Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 17 of 83

Destination: CEO A Travelocity's Michelle Peluso relies on an entrepreneur's enthusiasm to run one of the Internet's most successful commerce sites. by Sharon Shinn lthough Travel Agent Magazine once named her "Technology Person of the Year," Michelle Peluso doesn't consider herself an IT guru. "Everyone knows my technology team should have won that award," says Peluso, the president and CEO of Travelocity, which is based in Southlake, Texas. Nonetheless, the 35-year-old entrepreneur has certainly proved she knows how to use technology to transform the travel industry. In 2000, Peluso launched Site59, a Web site for last-minute travel deals, an enterprise that allowed her to combine her love of travel with her desire to run her own business. When Site59 was acquired by Travelocity two years later, Peluso was brought on board as senior vice president and later made COO. In 2003, she was named CEO. Since then she has masterminded Travelocity's expansion into Europe and become a vigorous champion of customers' rights. The work has paid off. Before Peluso was named to the top spot, Travelocity had lost its position as the third-largest Internet commerce site behind Amazon and eBay. Under her leadership, the company has seen steady growth, includ- ing a recent gain of 31 percent over the previous year. In 2006, Travelocity generated total global revenue of $1.1 billion by booking $10.1 billion in gross travel. Peluso utilizes technological advances to offer customers better, more personal service that keeps them loyal to the Travelocity brand—and keeps Travelocity profitable. No wonder the company's "roaming gnome" mascot looks so happy. Given her background, it's no surprise that Peluso thrives in the fast-paced, high-pressure world of online travel. Her father and grandparents were entre- preneurs, and she made her first trip to Russia at the age of 15. After earning an undergraduate degree at the Wharton School, Peluso deferred her busi- ness career to obtain a master's degree at Oxford University in economics, philosophy, and politics. Still seeking varied experiences, she spent time as a consultant and a White House Fellow before launching Site59. Her travels and curiosity about the world have also driven her commitment to various charities and nonprofits. While at Wharton, she ran BRIDGES, a mentoring program that paired Wharton undergrads with West Philadelphia schoolchildren. More recently, she has joined the boards of directors for Tech- noServe, which helps entrepreneurial people in poor rural areas of the develop- ing world, and Christa House, a Long Island home for people with AIDS. Peluso also manages to find time to speak at business schools, sharing insights into management and her delight in mastering its challenges. 16 BizEd JULY/AUGUST 2007

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of BizEd - JulyAugust2007