Tzell Travel Group chairman Barry Liben died Jan. 2 after a year of health battles. He was 67.

Liben has been Tzell’s chairman since 2016. Before that, he was its president and CEO for more than 40 years. Liben was also parent company Travel Leaders Group’s CEO and was a member of TLG’s board of directors until his death.

When Liben initially invested in Tzell in 1977, the agency employed three people. Today, it has over 700 agents, staff and management and is part of TLG, No. 7 on Travel Weekly’s 2019 Power List.

“Liben’s successful business philosophy -- ‘create an environment conducive to initiative and hard work, encourage a sense of fun, then let people do their best and recognize it’ -- was transformational in the industry and continues as Tzell’s legacy today,” TLG said in a statement.

Tzell merged with TLG in 2008. Liben was its CEO until 2015, then took on the CEO role with TLG working in partnership with chairman Michael Batt.

Under Liben’s tenure, TLG acquired Protravel International, Vacation.com and Nexion. The company also expanded internationally.

Liben served on a number of association and community organization boards during his time in the industry, including the Israel Community Development Foundation and the National Stuttering Association. He also established the Protravel and Tzell Foundation after Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast in 2012.

In a joint statement, Tzell co-presidents Cindy Schlansky and Monty Swaney said, “He was an icon in the travel industry, a loyal and honest friend, a generous philanthropist, rabid New York Giants fan, a man who loved a good laugh, and above all, a man who adored his family, loved his wife without bounds and found immense joy and pride in his children and seven grandchildren.”

Batt remembered Liben as a champion for the industry.

“Barry will be remembered as a kind and generous leader who was driven to succeed through determination and hard work,” he said. “He was one of our travel industry’s biggest champions and will be missed by all.”

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