Q&A: Nikki Parsons, ITM Chair-Elect
We check in with Nikki Parsons, Global Director of Travel, Arcadis, as she gears up to take over as Chair of the Institute of Travel Management
Why did you put yourself forward for the role of ITM Chair?
I enjoyed my time both as an Associate Director and more recently as a Board Director at ITM helping the wonderful ITM community, so when the opportunity to arose to apply for Chair it felt like a natural next step.
What does the selection process involve?
A very thorough in-person interview with the outgoing Chair, members of the Board and CEO of ITM
When do you take over as ITM Chair?
At the beginning of May after the upcoming ITM ‘energise’ Conference in Brighton.
What have you done to prepare yourself for the role?
Being part of the Board already affords me a front row seat to what is going on within ITM. I’ve also completed some corporate governance courses with the IOD to make sure I uphold my responsibilities as Chair.
Who has influenced your career the most, and why?
I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful people in the industry throughout my career in business travel, and for inspiring leaders too. Over and above the people, working overseas for nearly seven years has had a very profound impact for me. It was a voyage of discovery; teaching me a lot about myself, how to work successfully in other geographies and cultures and I was able to explore Asia and more of the US.
What frustrates you about the business travel industry?
I think we have an opportunity to educate people more about the complexities and strategic importance of our industry. I believe many of us are humble by nature and prefer to do a good job behind the scenes rather than publicise the great value we deliver. Perhaps we need to recognise the greater good which could come from stakeholders having a better understanding of the value creation from each individual and collectively the industry.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a travel buyer?
I love the positive impact travel has on staff individually and for the organisation in helping them achieve their strategic objectives. It’s a great enricher and enabler. Personally I enjoy the dynamic nature of the work and variety, where no two days are ever the same and we interact with all parts of the business and a plethora of suppliers. The blend of operational and strategic accountability coupled with ever changing external PESTLE (political, economic, social, tech, legal, environmental) factors always keeps you on your toes.
How long have you been involved with ITM? What have been the highlights of your time so far with the ITM?
I have been involved with ITM for many years now, as an Associate Director since 2017 and more recently as a Board Director since 2022. I’ve also been involved as a mentor in ITM’s Mentoring Programme. ITM does a great job of providing a much-needed community for travel managers and suppliers alike. It has been a very challenging few years for business travel, but ITM has continued to offer a place for industry colleagues to share problems, gain peer to peer insights and surface issues. ITM is also paving the way forward with a strong focus on DE&I at the conference and recognising everyone’s individual needs – this resonates well with my values and hopefully our members too.
What are you looking forward to most about the Chair’s role?
We have a wonderful Board of Directors at ITM and a very professional secretariat so I’m looking forward to continuing to work closely with them to help ITM evolve and continue to meet the needs of our members. I’m of course looking forward to the ‘energise’ conference in Brighton on April 26th & 27th and meeting in person with the wonderful ITM community
What are your objectives, what do you hope to achieve during your tenure as Chair?
As we progress through our first full year of trading since the pandemic, business travel faces new challenges and opportunities. Supporting a fiscally responsible and sustainable return to travel will demand a strong ESG awareness and focus from us all; embracing new digital innovation, ensuring a pipeline of talent, helping navigate the dynamic distribution landscape all feel front of mind for me. ITM plays a key role in helping to inform and educate members on these areas and providing a platform to connect as a community.
How did you get into the business travel industry?
After taking various gap years, I started working for STA in leisure travel and then moved over to the HRG graduate training scheme to learn more about corporate travel. I spent time with two large TMCs before moving over to corporate as a travel manager. I’ve been fortunate since to work for some great organisations managing regional and then global programmes in the UK, Singapore and New York.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in business travel?
Go for it, you won’t regret it! There are so many diverse and exciting opportunities and career paths across the industry. I would encourage anyone considering it to chat to us at ITM or anyone they know in the industry to find out more. There are jobs that you probably don’t know exist, which offer such unique life experiences that I don’t believe they can be replicated in any other industry. It’s hard work, enriching, challenging and you will definitely work with some of the most wonderful colleagues you could ever wish for.
If you could change one single thing in business travel, what would it be?
We have personally and professionally all overcome unimaginable challenges in the last few years. I hope we can all look forward now with a greater sense of security, pride in our resilience, optimism, energy, and enthusiasm for the next chapter.