Behind the Scenes

In Our Sites

The art and science of group travel.

Several years ago, my husband called me after midnight from the closing session at his company’s sales meeting on the West Coast. It was difficult to hear him with all the cheering and applause in the background. The president had announced from the stage those sales execs who had earned an incentive trip to Italy, and his name had just been called out. He couldn’t wait to share the exciting news with me.

Since I’ve joined Convene, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to visit many incredible places around the world, and as a member of the meetings-industry media, there’s no denying that those experiences have included the red-carpet treatment. But there was something truly magical about that incentive trip to Rome, Pompeii, and Sorrento. Sure, it’s partly because I wasn’t “on duty” for Convene, but mostly it’s because it was exceptional in every regard — from the tours and options for activities, to having downtime in the schedule to explore on our own, to the incredible meals at places that had been handpicked by local DMCs. It was obvious to me how far this trip went to solidify relationships among my husband’s colleagues and strengthen their loyalty to the company.

Because of my own personal experience, I’m especially pleased to announce Convene’s new partnership with Site, the global network of travel and event professionals focused on “motivational experiences that deliver business results.” Beginning with our December 2013 issue, and continuing in our March, June, October, and December 2014 issues, you’ll find inserts featuring research, best practices, case studies, and articles from Site and the Site International Foundation. And my interview with Kevin

Hinton, Site’s new chief staff officer, kicks off our Incentive Meetings special section in this issue.

Talking with Kevin, I realized again how traditional conferences overlap with incentive travel. Both are meant to take participants out of their everyday environment and their own head-space for inspiration and renewal. As Senior Editor Barbara Palmer reports in our cover story this month, more convention centers and other meeting venues are commissioning or featuring on-site artwork as a means of getting attendees into a more receptive frame of mind. Often it’s not just a matter of making the facility more aesthetically pleasing, but involving the local community and reorienting visitors to the unique features of their meeting destination.

Take this month’s cover image of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s majes tic orca whale sculpture, Digital Orca. It’s not the same thing as savoring a dish of the most delicious pasta Bolognese ever on the grounds of a medieval castle overlooking the Bay of Naples (sorry, I got stuck in a memory groove), but it’s still a feast for the senses. And calorie-free.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.