January 26th – 28th represented our inaugural Day Of Impact, connecting women in the travel industry to make meaningful connections that THRIVE.

View the agenda from that amazing event below.

Day one | awareness

A virtual kickoff with keynote speakers and panels featuring top C-level women executives in the travel industry, to discuss the current COVID-19 impact on women’s career progression 

11am EST:

Moderator – Melissa Maher, Senior Vice President, Expedia Group

Dorothy Dowling – Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Best Western

Colleen Coulter – Head of Travel, Facebook

Bridget Blaise-Shamai – Former President, American Airlines

Alex O. Husner – Chief Marketing Officer, Condo-World

Vanessa de Souza – Chief Marketing Officer & Co-Founder, Rentals United

1pm EST:

Moderator – Silvia Camarota, Senior Director Lodging, Expedia Group

Garine Ferejian-Mayo – Head of Commercial, IHG

Caryl Helsel – President, Dragonfly Hospitality

Jennifer Hill – Vice President of Client Solutions, Kalibri Labs

Katie Winther – Vice President of Revenue, Journal Hotels

Gisell Moronta – Vice President, Atrium Hospitality

Wendy Zapach – Senior Vice President, ALICE

Day two | future

Mentoring journeys begin in dedicated breakouts, with the goal of helping Mentees achieve their potential and overcome COVID-19 related career impacts. 

Emerge Ready to Thrive!

Keynote Speaker – Dr. Lalia Rach

Listen and engage in conversation on influencing change in the hospitality industry, using practical insight and networks to propel our careers forward

influencing change in our industry

In a panel discussion moderated by Abby Estevez, learn how to incorporate lessons from a year like no other. Hear from hospitality’s brightest minds of educators and analysts for an insightful discussion on how to influence change in the travel industry, using practical insight and networks to propel women’s careers forward. 

Dr. Lalia Rach – Founder, Rach Enterprises

Dr. Donna Quadri Felitti – Director of the School of Hosp., Penn State

Charuta Fadnis – Senior Vice President, PhocusWright

Peggy Berg – Chair, Castell Project Inc.

Vail Ross – Senior Vice President, STR Inc

Day Three | development

A virtual wrap up, with opportunities to hear from top women executives in travel as they discuss steps to best position yourself for future career development.  

Building your brand

A masterclass with debbie van ooteghem

Uncover the steps needed to build your personal brand, by uncovering the skills and traits that make you distinct!

Growing Your personal Brand

Moderator Jennifer Barbee of Destination Innovate speaks with leading women in travel to uncover their tips on using your unique skills and strengths to best position your career.

Laura Calin – Vice President, ORACLE Hospitality

Cady Wolf – Vice President Americas, Sojern

Kelly McGuire – Managing Principal Hospitality, ZS

Michelle Sutter – Senior Director, Holland America 

Michelle Kline – Chief Operating Officer, Link Hospitality

Claire Soares – Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Up in the Air Life

Hear from our featured mentors

Throughout the Day of Impact event, you’ll have a chance to hear from some leading women in the travel industry, across various segments. Whether in a mentor setting, or one of our panel discussions, you’ll be able to take away some great insights from these featured speakers.

Hear From Alex

Some of the best and brightest in our industry have fallen victim to unemployment due to COVID-19. Now is the time for all of us to support women who are in this position to recognize and understand that this is not their fault, and that this in no way reflects their talents or past accomplishments. Now is the time to work together to build new opportunities for the future, because if one thing is true, the travel industry is resilient and it will be back, and will need a workforce that is ready to lead with confidence.

Alex husner

chief marketing officer

Condo world

Learn More About Melissa

Melissa is dedicated to creating space for diverse voices in the travel industry. She served as Expedia Group’s first Chief Inclusion Officer where she led the team responsible for celebrating and championing diversity and creating a sense of belonging for employees, customers, partners, and communities. To drive positive change in the career mobility for women in travel, Melissa serves on the board of WINiT by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), a network that provides unique career development opportunities. Melissa also serves on the board of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth, and is a content contributor for GlobalHotelNetwork.com.

Melissa maher

senior vice president

expedia group

Vanessa de souza lage


rentals united

Learn More About Claudia

Claudia started her hospitality career in the reservations, e-Distribution, Revenue Management areas and went on to operations, digital marketing and data management with large resort complexes like El Cid Resorts in Mexico, Gala Resorts, and others. Her executive management and branding experience comes from her 10 year role with Hard Rock International Hotels & Casino division and her latest adventure as Vice President of Revenue Strategy for Margaritaville Enterprises where she oversees all revenue, data and loyalty initiatives for the brand. Claudia plays an active role in the traqvel industry and speaks regularly about data management and innovation in conferences like Eye For Travel, Travel Distribution Summit, Digital Travel Summit, Revenue Management Educators Council, and others.  She is also a ranking member and sits in the Users Council and Board of Advisors for companies like Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Laasie, and works with schools like the University of South Florida, California State, and University of Delaware in curriculum development and Board of Directors in multiple disciplines. 

