Though the pandemic has devastated the travel industry over the past nine months, it has brought with it some silver linings. For Lori Speers, it was the gift of time: Spending time at home in Dallas led to some introspection about what she really wanted to do, and the answer -- opening her own host agency -- became clear. The 38-year industry veteran has spent recent months gearing up for the Dec. 28 launch of Levarte Travel, which she will helm as owner and CEO.
Speers has held a number of roles in the industry. She got her start in corporate travel before transitioning to leisure. She managed a Virtuoso agency in Dallas. She most recently was the director of travel for the host agency Xstream Travel, where she grew its membership base by 400% and increased annual gross sales by more than 1,200%. She managed more than 3,500 independent contractors there.
She also realized her dream was to open her own host agency, and Levarte was born.
"I get a certain spark teaching someone the travel business, I really do," Speers said. "It's like a schoolteacher with a student when that lightbulb goes off."
Levarte will focus heavily on marketing and advisor training at all levels. Advisors will have access to a back office management system as well as a customer relationship management system. The host agency will offer three tiers of membership, which will depend heavily on an advisor's experience.
The LevNEW level is for new advisors with little to no experience. It carries an enrollment fee of $299, then costs $49 per month. Advisors at this level will receive 75% of their commissions. They will also have exclusive access to the Levarte Academy training program.
The LevUP level is for more experienced advisors who have their own IATA cards. These advisors get an 80% commission split and will pay $59 a month.
Finally, the LevPRO level is for experienced advisors who will receive 90% of their commission and pay $100 per month. Advisors must bring in at least $40,000 in annual commissions to qualify for LevPRO.
Speers said she believes most advisors will fall into the LevUP category. She hopes LevNEW agents will quickly move up. She expects around 10% to fall into the LevPRO level -- she will personally work with those advisors to help increase their sales.
By the end of 2021, Speers projects she will onboard around 500 ICs.
The travel industry is home to many good host agencies and their leadership, Speers said, many of whom she counts as friends. But she believes Levarte will be defined by "the passion that's behind it."
"I'm really going to try and make people really good advisors," she said. "I want quality, not quantity."
She also wants Levarte to be fun. That is evidenced in her plan for its launch party on Jan. 28: Those who have indicated they are interested in the host (around 200 and growing) will receive items like a Champagne glass, a voucher for Champagne and a Levarte ribbon in the mail. They will join together virtually for a ribbon-cutting and toast.
"I did this with love and passion," Speers said. "It's something I just wanted to do. It's a dream, 100% a dream. I'm so, so excited at the interest, and the support from the suppliers."
Levarte is affiliated with Travelsavers.