Susan Tanzman, a Friend and a Voice for Travel Agents

Saying goodbye to Susan Tanzman, a giant of our industry and a guiding force for travel agents By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West

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This issue’s cover story, “The Women Who Power River Cruising” (page 16), takes a closer look at some of the female executives who are spearheading many of today’s river cruise lines.

The travel industry is blessed with a large number of successful female leaders; however, earlier this month, we lost one of the best of this group with the passing of Susan Tanzman, owner of Los Angeles-based Martin’s Travel & Tours.

Tanzman, who battled cancer for years, was a passionate advocate for travel agents. Her list of accolades is extensive, including ASTA’s Travel Agent of the Year and Travel Weekly’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Tanzman chaired ASTA’s World Congress in 2002 and has led many of the society’s major initiatives. She was also an attorney, and she advocated for the industry through the California Coalition of Travel Organizers, an organization she helped establish. Hawaii was her favorite destination, and she was named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s top Hawaii agents multiple times. She also served on the executive committee of the Oahu Visitors Bureau for years. 

On the personal side, Tanzman was positive, passionate, knowledgeable and amazingly generous with her time. She was a strong supporter of TravelAge West, and I’m proud to say that her name has been on our masthead for years. As a young editor, I soon understood why Tanzman was such a legend. No matter what kind of deadline I faced, I could always reach out to her and, invariably, an email would come back within minutes saying only: “Call me.” Our ensuing conversations were full of great quotes and deep insights — and no shortage of laughs. Tanzman served as a moral touchstone to me — I always wanted to be on the same side of an issue as her, because I knew she was usually right.

In 2013, I presented Tanzman with the second-annual TravelAge West Excellence in Leadership Award. Her speech that night was funny, humble and empowering — typical Tanzman. While I’ll deeply miss her, I take comfort in the knowledge that she inspired so many others, and I look forward to seeing her legacy in our community for many years to come.

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