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by Pádraic Gilligan, Chief Marketing Officer, SITE & Managing Partner, SoolNua Marketing

SITE Classic at Boca Raton – discover 1

The Boca Raton Museum of Art is a cultural treasure of human proportions, not at all intimidating, or full of its own self-importance, the way some galleries can be. It’s located in downtown Boca Raton, one of South Florida’s charming small towns arranged in linear fashion along what’s known as The Palm Beaches.

Classic Sound of Music Backdrop

When I visited it was hosting an intriguing show called Art of the Hollywood Backdrop – Cinema’s Creative Legacy. With 22 massive backdrops from classic movies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music (see above) and several Hitchcock films, this was a fun exhibition where interaction with the art pieces was encouraged, not frowned upon.

I was there thanks to Joe Figol whose company ETHOS Event Collective set up the visit. Joe is a local whose company specialises in connecting people and places in ways that are purposeful and meaningful, beyond our tendency to skate across the surface of the places we go to. A legend in the DMC space, Joe started ETHOS with others who shared a vision around purposeful planning.

Don Quixote Segunda Parte, 1987 by Izhar Patkin

At the Boca Raton Museum of Art, thanks to Joe’s purposeful planning, we met and dialogued with many of the senior leadership. We were personally escorted around the temporary and permanent exhibitions by a qualified docent who gave us a true sense of the gallery, its role as a cultural hub for the local community and much more, way more, than a simple art tour.

ETHOS Event Collective’s Art Tour was one of many unique destination deep dives available to us as attendees at SITE Classic last week. The challenge was – as they say in Italy – l’imbarrazzo della scelta / the embarrassment of choice. Too many wonderful options, too little available time! There was a catamaran trip, deep sea fishing expedition, an Everglades tour, early AM walks and runs, pickle ball and 18 holes of glorious golf at the nearby PGA course.

SITE Classic at The Baton Raton – Discover 2

I did manage to participate in a cooking class and was regaled by an hilarious conspiracy of chefs who “edutained” us on all matters piscatorial, eventually serving up a fish-fry of legendary proportions. The chefs belonged to the resort at which we were hosted, the historic-now-iconic Boca Raton, resplendent in its sparkling new attire, following a take-over / make-over and a generous USD$100+ investment.

Debuting originally in 1926, the artistic off-spring of architect Addison Mizner, The Boca Raton is now a fully integrated resort, offering almost 1000 guest rooms, over 5 distinct locations. Despite its breath-taking size and scale, however, it’s first and foremost a luxury hotel, all about old school hospitality, full of smiling, helpful, friendly associates who greet you warmly, and look you in the eye.

The Angel of Boca Raton

SITE Classic is a fundraiser for SITE Foundation and, this year, raised a quarter of a million dollars that the Foundation will give back to the industry like the USD10M it has already invested since its formation in 1987. Projects supported by SITE Foundation include the creation of a brand new certification, Certified Incentive Travel Professional (CITP), under the direction of former SITE President, Jenn Glynn and a serial research initiative, the inSITEs series, that has published studies such as Corporate inSITEs (2 White Papers in 2021 and 2022) and Leadership inSITEs, a qualitative report on how 35 global corporations are using incentive travel – Leadership inSITEs was actually launched by SITE’s VP of Content & Research, Selina Sinclair.

SITE Classic at The Boca Raton – Connect

The evening functions at SITE Classic, designed primarily to facilitate networking, were all glitz, glamour and gee-whizz, as befits an organisation committed to motivational experiences. The opening night, themed around the golden age of travel, was a creative partnership between The Boca Raton, Boca by Design and Encore Global and delivered progressive Wow moments, as the more event spaces were revealed to us as the evening unfolded.

The final night, with creative design by PRA and A2 Events, moved indoors from the beach due to the threat of inclement weather, was laid-back-cool, with music provided by a brilliant duo of voice and guitar and theatrical high-jinx from the chefs using ice and fire to make this a dinner with a difference.

The middle night was off-property, at the Opal Grand, Delray Beach, and was an upscale, themed affair – “A Midsummer SITE’s dream” – with stilt walkers, strolling champagne dresses and vignette ballet performances. It was also the “LIVE” auction during which 15 packages were expertly auctioned off by keynote speaker and performance coach, Jerome Wade. Like so much of SITE Classic, this event was a true destination partnership with many companies contributing experience and expertise on behalf of SITE’s Foundation’s objectives: Opal Collection, ACCESS Destination Management, Encore Global, Kirkland Events and Discover the Palm Beaches.

SITE Classic at The Boca Raton – Learn

SITE Classic introduced us to two wonderful presenters. First up was Colin Cowie, event planner to the stars who shared some stunning images from his most recent assignment – the 3 days of celebrations in Georgia following Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez’s marriage in Las Vegas. Needless to say we “oohed” and “aahed” and got great ideas for our next big budget affairs. The big take-away from Colin’s presentation, however, was his insistence of old school service where the customer is front and centre. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, “Service eats creativity for breakfast”. Simple as.

Colin Cowie and his tree-lined cathedral-like temporary structure

Valorie Kondos Field, head coach of the UCLA Bruins gymnastics team from 1991 to 2019, brought us into the world of high performance sports and taught us that winning is not necessarily the route to success. Her early years as a coach were characterised by alpha-male type behaviours, being tough, arrogant and demanding with her team. Success only came when she changed her approach to nurture, support and motivate, building athletes up, not tearing them down. Carrot, not stick. It was the perfect validation for everything we stand for as an industry.

SITE Classic – Learn 2

For the past couple of years, directed by Selina Sinclair, VP Content & Research at SITE Foundation, the Foundation’s roster of published projects has multiplied significantly. The latest study, Leadership inSITEs, was launch by Selina with a panel of industry experts during the event.

Drawing on qualitative interviews with over 35 global corporations who use incentive travel as a key part of their reward and recognition program, Leadership inSITEs identifies 5 key findings that highlight the benefits that incentive travel bring to an organisation:


You can find the complete study on SITEGlobal.


Incentive travel programs have long featured room gifts as another powerful way of rewarding exceptional performance. Over the years. however, gifting has become more fully integrated into program design, increasingly becoming a seminal element in the entire destination experience. SITE Classic, too, had some truly immersive gifting experiences with Maui Jim, Road Runner Sports, Global Gifting and Tumi all adding unique touches.


SITE Classic raised almost quarter of a million dollars to assist SITE Foundation with its mission to raise funds to drive the business case for incentive travel & motivation experiences and support professional development within the industry. However, it also fostered connections and learning opportunities and helped us re-discover The Boca Raton and the Palm Beaches, a resort and a destination offering veritable incentive travel perfection!

Pádraic Gilligan is Chief Marketing Officer at SITE and SITE Foundation. If you’re interested in hosting, attending as a hosted buyer or participating at a future SITE Classic, please contact me on [email protected]


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