Cara Whitehill, Traxo Chief Commercial Officer Hi Res

Q&A WITH CARA WHITEHILL


 

Cara brings both strategic and operational expertise to Traxo from her background in business development, product management, and managing key strategic partnerships for major travel and technology firms including Expedia, Travelocity, and Deem/Rearden Commerce. Additionally, she has served as an advisor and consultant to several startups. Cara joined Traxo in 2012.

Cara earned her BA in Journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and her MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Sessions: Program Leakage: How to Manage What You Can't See

 

Tell us a little about your travel history, how long have you been working in the industry?

I've been in the travel industry nearly my entire career, nearly 20 years now. I've been fortunate to work across the spectrum, from American Airlines, Travelocity and Expedia, to Deem on the corporate travel side, and now with Traxo on the technology side. It's helped me get a broad understanding of the various players and business models across the travel ecosystem.

Have you spoken at BT Summit before?

Nope -- this is my first time, although I've attended past events and find them to be well done. I'm excited to participate.

What topic are you speaking on?

Leakage!  It sounds unpleasant, and it really is an unpleasant thing for travel managers to get their hands around because the problem is growing with no end in sight. I'll be speaking about ways that solutions like Traxo can cost-effectively help travel managers capture this off-channel booking data proactively, so they can ensure their travelers are protected from a duty of care perspective, as well as improve their spend tracking and reporting visibility. Relying on card data and expense data is limiting and only gives you visibility after the fact, and depending on travelers to forward in confirmations emails creates too much friction. Traxo can provide automated, instant data access at the time of booking, so we can help travel managers unlock much more timely value from this data.

What is the key issues facing this theme/topic right now?

There are three major themes at play:

    1. Duty of care is perhaps the biggest pain point: how can you protect your employees if you don't know where they are? When employees book outside the TMC -- and there are many valid reasons this happens -- the blind spot this creates for duty of care creates significant risk exposure for a company.  
    2. Additionally, their is a perceived tension between an employee's right to privacy, and the company's legal liability to know where they are to keep them safe.  GDPR has muddied those waters somewhat, so we'll also touch on how companies can work with their legal and privacy teams to address this issue.
    3. The proliferation of incentives from suppliers to book direct, coupled with the vastly better user experience travelers get with suppliers vs. TMCs and OBTs, is driving even more leakage.  Add in the millennial factor and trend toward offering employees more flexibility within programs, and leakage grows exponentially. We're seeing more companies take the approach of not fighting that trend, and instead taking a more pragmatic approach based on flexibility and data.

What major change can we expect on this topic in the next 5 years?

We're already seeing strict program mandates disappear in favor of more flexible programs, and I think this trend will accelerate.  That means the traditional corporate booking tool will become less relevant, because employees will be able to make their own booking channel choices:  if a company can still get the booking data in real time, and can get access to their negotiated rates and other perks -- regardless of where that booking occurred -- why do you need a separate booking tool?  This also means the role of the TMC will evolve, which we're already seeing with some of our TMC clients, as well.  TMCs can be terrific strategic partners for corporate clients given their deep expertise, so it's likely they will shift from more of an operational and transaction function today to a more strategic and consultative role in the future.

Why is it important for delegates to attend your session?

This session is the only one to address the challenges and solutions for addressing the leakage issue.  I'll have some tips and concrete examples to share on how valuable this data can be for travel managers, including a framework for evaluating the ROI of tackling leakage via a solution like Traxo. It will be a productive 30 minutes to invest!

Why did you choose to speak at BT Summit?

Our team has been quite impressed with the past BTS events, and find the caliber of attendees to be high. We learn a tremendous amount from talking with the travel buyers who attend. We felt that the BT Summit provides us with an excellent opportunity to share our vision and solution with an astute audience, and also gives us a unique opportunity to collect feedback on what matters most to them. This helps inform our product strategy.

And finally…. Tell us something surprising about yourself
Due to an unfortunate incident in a water balloon fight when I was a kid, I have a punctured ear drum and can now blow bubbles out of my ear when I'm underwater!