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An Incredible Year in Review

Another Record Breaking Year for Expedia CruiseShipCenters

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters opened 34 new retail travel agency locations and added 1,200 Vacation Consultants to its network in 2016.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we’re continually working towards being the largest retail network across North America. Over the course of 2016 we have been actively expanding our brand throughout North America and providing the best tools and systems to our franchise owners to continue to grow a profitable and valuable travel business. As we enter into our 30th year in business we’re proud to share another year of records and even more excitement on the horizon.

Further Growth Coast to Coast

2016 was a record year for new Center openings for us as we opened 34 new retail travel agency locations and added 1,200 new Vacation Consultants to our ever expanding network! We’re not even close to being finished growing throughout North America as we have major growth plans to open a further 40 locations in the year ahead. In 2017, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will be coming to communities in California, Florida, New York, Texas and Utah to name a few!

We have plans for further growth across North America and have prime territories available in the United States where 75% of the population lives within driving distance of a cruise port. There’s huge potential for franchise ownership in Florida, Texas, California, Washington and New York as these states are home to 60% of North American cruisers.

Another Award Winning Year

The partnerships we continue to build and nurture with our partners is something we take a great deal of pride in and value greatly. Expedia CruiseShipCenters was ranked as a top franchise on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500 list and named as a top franchise opportunity by Franchise Business Review. We’re honored to also be recognized with the following awards from a few of our biggest travel partners:

Celebrity Cruises: North American Partner of the Year

Norwegian Cruise Line: 2016 Franchise Partner of the Year

Carnival Cruises: Outstanding Cruise Rookie Partner

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Cruise Sales Manager, Christine Brown, was awarded with Cruise Line International Association’s Rising Star Award.

In addition to our system-wide awards, we were thrilled to see one of our own Cruise Sales Managers in Las Vegas, Christine Brown, be honored by Cruise Lines International Association with the Rising Star Award! This award recognizes Christine’s passion for travel, strong relationships with her clients and her overall impact on the travel agent landscape overall. Congratulations Christine!

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in the News

In addition to an appearance on FOX & Friends and in Entrepreneur Magazine, Expedia CruiseShipCenters was also featured in the American Society of Travel Agents’ news-style documentary, Travel Agents Taking Off! In the film, reporter Jarret Hill highlights the continued rise of the travel agent in the film and interviews President, Matthew Eichhorst along with a visit to the Expedia CruiseShipCenters retail location in Bellevue, Washington.

2017 is the year to Open Your Expedia Franchise

There’s never been a better time to go into business with the most recognized brand in travel as CLIA expects 25.3 million passengers to cruise in 2017! In the year ahead, 26 new ships are scheduled to debut as demand for cruising has steadily increased 62% over the last ten years and as more travelers will be seeking the expert advice available from using a trusted travel agent. Over the past year we’ve seen our passengers increase by 9% with further growth anticipated for 2017.

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise system is built upon a proven model designed to support franchise owners achieve their lifestyle, income and business goals. Our franchise model is designed to support individuals with little or no experience in the cruise industry and help them build and grow a successful travel business and achieve their income, lifestyle and business ownership goals. For 30 years, we’ve been dedicated to navigating spectacular vacation experiences from our 225 franchise locations. We look forward to further growing our team in 2017 and becoming the trusted cruise retail network for all travelers across North America.

Continue Learning About Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about owning a business with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here.

How Contests Drive Revenue For Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchises

Travel franchise owners benefit from our relationships with major cruise lines

How do Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owners attract new customers? There are many ways, but there’s one that’s gaining traction among our franchise owners is truly fun and exciting — contests!

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Fun and effective – contests help to bolster consultants’ customer base and re-engage with existing contacts.

Contests are a great way for our franchise owners to build a database of prospective customers, especially when they’re first getting started. Thanks to our strong relationships with some of the biggest names in the travel industry, each year Expedia CruiseShipCenters partners with brands like Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International for our annual and promotional contests to serve both the franchise owner and also potential customers. It’s the epitome of a win-win situation, franchisees grow and nurture their contact list while a few lucky individuals embark on the vacation experience of a lifetime!

These contests help you to add hundreds of new subscribers to your databases year round and keep our brand top of mind for travelers. Our dedicated marketing team makes contesting a breeze for our franchise owners by overseeing and promoting all contests. Print and online marketing pieces with consistent messages are prepared, along with in-store messaging. To best support franchise owners and vacation consultants, an in-depth contest guide is also available.

Our Win 1 of 5 Free Cruises Contest with Norwegian Cruise Line is on now until October 31st where five lucky winners will receive a free 7 night Caribbean cruise for two! Contest entrants can earn up to ten additional chances to win by referring their friends and family members. Last year, we received more than 200,000 entries with 80% of entrants subscribed to 1 or more of our email marketing pieces which are personalized to the local franchise. Contests like this provide amazing exposure to travelers who may not know about our services yet and allow franchisees to re-engage with their existing database.

Grow, build and nurture customer relationships

Not only do contests help us attract new contacts and email marketing subscriptions but it also allows travel agents in the Center to connect with their existing contacts and help them to enter the current contest. This point of connection strengthens the relationship and also serves as a great opportunity to check in on travel needs, update contact and marketing subscription information.

Contest entrants’ information is dispersed among our local franchises based on ZIP code to increase their databases of potential customers. Since many people also choose to subscribe to our email newsletters when they enter the contest, our travel franchise owners can keep their services top of mind when those new contacts go to book their next dream vacation.

“Our annual contest is something we look forward to every year because there’s nothing more satisfying to us than providing people with the experience of cruising,” said Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “These contests are extremely beneficial to our franchise owners because they provide a deep well of new potential customers to reach out to long after the contest is over.”

Cruising is more popular than ever before

According to Cruise Lines International Association, 100 million people are expected to cruise in the next four years. CLIA reports that the average age of a cruise traveler is 49, with an average income of $114,000. While cruising certainly appeals to the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations, the industry is also experiencing a boom in younger travelers. According to MMGY, travel agent usage has hit a six-year high and one out of three Millennials seek the advice of a trusted travel professional for their travel arrangements. Of those who cruised in 2014, 38% had never cruised before, which bodes well for future growth of our travel franchise.

