those submitting an award application this year? 

Be sure to check SITE’s website for all of the information you will need to understand the various Crystal Award categories. 

Otherwise, incentive travel is rebounding post-pandemic at the strongest levels we have seen in many years. We are seeing and hearing about so many wonderful programs, traveling all around the globe. 

Our judges are excited to review this year’s submissions and to celebrate those experiences. Don’t miss this opportunity to share the incentive travel programs you have designed and delivered, and to celebrate with us in Tulum! 

Written by

SITE Staff


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