Sheila Yellin and Greg DeClemente

Sheila Yellin and Greg DeClemente

Greg DeClemente became a consultant for Courtyard Travel in 2005; at the end of the six-month stint, Sheila Yellin, president and CEO of the Great Neck, NY, agency told him, “I don’t want you to go anywhere.”

“Neither do I,” DeClemente replied. Ten years later, this dynamic duo is still going strong, complementing each others’ strengths and growing the business, which is located on Long Island’s upscale North Shore.

Since we met with them for our December 2008 cover profile, Yellin and DeClemente have grown revenue by 25 percent (it was $25 million back then). They’ve also added on six independent contractors, bringing their total to 40, while benefitting from the wide girth of knowledge their six in-house advisors deliver.

How has their business changed? When we met with them, the country was in an economic downturn, and that’s saying it politely. Today, Courtyard Travel has not only weathered that storm but moved well beyond it.

“We are booking more luxury vacations than ever and with more frequency,” DeClemente tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “Many of our luxury leisure clients are taking multiple trips per year.” The agency maintains its mix of strong corporate business as well, and is still “a proud member of Tzell and Signature.”

“Our core competency continues to be service, knowledge and value. However, we have re-focused our efforts on specialty areas of travel, like European driving adventures, food and wine trips and exploration travel,” he adds.

Recent famous feats include crafting a 30-day bespoke African safari for a family of eight. “All in with air, land and travel insurance, it was approximately a $600,000 trip,” says DeClemente.

December 2008
December 2008

The Peninsula in Beverly Hills impressed Yellin recently with the service, accommodations and the attentive nature of the staff, she reports. “Sitting at the rooftop pool and having lunch on a sun-splashed day was incredible,” she tells us. Prior to embarking on a South African safari, she spent four nights at Cape Grace in Cape Town. “Located on the waterfront, it was an ideal setting to wind down and enjoy a glass of South African wine and the incredible cuisine in the Signal Restaurant,” she says.

A visit to the Four Seasons Orlando personally wowed DeClemente: “It’s an outstanding property, it met or exceeded my expectations,” he says. “I had initially questioned why they’d build in this city, but with hotel at over 90 percent occupancy, I realized that for luxury clients if you build it, they will come.” Mexico’s Nizuc was another homerun for him. “I took my entire family there for Thanksgiving,” he says. “It was the first time we ever did something like this and it was an outstanding experience, including having turkey dinner on Thanksgiving in Mexico. Also, with its proximity to Cancun International Airport, it was easy to get to. The Garden Villas with plunge pools were amazing and had enough space that my wife and I said we could retire to these accommodations.”

On the family front, DeClemente reports he has a new granddaughter who is one-year-old and “the love of his life.”