The Society ofand Travel Executives recently took a strong stand on Delta Air Lines’ decision to discontinue its MeetingNetwork program—and all group and zone discounts—by issuing a letter to the airline’s CEO, Gerald Grinstein, asking him to reconsider. Now, anyone looking to book a block of tickets with Delta (through Delta reservations or other channels) must purchase those tickets within 30 days of blocking the space. This policy makes it impossible for incentive planners to use Delta for air travel, since the actual names of the winners could not be known that quickly in a six-month or one-year incentive campaign.
According to Brenda Anderson, SITE’s CEO, the association plans to take stands on other industry issues that affect its members in the future, possibly in conjuction with other associations. "I wouldn’t say this is a shift in strategy," she said, "it’s just us doing what we need to do for our members. This issue cuts to the heart of what our members do, and we would have been remiss to not respond." As of press time, she had not received a response from Delta.
SITE is also taking a different kind of stand—one ofeducation and market-building—with its Executive Leadership series, which took place in late February in Beijing. The purpose of the annual program is for SITE’s board and interested members to educate suppliers from emerging incentive destinations. Some 125 local suppliers attended the Beijing event. "When we leave, we also leave behind a chapter in formation," explained Anderson. The program has become so popular that the association plans to hold it twice in 2006, and is considering destinations in South America, Asia, and Europe.
It appears that things are looking up for SITE, which in 2002 changed leadership and hired association management firm SmithBucklin in a move to return to profitability. As of the end of March, SITE had already surpassed its retention goal of 85 percent (last year, retention hit 81 percent_ and was more than halfway to its goal for new members. Its first-ever capital fund-raising campaign, FutureSITE, is also halfway to its goal of raising $3 million for educational programs.