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According to Cruise Lines International Association, 75% of cruisers opted to book using a travel agent in 2015.

CLIA, in their 2015 North American Market Profile of the industry, noted 75% of cruisers opted to book their vacations using a travel agent. The thriving cruising market, as well as consumer trends, allows Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owners to have viable, profitable businesses that reflect their owners’ passion for travel.

We’re growing rapidly, and so are our sales

Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is one of largest sellers of cruise travel in North America. Our travel agency franchise is rapidly expanding, with more than 220 locations open or under development.

Our sales have grown an average of 20% a year over the past two decades. While the internet had a negative impact on many other retail travel businesses, we have flourished. The reason for our success is simple: cruises, while popular, are not cheap. And choosing from the myriad of available cruise options is not easy. The complicated nature of booking cruises, combined with the force of our brand name, lead an ever-growing number of people to our travel franchise locations.

“The value we add is in being thoughtful,” says Mary Beth Casey, owner of an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We know what this vacation will bring to them and their families. There’s a lot of patience and hand-holding from our side. And then when our customers get off the ship, we do a follow-up: Did we meet their expectations? And where are they going to go next?”

Learn More

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our franchise opportunity here.

Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Michael Decker of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Why a 35 year travel industry veteran chose to invest in an Expedia franchise

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Shingle Creek franchise owner, Michael Decker.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Shingle Creek franchise owner, Michael Decker.

With 35 years of experience in the travel and cruising business, Michael Decker knew Expedia CruiseShipCenters was exactly the franchise opportunity he was looking for. He opened the Orlando Shingle Creek location in 2013.

Michael was Director of Sales for Expedia Group Destination Services for 10 years before opening his home-based CruiseShipCenters. He then opened the successful CruiseShipCenters storefront in Orlando. We recently asked Michael to share his Expedia story.

Tell me about your path to becoming an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisee?

Michael: I started out as a home-based Expedia CruiseShipCenters consultant in 2010. Prior to that I was the Director of Group Sales for Expedia Local Expert in Orlando, Florida. I always wanted to get back into the cruise industry and liked the entrepreneurial side of Expedia as a business and their cutting-edge, “let’s take a risk and do something different” environment.

Throughout my early career I wanted to have a system for selling cruises and travel. In the late 1990s, I launched a boutique cruise line, and after two years I went to work with a friend who owned a ticket company in Orlando in Group Sales. I’d get feedback from people saying they liked the cruises but that they wanted longer cruises or different cruise options and I thought, “Wow, if we had a system – look at all those clients we could help.” At one time I had thousands of past customers all saying they wanted cruise options.

Expedia later bought that Orlando company. I was familiar with Expedia and how they had grown over the years through entrepreneurial, outside-the-box thinking. When they entered into a strategic partnership with CruiseShipCenters I knew the two were going to do something really special and I jumped onboard with Expedia CruiseShipCenters shortly after and opened our retail location in Shingle Creek in March 2013.

What appealed to you about the Expedia Franchise opportunity?

Michael: The Expedia brand attracts customers. I’ll go against anybody in the industry. We win based on value and service. What we provide is second to none. Our people are not travel agents; they are travel professionals. They must have two passions: first they must have a passion to serve and a love for helping people. Second they must have a passion for travel.

What is the difference between a travel agent and a travel professional?

Michael: A travel agent is an employee person who works 9 to 5. A travel professional lives, eats and breathes the business. When a person joins our team, they start out as a travel person. Then they move up to a travel consultant level, and their ultimate goal is to get to travel professional level – that person who offers the concierge-level travel service and takes care of anything, door-to-door. It’s not that you are a know-it-all, but that you work under the tenet that a customer is going to be your customer for life. You want them to have that remarkable vacation so they come back and tell all of their friends. We currently have about 40 travel consultants – about half of which are home-based.

What made your location ideal for a retail travel agency?

Michael: We looked at a lot of locations and ultimately hit the sweet spot. Our location is on the edge of an area that is a mix of tourist destinations and older homes – it was about to really take off. We’re close to the interstate and on the way to the airport and Cape Canaveral. About eight months after we opened, developers began constructing a condo development across the street. We’ve got the best spot in Orlando, and it is less than two miles from one of the busiest convention centers in the nation.

How do you market your business?

Michael: There is a lot of competition in the industry, as well as high turnover. I’m not saying there are not good agencies out there; I’m saying we do it better. I’d rather have high service that builds slower than to have high volume with an emphasis on closing a quick sale. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we’re focused on customers for life. We want people who are not only customers, but also friends. Our customers love coming in and talking about travel, and because of that they refer their friends and family to us. We do some local community communications, and occasionally we’ll invest in print ads. Weekend open houses are also big draws for customers, and we are on track to do six this year.

How are you supported by the team at corporate office?

Michael: Expedia has a system that guides you through the process of launching your business, which is invaluable in helping you secure the ideal retail location, from looking for the right GM to overseeing construction to advising you on how to source your office furniture. Expedia CruiseShipCenters truly has a family culture that says, “We believe in you.” Most franchisors don’t provide that level of care.

The difference between a great franchisor and an average one is that a great franchisor believes in you. They help you grow, help you have value and help you get to a point where you are going to be proud of what is happening down the road. The franchise plan is a plan for a reason. We have a good model, and it keeps getting better.

What is one of your favorite customer success stories?

Michael: I have a lot of stories so it’s hard to pick just one, but a recent success story involved last-minute arrangements for a longtime cruising fan. He was previously loyal to another brand and made the switch to Expedia CruiseShipCenters – and now he is closing in on his 10th trip through us. On a recent trip, I received an emergency text from his son and had to change his travel plans abruptly. I went into action to change his flights and rearrange his transfers. When he returned from his trip, he texted me to say: “I can’t say enough how much I appreciate you. You’re the best. That’s why we come here.” To me that’s the story: the promise that we are always there. We are travel professionals, not just travel agents.

What kind of attributes does a franchise owner need?

