Nearly 600 meeting and incentive professionals from around the world came together in Rome for the SITE + MPI Global Forum held 12-14 January at the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria. The historic event marked the first time Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) have partnered to host a global conference to share industry trends, offer innovative education and provide a collaborative yet exclusive environment for networking and business exchanges.
The forum was a true ‘global’ event, drawing a record number of registered attendees from more than 50 countries that represented a wide variety of event disciplines. Fifty-four percent of the attendees were from Europe; 37 percent from North America; 10 percent from Central/South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East; 68 percent were members of MPI, SITE or both associations; and over 100 attendees were attending either an MPI or SITE conference for the first time.
Kevin Hinton, who announced he was leaving the organization in late January, reflected on his final conference as SITE CEO. “As past chair of MPI, I felt very proud to be part of this coming together of SITE and MPI members to share in an unforgettable experience. When we kicked off with our shared leadership dinner at Palazzo Brancaccio, the energy in the room was a sure sign of the excitement we all felt. I heard this throughout the event from delegates who were soaking up the learning and relishing their time meeting new people – leaders of our industry from around the world. At the closing gala, we all gathered at the Villa Miani overlooking Rome to celebrate Italian food, culture, history and the last chance to be part of this important forum.”
The education program included more than 30 diverse sessions, with separate tracks for incentive travel and meeting management professionals as well as concurrent sessions designed for both meeting and incentive professionals. There was significant crossover with members of each group attending sessions supported by each organization. The event also incorporated several sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives, including working with Food for Good and EquoEvento to donate 390 meals to Voreco Onlus, an organization that provides support to the destitute in Rome.
Acknowledging the success of the first-time event, the boards of both organizations came together to announce the Treaty of Rome of the Incentive and Meeting Industry, a joint declaration of future collaboration and cooperation signed by Hinton and SITE board president Annamaria Ruffini, and MPI president Paul Van De Venter and board chair Amanda Armstrong. The agreement commits the two organizations to continue to work together around future events, mutual education and content delivery, as well as investigation of new ways to serve members of both associations around the world.
New SITE president Annamaria Ruffini, CIS, CMP, president and CEO of Events In & Out S.R.L. in Rome was instrumental in bringing the event to her city. “The success of the Global Forum was to due to clear ideas and a willingness to collaborate. The event proved that alliances in the incentive and meeting industry are possible and fruitful. The Treaty of Rome of the Incentive and Meeting Industry, signed by SITE and MPI leaders in front of 600 colleagues, is a simple but powerful beginning of our new commitment to future collaboration that will benefit the global MICE industry. Together we are stronger and will be able to produce real change.”
For the first time a Minister of Tourism, Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, was present at the Opening Ceremony. “His presence and speech confirmed how the MICE industry is becoming more important and influential to the European economy.” added Ruffini.
At the beginning of the event Didier Scaillet was introduced as the new SITE CEO effective 1 February. “The SITE + MPI Global Forum was a resounding success on many levels. The level of participation far exceeded our expectations with nearly 600 meeting, events and incentive travel professionals gathering in the Eternal City. The quality of the program, both education and social, was outstanding! I want to thank the teams at both SITE and MPI and, especially the Host Committee, for their hard work and commitment to make the event an unforgettable experience,” Scaillet commented.
In addition to the introduction of Scaillet, SITE also announced it has named specialist MICE agency SoolNua as the association’s new strategic marketing partner, with SoolNua managing partner Pádraic Gilligan taking on the role of chief marketing officer for both SITE and the SITE Foundation.
SITE rotates its conference between Asia, Europe and the Americas, and announced that SITE Global Conference 2019 will be held 11-13 January in Bangkok, Thailand. MPI announced its European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) will be in The Hague, Netherlands in February 2019.