Introducing the second instalment of our ‘in conversation with’ series, where we delve into the insights and experiences of James Parkhouse, who joined Focus as Non-Executive Director in January 2024.

James Parkhouse Focus Non-Executive Director

What attracted you to the role of Non-Executive Director?

A number of things, I spent 15 years as the CEO of a TMC and have developed a deep admiration and respect for people who choose this sector to create and lead a business in. The TMC sector has some unique challenges and attracts creative people who enjoy giving good service. They are people I like spending time with. I also liked the Focus not-for-profit model, which creates transparency for the suppliers and something that fosters good partnerships.

What particular skills and/or expertise do you think you bring to the Focus Board and the whole Partnership?

I hope my many years as a CEO of a TMC enable me to identify with the challenges and opportunities the Focus Partners face. I built a business focused on the UK market and as such have deep knowledge of the accommodation sector as well as UK rail. As well as leading a TMC, I was on the board of GlobalStar and the Business Travel Association – where I led the new deal for improved commissions for TMCs that comes into effect next year. I hope I can use this expertise to support Focus as it decides on the areas in which it wants to grow after the formal separation from Advantage at the end of 2024.

What do you admire about Focus? What do you feel are the Partnership’s greatest strengths?

As mentioned above – the not-for-profit business model, where all the value created goes back to the TMC Partners, is a stand out element. In its primary role as a buying consortium Focus has extensive spend with major industry suppliers and having spoken with them, they find it much easier to do business with Focus TMC Partners collectively, rather than working with all 50+ Partners individually. I would also say in the short time that I have been a Non-Executive Director, I have seen that the Focus central team are very highly respected within both the TMC Partner and supplier community for the way they engage and the extensive knowledge and expertise they hold.

Why should a TMC join Focus as a Partner? What are the benefits?

A TMC has so many elements to deliver in order to provide full service and it is impossible to be great at all of them. The main strength of any smaller TMC is that they tend to know their customers better than anyone else and can really tailor their approach to them – very high levels of customer service…the potential weakness is that this can come with a lack of opportunity to purchase at scale and take advantage of technology and other investments that are expensive for smaller TMCs to invest in. By joining Focus a TMC benefits from the consortium’s extensive collective buying power as well as access to technology and solutions that are tailored specifically to help them grow and succeed in business.

What are you seeing as the biggest challenge in business travel over the next 12 months?

There are three areas that I think will dominate this year – attracting and retaining quality people; meeting increasingly complex and demanding sustainability requirements; and finally how AI is changing both the expectation of how people book and manage travel as well as what it could automate in the end-to-end offering.

How did you get into the business travel industry?

My former employer saw business travel as a sector that was interesting to be in and asked me to investigate. I thought that the UK corporate sector – particularly those organisations who had a big domestic spend and lots of meetings and events – was not well served by the market…so I set out about building a business to address that. The result was Agiito.

Who has influenced your career the most?

Andy Parker – former CEO of Capita. He saw something in me nearly 20 years ago and gave me some opportunities that I frankly wasn’t qualified for…he backed me and was a regular source of wise advice and counsel.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in business travel?

Ensure that you enjoy change and ambiguity. TMCs are intermediaries and as such need to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders – customers, colleagues, suppliers and investors/owners. Everybody needs to feel they get something from it so they have to be good at juggling different needs. It is a very rewarding industry though as you will meet people who love doing a good job and looking after others.

If you could change one single thing in business travel, what would it be?

The perception that ‘business travel’ is all about ‘Business Class travel’…the word business still conjures up images of people in suits doing deals, when business travel is about travelling for work in all its shapes and sizes. While I was at the BTA, I did a lot of work on campaigns to change this perception…showing that it can be doctors, telecoms engineers…humanitarian workers…. anybody that needs to be somewhere to carry out their duties is a business traveller – if people saw it like this it might get the respect as a professional service that it is.

If you would like to get in touch with James Parkhouse, Focus Non-Executive Director, or have any media enquiries, please contact: Joanne Emerson,; 0203 973 7730