Michael: It’s a great place to be if you love travel and love helping people. You have got to be the person engaged in the process, however. It’s important that at least one of the owners is engaged in the process and in the office daily.

Learn More

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our franchise opportunity here.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Rides Wave of Record Growth

2016 best year ever for franchise openings

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters is on pace for a record year as we stay on target to open nearly 40 locations in 2016. Consumer recognition for the Expedia CruiseShipCenters brand is growing, and more people are cruising – both strong contributing factors to our banner year of travel agency franchise openings.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters expands from coast to coast

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters is expanding nationwide, with new locations now open across North America that span from from the West Coast to the East Coast. Meet some of our newest owners and hear what they have to say about their experience so far as part the Expedia CruiseShipCenters team during this exciting growth period for the cruise industry and our brand.

Rob Steinfeld and Dean Hanson – Tampa Bay, FL

“We live the brand. People know us as ‘the cruise guys.’ There’s never a time we’re not wearing an Expedia shirt or an awesome T-shirt that says, ‘Ask Me How To Win A Cruise!’ Down the line, when someone starts to get ready for a vacation, we want them to think of us first. No one comes in here without being signed up on our database,” says Tampa Bay, Florida, franchise owner Rob Steinfeld. Rob runs his Expedia CruiseShipCenters store with his life partner, Dean Hanson. The franchisees have been featured by several news outlets, including the the July 2016 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, the Tampa Bay Business Journal and local cable news network Bay News 9.

Peggy Mehos and Brianna Grewal – South East Edmonton, AB

Edmonton, Alberta, franchise owners Brianna Grewal and Peggy Mehos, a mother and daughter duo, were looking for a business venture with flexibility. Brianna had a background in Human Resources, and Peggy had owned a dental laboratory. Having traveled on their own or as a family to many beautiful destinations, whether it was taking fabulous cruises, relaxing annually in Hawaii or backpacking across Europe, traveling has been a staple for both of them. With that passion, Peggy gained interest in a travel business and started doing her research.

Eventually mentioning it to Brianna, they decided to partner up. “Having the Expedia brand backing the business made the decision to become franchisees that much easier, as they are a trusted brand in travel. We are excited to help others experience these amazing getaways, and we want their customers to go on spectacular vacations and retain memories for a lifetime,” says Brianna.

Rob Henderson – Tustin, CA

Tustin, California, franchise owner Rob Henderson, who opened his Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in April, is excited about helping the residents of his community plan their dream vacations. “Cruising is really a popular option for anyone looking for a spectacular vacation, and our vacation consultants at Expedia CruiseShipCenters can help everyone navigate through all the options out there to put together a perfectly suited package – from finding the right ship to choosing the best destinations and planning the best excursions. Currently there is a huge investment going into cruise ships globally. In fact, every shipyard in the world is booked out through 2021. The ships are better than ever, with fantastic new designs and amenities, and more people are cruising now than ever before because it is a great way to use your holiday time to not only explore the world, but to do so in comfort.”

Barry and Tina Gallant – Fredericton, NB

Fredericton franchisees and high school sweethearts Tina and Barry Gallant have been married for 25 years. Tina has spent most of her career with New Brunswick Power Corporation where she was an Administrative Supervisor, responsible for administration staff around the Province. Barry’s career in engineering as an independent contractor has taken him throughout Canada. While their careers were successful, there was no passion. They wanted to do something that they loved that would allow them to work toward their own goals. They also wanted to set an example for their three children that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Barry and Tina had talked in the past about owning a business, but it never seemed to be the right fit or the right time. However, when they saw an ad about owning an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise and began investigating the opportunity, the pieces fell into place. From the beginning, they felt like they belonged with the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family. This became even more apparent once they met the corporate team in Vancouver and in the time since, from signing their lease to opening day. “They care about you and your success is their success. We feel blessed and proud to be part of such a wonderful caring organization.

We can hardly wait to see what the next few years have in store for us! We know it is going to be an awesome journey!”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ 4,300+ Vacation Consultants across North America provide trustworthy travel advice and personalized service to the millions of people planning to cruise every year. The cruise industry is booming with 24 million people are expected to set sail in 2016 alone, according to the 2016 CLIA State of the Industry report. Cruise lines are also expanding to meet the growing demand for cruise vacations. The cruise industry is investing $6.5 billion in 2016 with 65 new ocean ships planned to debut over the next five years to meet the growing demand from travelers who want to spend their vacation dollars on cruising.

Running an Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a perfect fit for entrepreneurs with a passion for travel. It’s also a rewarding venture; our owners are in the business of helping people plan their dream vacations.

New franchisee support resources help owners succeed

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters we are constantly investing in new support resources to help our franchisees succeed in key areas of the business, including a new resources dedicated to supporting our franchise owners with recruitment of high-quality travel experts to join their local teams.

We are committed to setting our new franchise owners up for success. Our startup team is your go-to resource to get your location ready for customers, including assistance with site selection and guidance as you design and build out your space. We also help with the entire hiring process, from onboarding to recruitment, as you assemble the perfect team of vacation experts.

You will also attend an intensive, week-long franchisee training program called Cruise Management Academy held at our corporate headquarters. By the time you open the doors to your franchise the goal is for you to have at least six Vacation Consultants on your team ready to sell travel packages.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is gearing up for expansion

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 220 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America, and plan to reach 500 locations by 2020.

With our course charted for explosive growth, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will continue to be a leader in a vibrant industry. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has grown at three times the rate of the cruise industry overall, enjoying an average sales growth of 20% annually for more than two decades.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about the Expedia franchise here.

Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Joyce and Gary Mariner of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Owners of New York travel franchise share their insights

Expedia CruiseShipCenter Franchisees Gary and Joyce Mariner are both retired from the New York City Police Department.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchisees Gary and Joyce Mariner are both retired from the New York City Police Department.

