SITE’s Bangkok Manifesto Aims to Define Purpose, Direction of Incentive Travel

The organization’s CMO Padraic Gilligan shares insights into the groundbreaking document. 

SITE Padraic Gilligan
SITE CMO Padraic Gilligan

With SITE’s formal launch of its Bangkok Manifesto, Incentive editor Lisa Grimaldi spoke with SITE CMO Padraic Gilligan on the background, impact and legacy of the groundbreaking publication.

What is the purpose of the Bangkok Manifesto and how did it come about?
The Bangkok Manifesto is a document that sets out the nature, purpose and direction of incentive travel in 10 statements crowdsourced during the SITE Global Conference [held in Bangkok this past January]. Ten incentive-travel professionals from different countries then provided 300-word essays on the statements. The essays were then analyzed and connected with research and other related articles in business and industry publications. We then gathered all the content together into the 40-page publication [available in print and online]. It’s a compelling piece of work that demonstrates SITE’s vision for incentive travel as a truly transformative agent that fosters workplace culture, builds bridges, promotes diversity and inclusion.

Why did SITE feel the need to create these principles?
The SITE Board needed to create these principles because we live in a society that, more and more, seeks “why” answers, not “what” or “where.” The manifesto seeks to uncover the “why”, the underlying impulse that defines why we do, what we do. As incentive travel professionals, what we do is design motivational program for corporations that result in employees qualifying for amazing travel experiences. Why we do it is because we know travel is transformative – it’s an alchemy that turns moments golden. Travel enriches both the visitor and the destination being visited. Ultimately travel is a force for good. With Mark Twain, we believe “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness …”

I understand that the Manifesto will be re-evaluated and updated. Has a timeline been set?
The Manifesto will be re-interrogated each year for the next few years at our global conference. Next January we’ll co-create the Vancouver Manifesto. It’ll have elements of the Bangkok Manifesto in it, but it will also be different, reflecting the evolution of our industry. Our industry is constantly changing, so it’s important that our plan acknowledges the fluidity, factoring in space for new views and outlooks.

What feedback have you received from SITE members? Are they implementing the principles into their own business practices?
SITE has never published such a thing before, so there’s a great sense of novelty about the initiative. Feedback has been phenomenally positive with members commenting on how proud they are to be part of our association with such clarity about its nature, purpose and direction. It can be hard to explain the concept of the Manifesto, but with the tangible, bound and printed copy, it immediately comes to life and people "get it." It’s really a document for reflection, to be read and re-read. We’ll be setting up an online portal to capture reactions, impressions, questions. We are developing the marketing brief for the Manifesto as we go, reacting to the opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis. All of the content comes directly from SITE members so, in a sense, they are already implementing the principles of the Manifesto in their own businesses.

What impact/legacy does SITE hope the Bangkok Manifesto will have on the incentive and meetings industry?
The Manifesto is the beginning of a conversation. We want it to stimulate dialogue, discussion and debate among incentive travel professionals all over the world on the nature, purpose and direction of incentive travel. Incentive travel, clearly, is evolving beyond its traditional application within a sales environment, and the implications of this are far-reaching. The Bangkok Manifesto and its future iterations -- all to be named for the destination of our annual conference -- want to be the catalyst, the stimulus for ongoing interrogation of the art and science of motivation within a workplace and the key role that travel incentives can and will play.