Claudia infante

vice president, revenue strategy

margaritaville enterprises

Hear From Michelle

[Mentorship is] having someone you can rely on to give you honest, tried and experienced feedback.  I am in the last decade of my career (mostly because there is some sort of added prejudice about women over a certain age) and I wish someone had shared even a small piece of the things I have learned.  I would love to lend a hand to a young person wanting to take a leap instead of just a step. 

Michelle Marquis

chief revenue officer

lexicon travel technologies

Hear From Jennifer

Q: Why do you believe it is more important now for women to support other women in travel?  

Jenn: Considering that women made up 66% of the travel workforce and only 5% ofthe C-Suite pre-COVID illustrates a systematic need for the advancement of women in travel. I believe it’s more important now than ever to look at the COVID-19 impact in travel for women as an opportunity. With the right strategies and ambition, we can also tap into our natural abilities to problem-solve and tip the scales in our favor. 

Jennifer Barbee


destination innovate

Learn More About Laura

Laura has been supporting the hospitality industry in product management and global business development for over 25 years. Laura began her career with MICROS/Oracle as a member of the development team and she played an instrumental role in bringing the Opera Enterprise Suite of products to market and orchestrated its global expansion to more than 180 countries. Throughout her tenure with MICROS/Oracle, she has held leadership positions in an array of fields, including development, product management, consulting, operations and sales engineering. 


Currently, Laura serves as the Vice President of Strategy and Solutions Management for Oracle Hospitality. In this role, sheis responsible for charting the direction of Oracle Hospitality’s cloud services and solution portfolio for the hotels, casinos and cruise verticals.

laura calin

vice president, strategy and solutions management

oracle hospitality

Hear From Bridget

As the President of the American Airlines AAdvantage program, two of my top priorities were mentoring students and professionals, and creating more value through the program’s partnerships under the personal motto of ‘more together.’


Mentorship and partnership are paramount as we work to restart the travel industry, in part by creating opportunities of significance for women. Thrive – Women in Travel is but a start of our needed, ongoing pursuit of ‘more together’ by helping and looking out for each other, like only women can.


Let’s build upon Thrive and create more together!

bridget blaise-shamai

president, aadvantage program

American airlines

Hear From Julie

I believe that a lot of the progress we have made in the area of workplace equality could be lost if we don’t support our female colleagues and employees. I do not want to see talented women pushed off their career path because they need to have more flexibility because of the circumstances we find ourselves in. And I don’t want to see our displaced colleagues struggle to get back into the workforce when demand returns. The travel industry WILL lose great talent as a result of this crisis…we need to make sure it’s not disproportionately female talent.

julie kyse

vice president, air partnerships

expedia group

Hear From Dorothy

Relationships are the currency of life. 

dorothy dowling

chief marketing officer

Best western hotels & Resorts

Learn More About Michelle

Michelle Sutter is Holland America Line’s vice president of North America sales. She oversees strategic accounts, national accounts, charter and incentives, and field sales, reporting to Gus Antorcha, president of the premium cruise line.  

Prior to her executive role, Sutter was senior director of sales for Holland America Line where she led the national accounts and field sales teams in supporting the growth of North American travel partners. Her return to Holland America Line in 2017 is preceded by a directorship with Carnival Corporation’s Fathom brand where she engaged in her passion for social impact while supporting business development and trade marketing. 

Her career in the travel industry began 20 years ago as a shipboard translator and as one of the industry’s first future cruise consultants, which ignited her interest in photographing doors around the world. In 2013 she joined Holland America Line for the first time as a business development manager. Throughout her career she also held several roles of increasing responsibility at Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

Sutter is an ICF certified Leadership and Career Coach, which supports her deep-rooted desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others through mentoring and career coaching. Sutter holds a Bachelor of Arts in Latin America studies and Spanish from Simon Fraser University. Currently she is enrolled in a marketing certificate program at Cornell University, reinforcing the importance of integrating sales and marketing. She is fluent in English, French and Spanish.

michelle sutter

vice president – north america sales

holland america line

Learn More About Claire

Claire Soares is the Founder behind the multi-million dollar flagship startup travel company, Up in the Air Life. She believes in DOING what you love, BEING who you are, and LIVING life out loud. As a former sales executive at a Fortune 500 company, Claire was a road warrior traveling over 1000 flights during her sales career. Throughout that time she learned the ins and outs of the business travel and in 2013 channeled her love for luxury, champagne, and exotic destinations into her successful company, Up in the Air Life. Claire and Up in the Air Life have been featured in the Wal-mart Black Girl Magic Campaign, The AirBnB Inaugural Black Travel Leaders List, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Essence, Ebony, The Root, Rolling Out, The Griot, and other online publications.

claire soares

founder & ceo

up in the air life

Hear From Wendy

More women will be pushed out of the workplace based on COVID then in any point in modern history. No traumatic event, devastating disaster or financial crisis will change many women’s lives for the worst. The long tail of this will be multi generational. The balancing act of responsibility that us women who have been able to hold on and thrive is critical to to hold. We need to place value on ensuring women who have been outplaced, have the right skills, opportunities and networks to get ahead. I am committed and hope being part of this organization will allow me to show that

wendy zapach

senior vice president, sales

alice platform