When Joyce and Gary Mariner retired after more than two decades of serving the New York City Police Department, they soon realized that retirement wasn’t for them. Throughout their years working for the NYPD, Joyce as a detective in various units and Gary as part of the prestigious mounted horseback unit, they spent their vacation time traveling and planning more travel excursions. Cruising, in particular, kept them grounded, and they have shared more than 40 cruises together. As they researched potential businesses to invest in, they looked to their shared love for travel as the basis for a brand new career. They soon opened the first Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in New York State, and they recently threw a celebration for clients, suppliers and consultants to commemorate the one-year anniversary of their Long Island Center.

This is Joyce and Gary’s story:

Tell us about your career before becoming Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisees?

Joyce: Both of us were New York City police officers. I served 25 years, and over the course of my career I worked in investigative units such as narcotics and robbery, as well as detective squad. I earned the rank of detective first grade, which is the top rank for a detective in New York City. During my last six years I was in the homicide bureau covering the Brooklyn area.

Gary: I retired after 26 years of serving with the mounted unit of the police department, which conducts patrols strictly on horseback. It’s one of the most prestigious units in the police department. I like to tell people that I got paid every day to ride a horse.

What appealed to you about opening an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location?

Joyce: People say it sounded so different from our previous careers, but it’s still a service-oriented field. We could have retired after 20 years of working with the police department, but we stayed on. Part of the reason we did was because it allowed us to afford to take our vacations, which we love to do! We took two cruises a year during our time with the police department. That kept us grounded and helped us stay sane. When we got back from vacation, we went right back to work. It’s important for people with stressful jobs to get back into the game by taking a vacation.

When I retired, I looked into several things. I tried being a housewife for a couple of months, but that didn’t work out. Being a travel agent was attractive to me because I love to travel, and we’ve all heard the advice that says to do something you love to do. The opportunity with Expedia CruiseShipCenters came up, and I felt that it was right for me at the time. Gary and I were fortunate enough to retire early with the police force and start another entirely new career.

You were both already fans of taking cruises. Tell us a little about that. :

Joyce: Before I started with Expedia CruiseShipCenters we were almost to the 40-cruise mark. That was our passion — cruising.

Gary: We’ve been on land tours to locations such as China, Russia and even Tahiti, but taking cruises is really our passion.

Where is your Expedia CruiseShipCenters located, and why did you feel it would be a good location?

Joyce: We are in the suburbs in Nassau County in Long Island, New York, which is approximately 30 miles from the city. Our location is just two blocks from the Long Island Railroad, which is the commuter train into Midtown Manhattan. We are right in the town of Merrick on the main street, and we are surrounded by local retailers and restaurants — plus we have a big chain supermarket and big chain drugstore right up the street.

Gary: We are definitely centrally located in town in a good, high-traffic area.

What sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors?

Joyce: Expedia is a brand name that is well known. If we had opened a travel agency with just our last name, although Mariner is a great last name for a travel agency, it’s just not well known — so it’s not as effective. With Expedia, everybody knows the brand. Then to be the first location in New York and all of New York State was a plus.

Gary: The low-risk investment aspect compared to other franchises that we looked at was also appealing. Opening an Expedia CruiseShipCenters was more affordable for us.

How do you market your business?

Joyce: We send out brochures to Merrick residents using a direct-mailing service. The brochures coincide with Expedia CruiseShipCenters promotions six to seven times a year. We also rely on social media, and I place ads in our local newspapers.

Once or twice a month we hold informative “cruise nights” at our location. I bring in suppliers from cruise tours and land tours, and they come in to talk with the community. I send email blasts to invite residents to listen and learn. I serve refreshments, and sometimes we have small giveaways at these free events.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Merrick, NY celebrates the Grand Opening of their new travel agency franchise.

What was the reaction from the community when you opened?

Joyce: It was very positive. We have built such a good clientele so far, and as the months and years go by I’m just looking forward to building these relationships. The clients that we have built already from this community are like family. We sell cruises and vacations to residents who come in afterward, and they are so happy to see us. They are also happy to sit down and talk to somebody instead of researching their trip online or on the phone.

What do you look for in a consultant?

Joyce: I want a consultant who is as passionate as I am about travel. Not to say that they travel a lot, but they should be interested in it and have a following or friends and family who love to travel. Bringing those consultants in with their circle of influence helps our business grow. We have 23 Vacation Consultants onboard, and about half of them work from home.

Do you get a lot of referrals?

Joyce: We do have a lot of customer referrals. In fact we recently sold a 10-day Italy highlights trip for four women who were referred to us by another woman who walked in off the street a couple of months ago to buy a hotel and airfare package to Hong Kong. That was a nice referral.

What is your customer demographic like?

Joyce: It varies so much. We have a lot of civil service employees, such as teachers and doctors. They range from young families in this neighborhood to the baby boomers ready to retire. Then we have active seniors who love to travel.

What is rewarding about your business?

Joyce: There is always something to learn about travel. It’s changing every day, and you have to stay on top of it. To be in the business you really have to know what is going on. That is what your customers want; otherwise, they could just go online and do it themselves. I like watching our relationships grow among me, my consultants and our customers. We enjoy it, especially after we plan their trips and they come in and tell us what a great time they had. That is the best satisfaction. Plus, that brings referrals.

You’ve been on almost 40 cruises? Can you still travel with the business?

Joyce: You know what? You have to. We still take that one cruise or other vacation just for us. There is a national conference with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and that’s a cruise. We call it a work cruise, but it’s still a cruise.

In addition to cruises, do you sell land tours?

Joyce: We are a full-service travel agency, so yes. Seventy-seven percent of our business now is cruises, and then land tours would be next — followed by air, then short excursions and car rentals.

How does the main office support you?

Joyce: In the police department we used to say that the Patrol Services Bureau, the guys in the radio cars, were the backbone of the police department. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters headquarters is the backbone of our franchisees. They’ve always been responsive to my questions or problems, and if they couldn’t help then they would find the right person who could.

We have two conferences a year with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, which we look forward to. Going to these conferences brings me back to reality and reminds me why we joined and why we bought this business. The camaraderie within Expedia CruiseShipCenters is fantastic. At first I thought it was just for us in New York and our brothers and sisters in blue, but I can see it all throughout this organization.

Do you talk to other franchisees?

