Travel Confidential: Peluso a CEO on the go

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Michele McDonald.ichelle Peluso, the new CEO of Travelocity, barely had time to pop into her new office during the first week in her new post. It just happened to be the week of Travelocity's quarterly employee meetings, so two days after the big announcement, she visited Clintwood, Va.

The next day, a Friday, she traveled to the firm's call center in Plains, Pa., then flew back to Dallas for the company Christmas party. She left the soiree to hop a flight to New York, arriving at about 4 a.m. due to the inclement weather, and held the quarterly meeting on the following Monday.

San Francisco's quarterly meeting on Thursday was the next stop, followed by a nice restful weekend in New York. By the time you read this, she will be back in Dallas for a quarterly meeting on the home front. TC hopes the dynamic Ms. Peluso can sleep on planes.

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Meanwhile, Travelocity moved into its new digs on the Sabre campus in Southlake, Texas, where employees say the cafeteria rocks. "Rocking" is not an activity we generally associate with Sabre, but TC's Texas pals swear it's true.

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Barb Bowden, revenue manager for Peabody Hotels, entertained delegates at the opening cocktail party of the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association's (Hedna) conference with a tale of her first stint as manager on duty at Peabody's Orlando property. Her first call came from the owner of the hotel, who expressed great concern over the droppings of the famed Peabody ducks.

"They don't look right," he said. "Could you look into it?" In the true spirit of hospitality, Bowden did, but fortunately that did not require personal intervention. The ducks have their own duckmaster and veterinarian.

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Also at the Hedna gathering, Bruce Small, Hyatt's director of sales information systems, gave a perfect example of how technology can slap you with one hand and soothe you with the other.

When the company made an alteration in its firewall, it began rejecting all HTML e-mails, which included a great many bookings funneled to the company via StarCite, the online meetings facilitator.

Fortunately, Hyatt had developed a direct connection with StarCite, so not a booking was lost -- they all went directly into Hyatt's system.

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The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group seems determined to give Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton a run for their money. Having deemed the New York Mandarin Oriental a successful launch, the firm's location scouts have been spotted inquiring about real estate in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Paris; Prague, Czech Republic; and Shanghai.

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A couple of swells: As the runway on St. Barts is being updated, the airport will be shut down for two months next fall and the majority of the island's hotels said they're closing for the duration to renovate.

There is ferry service to the island from St. Martin, but a representative of one upscale property tells us why it's decided to close anyway: "We didn't want to have to deal with seasick guests checking in. The passage doesn't look rough, but it's not the waves -- it's the swells."

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Hong Kong seems to have bounced back, at least as far as corporate travel is concerned -- its hotels have been filled the past few months with fashion industry buyers who missed the early summer season due to the SARS outbreak. And no one could be happier than executives at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

They acquired the property in June 2001 for $346 million, only to be hit by 9/11. They had finally recovered this February, and then SARS hit the city.

"Our fingers are crossed that there's nothing waiting around the next corner," an executive told TC. "Unless, of course, it's the recovery in leisure."

E-mail Michele McDonald at [email protected].

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