This Travel Agent's Inspiring Story Is Full of Must-Use Advice.
PHOTO: Tammy Levent never gave up, which led to her success as a travel agent. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
It was 1995 and Tammy Levent was struggling.
Her jewelry business had been robbed and her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury during it. She was left almost $200,000 in debt, and her children had just been in a horrific car accident that took the life of their great grandmother. There she was, sitting in the hospital ICU and caring for her babies, when a nurse asked her if she could do anything in her life, what would it be.
She knew immediately.
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“Travel the world,” she responded.
“Being in ICU and having a funeral to plan, I had to go to a happy place. I had to go somewhere else, other than where I was, and the only thing that came to my mind is where I have ever been the happiest, and it’s traveling. But nothing else mattered at the time. I had two kids in intensive care and a husband with brain damage, and I had no money coming in.”
That same nurse handed Levent a newspaper and told her, “Find a job.”
“There was a job opportunity that said, “Outside Sales in Corporate Travel,”” explained Levent. “Owning my own business at the time, it was very hard for me to work for anyone, but I told him exactly what I wanted, and he gave it to me.”
A few years later, Levent opened her own agency, Elite Travel, which specializes in corporate incentive travel, luxury travel, destination weddings and honeymoons. To date, she has won multiple awards and has done more than $120 million in the travel business.
Levent’s personal motto is: “Vision plus passion equals success.”
“If you have a vision of where you want to be and what you do, nothing can stop you,” she said. “I have people that say, ‘I want to be successful in the travel business’ and that’s fine, but do you believe that you are going to be successful in the travel business? It’s what you believe in and what your vision is.”
In 2013, she partnered with several entrepreneurs, including Kevin Harrington (Shark Tank and As Seen on TV), to develop The Travel Agent’s Success Kit ™, which helps struggling travel agencies adapt to this new age of travel. There she provides videos, webinars, books and personal mentorship.
Levent’s success still hasn’t been without its struggles; She built Elite Travel in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
“I’d just opened up my office on September 1, and we had a tropical storm and leaks,” she said. “We had no computers because the ceiling tiles had fallen all over them. We had nothing within the week that I opened up, but we had insurance and everything would get replaced. Then 9/11 happened, and I had to make sure that clients did not cancel and that I could keep going in the industry.”
So she called every customer and asked them to keep the deposit on file for 30 days before canceling.
“Not one client canceled after 30 days,” she said. “That’s what you have to do with anything that gets thrown your way.”
When you talk to Levent, the passion for her industry and her career is obvious: “I love my clients. I love the travel. I love training with my TASK agents, and I actually love my relationships with my vendors. I am loyal to whatever brand I work with. That’s the key, and, when you have that support, you’re always going to be successful, every which way, all the way around.”
“My parents always traveled, so we traveled extensively and before I was the age of 15, I traveled to Europe,” said Levent. “I had traveled to every state of the United States and a large part of the Caribbean, and I don’t think that a lot of 15-year-olds can say that.”
She credits the best advice that someone ever gave her to well-known entrepreneur Kevin Harrington: “Whether good or bad, always be yourself,” she said. “Don’t ever change who you are. If somebody doesn’t like it, then they can walk away, and you just always have to be true to yourself and true to what you believe in and just stick to what your beliefs are, because it will take you where you need to be.”
Today, Levent’s career has brought her to the set of ABC’s Tampa Bay Morning Blend, where she provides weekly travel segments.
“We have 33 television stations in 24 markets, and we launched the Tampa Bay Morning Blend in June,” said Sharon Painter, media specialist with E. W. Scripps.
“When looking at the contents of the show, it was apparent that we were missing a whole travel and tourism segment. Knowing Tammy’s background and Elite Travel’s mark in the community, I talked to her about creating a travel segment that would air weekly on our Tampa Bay Morning Blend show/program. We were looking to create an energetic segment, inspire people to travel and expand their knowledge of the world.”
Tammy was instantly a natural fit.
“In working with television, it’s not only important to have great creatives and great information, but also to have an on-air talent that can deliver, and it can be interesting and funny and knowledgeable, and she brought all of that to the table,” said Painter.
During one of her first segments, Levent focused on a Greek trip and even brought in samples of Greek cuisine.
“Every time I had a charity event, I told the caterer that one day there’s going to be a thank you, even if it was on air for 10 seconds,” she said. “My relationships mean a lot to me.”
Levent has built a career around leveraging such partnerships with other businesses, and this television show was no exception.
“What appealed to me about doing this segment was that I could bring in sponsors,” said Levent. “That was really important with me for partnerships because if you’re confined to a segment for two minutes and talk about Elite Travel and then, ‘here’s a travel trend or tip’, that’s not doing it for me. This is a sit-down, interview-type show where we can get more out of what we want to say, especially with my sponsors. It’s not just me.”
You can watch Tammy Levent on ABC’s Tampa Bay Morning Blend, Monday through Friday, 10-11:00 a.m. Levent’s segments air on Wednesdays. For more information on Levent and sponsorship opportunities for the show, please visit tammylevent.com.