Joyce: My counterpart in Staten Island and I do talk if we have ideas or thoughts, or if we run into a problem. Then during our two conferences we get to meet and interact and mingle with franchisees who have been in business for over 20 years or the new ones who are just coming in. There is always a lot of feedback, and every franchisee has opened their arms and told me to call them any time I need help.

What is a typical day as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisee?

Joyce: I spend six days a week in my business, usually up to nine hours a day. And each day I am managing my back-office duties — doing commissions and bills and accounting, and I’m planning events and my monthly team meeting. I’m training consultants, and then on top of that I’m recruiting new consultants.

It’s a busy day. Some days I come in at 10:30 a.m. and I look up and it’s already 7 o’clock. So I have a full six days. I think it’s so important to be available to clients. If clients want to come to the Center, you need to be open and be there.

Do you have a favorite customer success story?

Joyce: We had an elderly man come in who wanted to go on a cruise leaving from Florida. He was going to drive down, and he wanted hotels in certain spots. Our Vacation Consultant worked with him for a couple of days. She found him the right cruise, and she also found four hotels on I-95 going down and coming back for him. She made a map and plotted it all out for him. And then when he came back from his cruise he stopped by to say hello and brought his dog. He was so impressed with her, and he asked her to plan his next cruise.

Tell me a little bit about training that franchisees receive when they come onboard.

Joyce: As a new franchisee, there is initial training online with the Expedia CruiseShipsCenter learning center through our CruiseDesk. There are a lot of courses that help. Right before opening, we spent the week at headquarters for cruise management training. That was fantastic. And there is constant training. There are webinars to keep us up to date on new promotions, how to plan our team meetings — anything that could help a franchisee in their business is provided by corporate. Knowledge is power, and it’s easier to sell the product if you know the product.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Expedia Franchise Owner featured on Entrepreneur

How a Love of Travel Took This Man From Drummer to Franchisee

Franchise Owner, Jon Harvill, in his Greystone Retail Center.

Franchise Owner, Jon Harvill, in his Greystone Retail Center.

By Carly Okyle

Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees.

Jon Harvill’s earliest travel memory is seeing fireworks over the Disneyland castle through an airplane window. The thrill of that moment stuck with him years later as he toured as a drummer alongside music legends. After a stint in pharmaceutical sales, Harvill is on his third act: he’s a franchisee for Expedia CruiseShipCenters, helping others experience the excitement he feels in discovering new places.

Read on to learn more about his path to success and what’s coming down the road.

Name:

Jon Harvill

Franchise owned (location):

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Birmingham, Ala.

Q: How long have you owned a franchise?

We opened our doors in June of 2014.

Q: Why franchising?

I have always dreamed of owning my own business and had extensive experience in corporate America. The support of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise system allows me to capitalize on my experience while taking advantage of a proven system. I’m not left to “reinvent the wheel.”

Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

My most recent experience was 15 years in pharmaceutical sales. During that time I reflected on where my true passion lay and it was in travel. Having played drums on the road alongside such notable musicians as B.B. King, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Louise Mandrell and others as a young man, I sought a career that not only stoked my sense of adventure but also helped people achieve their dreams. I performed on the same stage with these blues, country and rock greats and entertained troops in Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain and Turkey, so I knew finding a job that compared to these adventures would be challenging. I decided I wanted to help travelers have amazing foreign experiences too. Expedia CruiseShipCenters made sense as I’d be enriching their lives by helping them travel to these incredible places and others.

Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?

It resonated with my earliest travel memory: I was a young boy returning home to Southern California on an evening flight, and I witnessed the fireworks exploding over the Disneyland castle. It was incredibly exciting, and I experienced a similar excitement when I looked into the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise. The Expedia name is known worldwide. I am able to combine a lifelong love of travel with the dream of owning my own business during a time when the popularity of cruising is soaring.

Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

Before opening, I spent approximately $100,000 for the buildout of the retail center including furniture, phones, carpet, signage (both internal and external), Chambers of Commerce, business association memberships and marketing. The franchise fee was $39,000.

Q: Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise development team provided the vast majority of professional and legal advice. Through my research I learned that the cruise industry will be relying on travel consultants who specialize in cruise vacations for a long time to come. Twenty-four million people are expected to cruise in 2016 and 65 additional cruise ships will be launched in the next five years.

Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Lease negotiation is inherently challenging, but Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ franchise support team assists with this. A key ongoing challenge is keeping an eye on consultant recruitment while carrying out all of the daily responsibilities of a new business venture.

Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

First, you have to love both the industry you want to break into and the brand you want ownership in. Make sure you do the research. Ask the tough questions. A good company will comfortably answer them. If you are interested in investing in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise, ask yourself the following questions: Is travel sales for me? Do I have the passion and desire to recruit and develop a dynamic team of Consultants to become the leading provider of cruise and travel services in my community?

Q: What’s next for you and your business?

We’ve done very well since opening, better than expected for a landlocked community like Birmingham. So, our goal for 2016 is to add a significant number of travel consultants to our team and to enhance our presence within the Greater Birmingham travel community and beyond.

Click here to read the original article on www.entrepreneur.com

After a Banner Year for the Cruise Industry, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Ramps Up for Explosive Growth in 2016

As the cruise industry continues its phenomenal rise, the time to open your Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise is now

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters has big plans for expansion in the United States and other nations around the world.

When cruisers were first counted in 1980, they numbered only 1 million. Today, cruising is a global phenomenon — spurred by decades of innovation and cultural awareness. Thirty-five years after the first annual cruising population was tallied, Cruise Lines International Association reports that 23 million people will have cruised in 2015. Better still, CLIA reports that in 2016, the number of cruisers will grow by nearly 1 million more.

As the cruise industry races to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for cruise travel, significant investments are being made to further the popularity of the lifestyle. CLIA reports that 30 new river ships will set sail for the first time in 2016, while 57 new ocean ships will come online by 2022, expanding the capacity for cruisers by more than 9 million overall. The influx of new ships will likewise extend what the cruise industry can offer to its customers, in terms of luxurious comfort and new destinations and adventurous day trips.

