If the streets of NYC could talk: recapping SITE Global Conference

Nearly 800 delegates joined us in the heart of Times Square in New York City for our 2023 Global Conference — also the first chance to celebrate SITE’s 50th anniversary in-person with our community.

We’ve done our best to distill hours of educational content, invaluable networking opportunities, and the highlights of this year’s Global Conference destination here by highlighting the words and phrases we heard most often throughout the weekend.

Here’s what was top of the tongue for this year’s attendee, and some of the key buzzwords shaping the future of incentive travel.


It’s fair to say that as the pandemic continues to fade in people’s rear view mirrors, we’ve firmly moved into the era of “experiences” and not just “events” or “programs.”

Conversations in many of this year’s Global Conference breakouts focused on how incentive travel qualifiers are expecting more personalized, unique rewards. This will require even more intensive collaborations between buyers and suppliers, to meet these increasingly high expectations and deliver the kind of experiences winners now place immense value on.

Global Conference itself leaned heavily on tapping its destination partners to provide plenty of destination-specific design elements to create unique experiences too, at each of the weekend’s three evening receptions. The streets of New York City came to life on the conference’s opening night, while Broadway belting and gilded glam of the Roaring 20s helped shape special experiences throughout the conference weekend.

Other fun touches like a “Friends”-themed closing general session provided even more memorable ways to connect attendees and mark a special anniversary celebration for SITE.  


While pandemic complications have since quieted, challenges still remain for planners and their partners alike that are making it more important than ever to prove the demonstrable ROI of incentive travel.

Discussions and dialogues from across the weekend showcased many different ways “value” can — and actively is — being showcased by end users of incentive travel and their partners. Bottom line costings and budget management are still important, but there’s also renewed, shared understanding about the role incentive travel plays in building company and team cultures: adding a newer, deeper twist on the true return of incentive programs


“Relationships” that build “trust”

In nearly every breakout session throughout this year’s conference, speakers and attendees reiterated the value of face-to-face meetings and other opportunities to connect as a prime way to build relationships that are grounded in trust.

It was heard in nearly every facet of this year’s conference; even with AI and digital solutions providing increasingly fast returns and permeating new corners of our world, making strategic business decisions requires solid, faithful human connections.

One immediate exciting challenge this creates for us as an industry is in continuing to welcome new voices and faces to our events. Nearly half of this year’s delegates were first-time attendees, creating an exciting new energy at this year’s Global Conference. SITE also lifted up emerging voices from its Young Leaders program in breakouts during the weekend and as part of the closing general session, too.

It was thrilling to celebrate SITE’s legacy in the company of more than 30 of its past presidents who traveled to New York for this year’s event, while also highlighting voices that will shape the next 50 years and beyond for the association.


Like its industry peers, SITE is also incredibly cognizant that when we bring our community together, we need to do so responsibly. We also need to be both intentional and mindful about how we show up and what we expect and ask of others as well.  

A nod is very much due to this year’s host venue, the New York Marriott Marquis, for their sustainability initiatives that helped reduce the overall footprint of this year’s conference. SITE is also committed to continually increasingly the number of diverse voices featured as part of its events so that we continue creating inclusive experiences that reflect SITE’s global community.

While there’s more room for us to grow, we are proud of the progress made so far. This year’s SITE Crystal Award winners, celebrated on the final night of Global Conference, reflect the changing nature, purpose, and direction of incentive travel. The incentive experiences crafted by this year’s winners include notable deeper commitments to CSR projects, traveling responsibly, and to respecting and understanding the communities and cultures incentive winners journeyed to — all ingredients for enriched incentives.

If this year’s SITE Global Conference is an indicator of the future of incentive travel — and, based on this year’s record-breaking crowd of talented incentive professionals, we definitely think it is! — then the path ahead looks incredibly bright. We’re excited to work together toward an even more rewarding future for the industry, with our members and friends from around the world.

Thank you to those who joined us, those who helped support this year’s event, and to everyone helping shape a vibrant outlook ahead for incentive travel!

WATCH: Conference highlights New York City 2023

Video by the team at Speciality Imaging

Photo by Francesco Lo Campo

Written by

SITE Staff


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