LISA BENZAKEIN HAS ALWAYS BEEN A NEW YORKER, so it's no surprise that her new job with Tzell Travel Group is on the island of Manhattan. The new year brought a new sense of purpose for the New York-based travel management company, which hired Benzakein as its vice president of leisure travel, charging her with growing vacation sales for an agency group whose business has long been dominated by corporate travel.
"It's a new direction for Tzell," says Benzakein, who spoke with Travel Agent only a week into her new position. Her responsibilities include all negotiating with leisure-oriented suppliers and assisting Tzell's agents and branches on all aspects of leisure sales. Lisa Benzakein
A History in the Market
Benzakein has a good jump on her new duties, having been closely involved with Tzell agents in her prior posts, first as a business development manager with Carnival Cruise Lines, then in the same function with luxury tour operator Classic Vacations, where she worked for 7½ years.
"I've known the Tzell account for about 17 years now," she says, "so I pretty much know a lot of the leisure agents. I felt like it was an easy transition to come in here because I knew and worked so closely with many of the agents."
While Benzakein has been hesitant to divulge her plans on how to bulk up Tzell's leisure sales, she says that the company's focus is defined: sell vacations through existing corporate accounts. Around 90 percent of Tzell's current business comes from corporate clientele, which it will tap into to build leisure sales.
"We haven't really marketed ourselves that way," Benzakein says. "There is a huge opportunity there. A Tzell agent has corporate accounts, but not handling their leisure business. So when corporate clients are ready to go on vacation, they may be booking someplace else, not through Tzell." It will be Benzakein's task to rectify that and consolidate the point of sales for both corporate and leisure travel.
To do so, she will lean heavily on the Signature Travel Network, the consortium to which Tzell belongs (it's one of Signature's highest-revenue-producing agencies). Benzakein says that Signature's collection of tools and technology will enable Tzell to seamlessly grow its leisure sales. Specifically, Signature's Client Collection tool will be most vital to Benzakein's success.
"This will allow Tzell to market to our corporate clients through a variety of demographic and segmentation reports done by Signature," Benzakein says of Client Collection, which is already being used productively by some of Tzell's branches. "This will help us to get the right vacation offer to the right client. The potential here at Tzell is enormous."
With annual billings exceeding $750 million, Tzell Travel Group (which back in July repurchased itself from CnG Travel Group) is already one of the largest private travel management firms in the United States. Now, with Benzakein aboard and attention turned to the leisure market, annual revenues could get even a bigger jolt.
"I am thrilled to be working for Tzell," Benzakein says. "It's such an exciting place to be because they are always growing."