How the cruise industry is evolving

With nearly 24 million expected to cruise in 2016, the lifestyle is no longer dominated by seniors. CLIA’s recently published “2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook” speaks volumes about the universal appeal of the cruising lifestyle. The vastly important Millennial demographic is cruising more than seniors for the first time, which speaks to the long-term growth potential of the industry. The good news doesn’t stop there: All demographics are cruising in larger numbers.

Cruise Lines International Association reports that 70% of travelers prefer to book their cruises through a travel agent.

Cruise Lines International Association reports that 70% of travelers prefer to book their cruises through a travel agent.

And why wouldn’t they? With more ships going to more destinations than ever before, cruisers can customize trips to create their dream vacations. Customer segments are likewise blurring: contemporary cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are now offering luxury accommodation as a premium experience, while luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises have begun offering family packages.

The trends reported above signify that the golden age of cruising is yet to come. As the cruising population continues to grow by the millions, Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise is the only brand with the name recognition, the proven business model and the industry relationships to capture a significant share of a booming industry. That’s why our sales have been growing at an average rate of 20% each year for more than two decades.

The time is now to launch your Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise

The seemingly limitless vacation options that cruisers have to choose from has made expert travel franchise owners a hot commodity. In fact, CLIA reports that 70% of cruisers prefer to book their vacations through a travel agent, and that number is likely to rise as the options for cruising expand.

Given that the wide majority of cruisers prefer to book their cruises with a travel agent, it is of added importance that our trusted brand is visible in their communities. This is why our franchise owners operate out of brick-and mortar-retail locations. Our retail locations give us increased visibility with our customers and also provide an office environment where we can host events — and where our independent Vacation Consultants can share knowledge and work together.

“You don’t have to explain who you are when Expedia is part of your name — our brand gives our travel franchise owners instant credibility,” says Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, who has helped us achieve double-digit sales growth since 2003. “Also, Expedia has more than 200,000 hotels in their system and access to a ton of air travel. We bolt that supply and data into a traditional travel agency franchise, and it provides a huge advantage.”

The new year will find our brand rapidly expanding across America

As large as the cruising industry has become, Expedia CruiseShipCenters has grown at three times the rate of the cruise industry overall, enjoying an average sales growth of 20% annually since we launched our brand more than two decades ago.

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters generates 10 times the average sales of competing franchise Cruise Planners, and 15 times more average sales (sales per unit) than Cruise One, according to the 2015 Power List in Travel Weekly. There are a lot of reasons for those figures, but perhaps the biggest is our business model — Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisees sign up to become travel sales leaders, not travel agents.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 200 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America and has plans to open dozens more travel franchise locations over the next three years.

“Our vision is to be the largest cruise retail network in North America who is the trusted brand for cruisers in their communities,” Matthew says. “In the year 2020, I see 500 Expedia CruiseShipCenters, with 300 of those stores in the United States.”

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Chris Meyer of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Owner of fast-growing travel franchise shares his insights, lessons

When Chris Meyer of Orange County, California, decided to leave the newspaper industry after 30 years as a professional journalist, he began looking for an opportunity that would improve the quality of his life. He found it as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner in Orange County. Meyer’s location broke sales records during his first three years in business. This is his story.

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Susan and Chris Meyer sailed out of New York City on the Norwegian Breakaway for Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ annual conference.

What did you do before you became an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner?

I started in journalism when I was in junior high school by creating a sports page for our teams.  I continued newspaper work in high school and college and then spent 30 years as a professional. I was running the Orange County Register’s local news and business news coverage until I left in 2011. At one point, I was interested in moving into upper management, so I returned to college to earn an MBA. While I was in that program, the bottom really fell out of the newspaper industry. When I came up for air at the end of the program, I figured that rather than manage the long decline of a newspaper, I should do something else. I saw a targeted ad on my LinkedIn profile and started investigating.

I had not been planning to become an entrepreneur, but I was impressed by the business plan — the idea of a big digital company also doing brick-and-mortar locations to appeal to every segment of the market.  I thought it was very forward-looking compared to what was happening in the newspaper industry.

What was the process like, learning about the company?

There were many web pages, webinars and learning modules. I could see how the company was structured. I placed many phone calls to the folks at corporate, as well as to franchise owners.

What made you want to open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location?

I had covered business in my area for a long time, so I knew about Orange County’s economy. I also knew who in the county would be likely travelers. I knew the location I wanted was near a huge senior citizen community. I crunched numbers to figure out how many vacations I would need to sell each year to survive and how many I would need to sell to do really well. The numbers didn’t seem unfathomable, and I decided to roll the dice. I’m a risk-averse person, but I was again facing the task of laying off several members of my staff.

What was your startup like?

We opened at the beginning of 2012. We’ve done well — significantly better than the average. I had looked at the averages and decided that I wouldn’t be happy with that. I started talking to people about what I would need to do to beat the average significantly, and I convinced myself that it was possible. In the first four years, we have significantly exceeded the averages.

What sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors?

I think the Expedia name is huge. It is a household name that has instant familiarity and instant credibility. The headquarters team is focused on continuous improvement. Most of our competitors don’t have a big brand for people to connect with. Some of our competitors are affiliated with American Express, and we all remember travelers’ checks. But that seems a little yesteryear. Expedia is now. Our folks are committed to technology. It is at our core, and that gives us a competitive edge. Our online software, CruiseDesk, has a very good CRM that saves administrative steps and enables us to be more efficient.

What have you done to get off to such a strong start?

Like anything else, there are multiple pieces to success. People are always important in any business, so attracting, motivating, and retaining the right Vacation Consultants is critical. Having the right macro-location and micro-location is important. We are next to a Trader Joe’s and a senior citizen community of 18,000 people — a community of people with the time and money to travel. Then, it is mostly training and motivating my people.

How do you win over customers?

Expedia does a lot of web marketing that includes contests to win a free trip and encourages people sign up to receive our free e-newsletters. These develop customers. We also reach out into the community to make sure people know about us. I encourage consultants to develop simple business plans.

