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Parnham takes reins at SITE GB after Grant’s shock departure

Chris Parnham has taken on the presidency of SITE GB six months early following the departure of Elliott Grant.

Earlier this month, SITE GB president Elliott Grant sprung a surprise on the incentive industry by announcing a change of career to become a teacher.

Now Chris Parnham, owner and director of Absolute Corporate Events and founder and director of Absolute Digital Communications, has taken on the role earlier than planned, with board member Leigh Butterfield stepping up as VP and president elect.

Parnham said: “It’s a great time to take the helm because the world is unlocking now, and travel is becoming a hopeful reality. For the last year and a half, we haven’t dared plan or talk about incentives but now the world looks like it’s on the brink of reopening, it’s a good time to lead the SITE GB chapter and hopefully ride a crest of excitement as the industry recovers.”

Parnham has experience at the helm of an industry association, having been chairman of the HBAA for two years, as well as having been part of the MPI board and involved with the Meetings Industry Association.

“SITE is a huge global association with a narrow and specific focus on incentives with a strong education edge to it”, he added. “I like the fact that it’s a personal membership rather than a company membership so as a member, you benefit personally from the wealth of education, networking opportunities and knowledge across SITE Global.”

The recent SITE GB summit saw the community back together in person again for the first time in 18 months, and now Parnham is planning what to do with his extended presidency.

“I want to pick up where Elliott left off,” he said. “We started 2019 with a real strong objective of making sure that SITE GB became the voice of the UK incentive market, but obviously hit a massive obstacle last year with the pandemic.

“The world really does value the UK outbound incentive market, so it would be great if we could establish ourselves as a more prominent voice for that market, to the outside world but also to those of us in the UK who are operating in that market.

Safety inhibits luxury

“Secondly, I want to pick up one of the subjects that we introduced at the summit, which is a Covid‐related dilemma around luxury versus safety and how we continue to deliver that luxury experience that incentive travel demands with all the new safety rules and regulations. That is a real challenge because safety inhibits luxury in many ways. We need to work out how we can deliver luxurious incentives with enhanced safety disciplines in place.”

Parnham also acknowledged that long lead times for international incentive trips means that it could be another 12 months before corporate groups return – but he is nevertheless optimistic about business post-pandemic.

“The incentive planning window is anything from 8‐18 months on average, so we can need to be planning incentives for 2022 and 2023 now. It’s unlikely that many incentive groups will travel this year, and because of the nature of the planning period, it’s also unlikely there will be many travelling in the first half of 2022. But certainly, I think there will be a steep climb in the volume of incentives from the second half of next year and we need to start planning
them now.

“I don’t think much will change once we get over the memory of Covid. The challenges will continue to be being creative, getting more value for money, making the experiences more special than ever, and creating those memorable moments that make an incentive the motivating reward that it is. I think we will very quickly go back to delivering incentives as we always did, and challenging ourselves, as we always did, to be different, creative, bigger and better than ever.”

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