Travelogix Presents…Scott Davies
Ep.16 has rolled around folks, and we’re delighted to present to you, Scott Davies, CEO of The Institute of Travel Management (ITM).
Grab a coffee and enjoy.
Before joining the ITM in 2017, Scott had a stint with IBM before moving into the travel industry with British Airways some 23 years ago. It was here, and in the subsequent travel industry roles with Amadeus, Virgin and HRG that followed, where Scott became “completely hooked on this brilliant industry”.
He tells me, “I’ve had a very fortunate career, working with and for some amazing people and organisations, learning the fun way, and occasionally the hard way, too!
The early years of Scott’s career in aviation clearly made an impression on him, or certainly, the people and mentors he had at the time. Scott said, “At British Airways, Richard Tams was a great boss who taught me a lot, there was also the legendary John Greehy who gave me my chance in the industry – I’d run through brick walls for him.”
It makes me wonder whether they gave him the advice he gave to us when asked, “What advice would you give to a young person starting in business travel?”
Scott tells us, “I have four pieces of advice:
1. Be aware of, and nurture, your own personal brand, reputation, and integrity.
2. If you make a career mistake, don’t worry – correct it quickly.
3. Be the meeting that someone is looking forward to that day.
4. Don’t take yourself seriously, be kind, smile and laugh often!”
That feeling of loyalty and love for one’s team is something that comes across when you speak to Scott about his own squad now at the ITM.
Throughout the interview, Scott pays tribute to his team on numerous occasions. You can’t help but feel that perhaps the relationship he has fostered with his team at the ITM is a direct carry-over from not only the man he is but the journey he’s been on through travel.
Does Scott personally celebrate his achievements? “This is my single biggest weakness”, he says.
He continues, “At the end of the ITM Conference, when the champagne corks are popping, I like to encourage the team to let their hair down (some of them are really good at it!), but I’m gently rocking in the corner, trying to think how to make it bigger and better next time! I’ve heard some football managers have this affliction too. I’m working on it, I promise.”
Once again, that essence of ‘team’ is in full view. Which is pretty neat.
For those who don’t know, the ITM aims to support and develop all those who find themselves in corporate travel.
Established in 1956, they represent over 5,000 business travel buyers and suppliers across the UK and Ireland.
For over 60 years, the ITM has been connecting, informing, educating, and inspiring business travel buyers. But how have they maintained this over such a long period?
Scott tells us, “The ITM creates events, resources, and connection opportunities and I’m lucky to have a truly extraordinary team that delivers them. It takes great energy, creativity, and obsessive attention to detail to build the ITM conferences and events, so employing the best possible team has been key.
“We are of course powered by our members, who effectively own ITM, and they are great at guiding our efforts and the content they would like to see.”
There’s a sense of pride in what Scott and his team do day-to-day. Scott said, “Running the ITM is a privilege because the membership’s vibrance and warmth are so tangible and unique”.
The industry standing of the ITM holds sway too. Scott tells us, “The UK & Ireland business travel community is richly varied and includes many organisations and leaders with global influence and responsibilities. This means it punches well above its weight and the market has strategic importance to buyers and suppliers alike. The ITM aims to set the highest standards in the fields where we operate and we’re always trying to raise the bar higher.”
The industry support that the ITM provides is vast; from mentoring and DE&I to mental health and well-being. It seems as those the ITM has its finger on the pulse across a range of important topics.
Take the mentoring programme for example, guiding young talent and in turn nurturing that talent is something we deeply value here at Travelogix, and we have experience within our close team on this very subject.
Scott tells us, “The ITM strongly supports the process of mentoring, and business members can apply to join our Mentoring Scheme. Mentees are connected to established leaders with specialisms that match the assignment. Over the course of the year, our mentees and mentors regularly connect and agree on the terms of their link-up.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see the personal development that takes place and equally pleasing that our mentors get to learn and be inspired by our mentees. If you’ve never considered mentorship, I thoroughly recommend it as a mutually beneficial and life-affirming way to support our industry’s talent development.”
Fostering talent is something that seems to be happening more and more across the travel industry. GBTA Ladders is a long-standing programme which is a universally recognised initiative, and on the leisure side, TTG Media has the ’30 under 30’ platform, which aims to highlight the blossoming young talent of today. There are more and more TMCs putting the arm around the shoulder when it comes to talent in business travel, too, which is very encouraging.
In the realms of mental health, well-being, neurodiversity, and DE&I, Scott’s stance is humane, logical, and well, correctly inclusive.
He tells us, “It’s essential to discuss and normalise these key themes that we are all touched by directly or indirectly. Put simply, different viewpoints and voices enrich us all and make us better people.
“We miss so many opportunities for fairer outcomes when we deliberately, or accidentally, exclude or disenfranchise people. It’s so important for anyone with a platform to shine a light on what we’d like to see more of, and we work hard at the ITM to play our part and to help others be ambitious in these areas.”
2023: The opportunities and challenges that face the buyer community
When one sleeping giant (the pandemic) gets put to bed (hooray for us), a few more rise in its place. Or have they always been there, lurking in the background? Who knows.
We’re not talking about some sort of Hydra from Ancient Greece, but there are certainly challenges that seem to rise in synchronicity.
The problems in travel can be so heavily linked to economic woes or societal problems, and the impact in one place can be felt in others.
Scott said, “As demand and supply begin to settle post-pandemic, they are still busy grappling with new ways of sourcing and securing content, dealing with cost inflation, embracing new technologies and trying to align their travel programme with their company’s ESG goals and commitments.”
“The latter is a hugely complex and fast-moving area where there is no gold standard yet and we expect to see some radical approaches to what responsible business looks like in the years to come. Climate change is self-evidently here and the agenda relating to travel is extremely urgent.
“I must add, travel buyers are truly extraordinary in their ability to prioritise and work through the volume of different challenges and opportunities on their tables at any one time.”
While AI may not be new in travel, this recent surge in its functionality and application is. The development in Silicon Valley has played out for the world to see, with Mission District’s own OpenAI (ChatGPT) sitting at the ‘top table’ for most dinner party discussions in recent months.
There’s room for efficiency in some of the processes that stack our industry. But we could be some time away from significant infrastructure replacement due to the expansion of AI in the travel space.
Scott agrees, “It is still relatively early days for AI’s usage specifically in business travel programmes. Some well-resourced travel teams have deployed robotics in various areas to nudge good traveller/booker behaviours and chatbots are quite widely used, but I sense that widescale usage is a couple of years away.
“It will be key to ensure travellers always feel well supported and that the empathy and flexibility of a trained/skilled human is still available. As for AI’s roll-out in the wider world, we need to think about education and controls – and quickly.”
Some parting thoughts.
While being extremely dedicated to the travel industry, and specifically the travel buyer community, Scott comes across as a very centred person.
Being a fan of Mo Gawdat’s book ‘Solve for Happiness’ indicates a desire to understand contentment or, happiness more broadly.
Running and gym work keep Scott’s pushing himself to see what he’s physically capable of (even at his old age – and that’s a quote!), but it is his downtime with his beloved daughters (and dog) that provides the most abundant sense of contentment and happiness.
Scott said, “They’re real-life angels”.
Perhaps ‘Solve for Happiness’ can stay on the bookshelf; it seems as though Scott’s children give him everything he needs.