You get best of both worlds with the power of brand to attract customers and the buying power of the brand to put together great travel packages. And since we work with all the major cruise lines and land-based travel companies, we are able to help customers get the vacation they want at the price they can afford.

We’re a like a travel version of the Apple store. When you go in, you already know that you want a computer, but you don’t know how much RAM you need, or how big your screen should be. It’s a big purchase, so you want to be able to ask an expert three or four questions. Similarly, many people know the type of vacation they want to take, in general terms, and come in to talk about exactly what is available. Customers may learn about a trip offered by one cruise line, and we help them understand the options available from competitors.

What do you enjoy the most about the business, your staff and your customers?

I enjoy talking about travel. I enjoy it when customers return from their vacation grinning, telling stories and hugging their travel agent. And we all get to go on vacations from time to time.

How often do you get out for a cruise?

I travel three to four times a year. It’s not always cruises. Cruises account for about 60 percent of our sales. We also book many land packages to Hawaii and land tours in Europe. I try to travel strategically to visit new places and experience new cruise lines, tour companies and vacation styles. Each trip gives me new insights to share with consultants and clients. I was not a cruise enthusiast when I started with Expedia. I had been on a couple of cruises, but I also had backpacked Hawaii and driven through Europe. I have now cruised on a variety of ships from the South Pacific to Alaska to the Mediterranean. I love variety!

How does the Expedia CruiseShipCenters headquarters team help support your business?

Their mantra is that the franchisees are their customers. My mantra is that the Vacation Consultants are my customers, and the travelers are the consultants’ customers. I’m focused on helping others succeed, which helps me. Expedia has the same attitude. They provide systems and support that give me the ability to be more successful.

Do you talk with other franchisees?

I communicate with a core group of colleagues regularly. Some are veterans, others a few years ahead of me and others joined at the same time as me. We share good ideas and troubleshoot problems as we all try to grow our businesses. I catch up with a wider group at our two annual conferences.

What does a typical day look like in the business?

It’s essentially a management job. I focus on working with consultants, working with our travel partners and working on marketing. A big role is business development.

What kind of people do you hire as consultants?

Our Vacation Consultants are independent contractors. Some are committed to it as a full-time job and want to travel to the ends of the earth. Others are hobbyists — they get their aunt and uncle on a cruise. My goal is to invest in the hard chargers and not let the hobbyists take up too much of my time.

What sort of training do you get?

I have received lots of sales training. When you are searching for a storefront for your business and going through the process of negotiating a lease, you have time to take advantage of a lot of training.

Has the business met your goals so far?

My goals were pretty lofty. I always like to stretch myself, and I am pretty satisfied with where we are going.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I like the outdoors. I like to work out. I like to have experiences. I do lots of things. I  enjoy time with my grandkids.

What are some of your favorite customer stories?

A customer agonized for a long time about the cost of the Alaska cruise she was taking with her sister. The cruise offered a wide range of excursions and wide range of prices. For example, on the low end for the Alaskan cruise, you can go to a U.S. Forest Service center and look at a glacier. On the high end, you can take a helicopter to the top of the glacier and walk on it. This woman came in multiple times,  discussing whether to go big or go small. She finally decided to go big, because “I’ll probably never get back to Alaska.” After the trip, she brought in a photo with her sister on top of the glacier. She told me that going big was the best decision she made.

Another time, a woman in her late 20s came in to plan her honeymoon. She previously had horrible experiences with a travel agency near her home; she couldn’t get her questions answered. She Googled us after deciding to give the travel agent experience one more shot and wound up booking her honeymoon with us. She wanted to go around the island of Britain with her fiancé to see the big scotch distilleries. Very few people want to do this, and very few brides on their honeymoons want to do this, but one of our consultants designed a custom trip complete with car rentals and tours of distilleries. This woman wrote a very complimentary Yelp review about how this trip worked out perfectly, and how she never would have been able to plan it out on her own.

Would you recommend Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise?

For a person who finds travel interesting, it’s a  relatively low investment, which is attractive. You need to be willing to follow the system while integrating your own special qualities into it.  You need to work hard with a must-win attitude.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise President Matthew Eichhorst on Why They’re Expanding

How the President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters is ushering in a new era of expansion for the travel franchise

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Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise.

The Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® travel franchise is one of the largest sellers of cruises in North America. Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, is leading our rapid expansion as we continue to increase our foothold across the country.

After high-profile positions in global companies such as General Electric, Matthew has been with Expedia CruiseShipCenters for more than a decade. As President of the travel franchise, Matthew is shepherding the company from being the prominent travel franchise in Canada to becoming the prominent travel franchise in North America. With more than 200 locations open or under development, Matthew’s vision is rapidly becoming reality.

This is Matthew’s story:

Describe your background and how you came to be President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur. I started my first business when I was 14; it was a pool service business. By the time I graduated high school, I was installing pools. That is how I paid for college, where I got my degree in business and computer science.

I saw technology as a way to really improve customer service. I opened a tech company while I was in college, and we sold and helped companies integrate Lotus Notes. We ended up having 85% market share in British Columbia, and I ended up selling that company to General Electric. I stayed as an executive with General Electric for three and half years, until I decided that I wanted to do turnaround work.

General Electric was great corporate training — it gave me a lot of structure. I joined a wireless technology company during the dot-com era, and CruiseShipCenters (this was before Expedia invested in the brand) was a customer of ours. I saw that CruiseShipCenters had a lot of untapped opportunity, so I decided to join the company. Soon after, we negotiated a deal with Expedia, and we’ve been growing ever since. I have been here since 2003.

How have you been able to grow a retail travel agency in the internet age?

One of the things the internet did was give us amazing access to information. People feel like it’s easy to become experts on any subject because we can find things online. But it turns out, when it comes to booking travel, the internet has become one of the most overwhelming experiences you can have. There is such a thing as too much information.

