Cindy Heston, WellPoint
Director of Travel and Events
Although travel technology innovation traditionally moves more slowly on the corporate side than on the leisure side, WellPoint director of travel and events Cindy Heston has spurred such advancement by working with third-party suppliers to adapt their technology to better serve her company's needs.
Always keeping a close eye on trends in consumer-facing technology, Heston
realizes that "airlines and hotels know our [internal] clients better than I know them," she
said at BTN's
Travel Management 2014 conference in December.
"If I know them, I know their patterns to get ahead of them."
Knowing how frequent-flyer programs can alter booking behavior, for example, Heston
sought to shift traveler booking behavior to consider the whole cost of a trip rather than merely the point-of-sale fare.
Since elite frequent-flyer status brings such cost-saving perks as free checked baggage and lower change fees, she
worked with her
agency, Travelocity Business, and her
booking tool, GetThere, to give travelers more freedom in booking with airlines with which they had status, even if it was not the lowest available fare.
With those same partners, Heston
also transformed the hotel rate-auditing experience.
By using a screen-scraping process when travelers book hotels, she
began to gather data about properties that appeared in a search but were not selected.
With that data, she
can determine whether preferred properties were available at the preferred rate, giving her
insight when hotels are fencing travelers out of preferred rates.
Besides proving that a buyer does not need a massive program to wield influence with travel suppliers, Heston's history of partnership also could serve as a model for travel management companies in the increasingly do-it-yourself travel realm.
"Competition will always be there," Heston