Tzell Travel Group, part of the Travel Leaders Group, is merging with Protravel International, pending government antitrust approval.

The combined sales of Tzell and Protravel is $2.35 billion.

Travel Leaders was No. 10 on Travel Weekly's 2012 Power List, Protravel was number 18.

Barry Liben, CEO of the Travel Leaders Group, said that once the deal closes, Tzell and Protravel will continue operating “as is” with no plans to change the business models both companies have created.

Liben said that few of Tzell’s competitors have “ever captured our admiration and respect to the extent that Protravel International has.”

Liben said that Protravel is a “crown jewel” and said that the two companies share similar philosophies. Both Tzell and Protravel are based in New York.

With the merger, the combined entity will have 72 branches extending across the U.S. and U.K.

“We are proud to now be associated with Travel Leaders Group,” said Priscilla Alexander, founder and president of ProTravel.

Under the terms of the agreement, Alexander will continue serving as its president.

Both Tzell and Protravel have what a Travel Leaders spokesman called “exceptional” front-of-the-plane traffic.

Both are New York powerhouses, and New York is a source for lucrative transatlantic business. About 60% of both companies’ air business is international.

Protravel is a member of Virtuoso, and Tzell belongs to Signature Travel Group. Those relationships will continue.

The merger gives Travel Leaders additional supplier clout, which will benefit the entire Travel Leaders organization, the spokesman said.

The two companies signed a letter of intent to merge a year ago, said the Travel Leaders spokesman.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.

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