People want someone to help with their decisions in booking their vacations, especially with cruises, where you’re not just going to one destination — you are stopping at multiple ports and have the potential for a lot of different adventures on a single trip. According to Cruise Lines International Association, 70% of cruises are booked through travel agents, and it is the complexity of the product that creates a demand for our services. For instance, with Royal Caribbean, the difference between the oldest ship and the newest ship is so different that it can be like cruising with two different companies. There are a lot of cruise lines, hundreds of ships, thousands of staterooms and an endless combination of potential itineraries. People want to know where they are going, what they are getting and how the experience will meet their expectations.

What happened to independent travel agencies is that they couldn’t stay relevant. If you did not have a big brand, you had a hard time competing in a world of online travel. People associate big brands with great pricing and service. That’s why Expedia CruiseShipCenters has a great advantage. We have an incredible brand name, as well as the personal service component, which is what people want when booking a cruise. They want Sally to be their travel agent and to be able to get Sally’s expert advice and assistance, but they also want to know the company behind Sally is very trustworthy. Expedia is one of the biggest travel brands in the world and has great leverage and supply chains, which creates huge advantages for our franchise owners.

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is one of the largest sellers of cruises in North America. With more than 200 locations open or in development, the travel franchise is expanding across the United States.

What is the difference between using Expedia CruiseShipCenters and booking a vacation online?

When you’re booking a cruise vacation online, you don’t get the expertise we have to determine whether what you’re getting is the ideal trip for you. Someone may want to go on a cruise, but they don’t want big buffet lines. Maybe they want something more quiet and intimate. It can be easy to miss that distinction when booking a trip online, but it can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your trip. Are you the type of person who likes to stay at a Best Western or at the Four Seasons? We can ask our customers: “What are you looking for? What do you want to do when you are on vacation?” We can dial into their personality and their expectations to make better recommendations and get our customers on the right cruise for them. The difference between Expedia CruiseShipCenters and a website is that instead of simply selling a cruise, we’re navigating a spectacular vacation experience.

Why is now a great time to get involved with the cruise industry?

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, cruising started to become popular in a really big way. A lot of the cruisers back then were retirees, but they would sometimes bring their children or grandchildren along. Those younger generations grew up loving cruising, and as they have all become adults, cruises have become much more common as multigenerational family vacations. Cruise lines are innovating their ships, and the product has changed to appeal to a broader range of people, and the industry is actively going after that younger market. Baby Boomers have enough population for the industry to continue to do well, but having the additional draw from younger cruisers is amazing. Research shows that the Millennial bubble will affect the cruise industry in a positive way in the coming years.

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What is attracting younger franchisees to Expedia CruiseShipCenters?

I find that a young person who is entrepreneurial doesn’t just want to make money, they want to be in control of their own destiny. Someone who wants to own their own business is motivated by freedom at least as much as by financial gain. We provide a platform they can use to build a very strong business capable of accomplishing both goals.

Explain the benefit of the Expedia brand name.

There are two huge things — the name recognition and the business model. You don’t have to explain who you are when Expedia is part of your name — our brand gives our travel franchise owners instant credibility. Also, Expedia has about 230,000 hotels in their inventory and access to a ton of non-cruise products that travelers are looking for like flights, car rentals, vacation packages and more. We bolt that supply and data into a traditional travel agency franchise, and it provides a huge advantage in their local community. They’re able to provide the personal service along with Expedia prices.

What makes your business model special?

One of the reasons Expedia invested in us is because of the strength of our business model.

We are a large organization, but all of our stores are franchises who support teams of agents — Vacation Consultants — doing business as independent contractors. Our model is special because it’s so scalable. Franchisees don’t have the overhead of paid employees because consultants are paid only by commission for what they sell. There’s no limit on team size, so franchise partners can build a substantial business through a single location.

Our marketing and sales programs are also our key pillars. All of our marketing materials go out through our travel franchise owners, but they’re developed by our corporate team and are of a higher quality that an individual agent could achieve on their own. They’re very sophisticated and have a direct impact on driving sales back to their businesses. We spend a lot of money on technology every year, with our CruiseDesk® CRM platform. Year after year we are told we have the best technology in the business — whether it is the technology our agents use in searching and booking cruises, or the business analysis and team leadership dashboards our franchise owners use to continuously boost their profitability. We also have a sales program we call The Navigators Approach — it’s a process to help agents explore what customers want and then move them through the stages of designing and purchasing a spectacular vacation, which earns franchisees a higher-than-normal repeat customer rate.

Why does Expedia CruiseShipCenters stress having a retail location?

People may say, “I don’t go to travel agents to buy cruises anymore,” but this isn’t actually the case. In fact, according to Cruise Lines International Association, 70% of people prefer to book their cruise vacations with a travel agent. Having a retail stores is essential to our model because they serve as a landing pad for the franchise owner’s team. When we look for Vacation Consultants, we look for people who want to be agents — people who want to be part of a bigger brand and have a place to go when they need help. Our customers do not always go into the store to buy their cruise, but they want to know you are in the community. It’s about establishing trust and credibility. Our customers want the ability to call a local number and speak to an agent who lives in their community.

What is your vision for Expedia CruiseShipCenters?

Our vision is to be the largest cruise retail network in North America that is the trusted brand for cruisers in their communities. I want our customers to say, “I know Expedia is online, but I want to talk to somebody that I can trust, and there is an Expedia CruiseShipCenters right on Main Street.” The credibility of being in the community has been even more beneficial than we thought. The walk-in traffic a good location can generate is key for both consumer sales and also recruiting of agents.

Who makes a good franchise partner?

Our franchisees range from stay-at-home moms to former teachers to ex-corporate managers to retired military. The behavioral trait that our partners must have is a genuine love for people. We look for people who like coaching a winning team more than being the best player on the field. We’re not looking for franchisees who want to sell travel themselves. Our best franchise partners really try to make their Vacation Consultants as successful as possible; they have nurturing personalities. People who are committed to a high level of customer service and support their team members do very, very well. They are passionate. They like people. We obviously want people who are travelers and get excited about destinations, too!

Our model is not for an entrepreneur who wants to be an absentee owner. That being said, it is common to have at least two locations. In fact, 40% of our franchise partners own multiple stores. Our largest travel franchise owner has five stores. Another couple owns four stores, and in order to further expand and continue supporting their agents, they will need to empower a Cruise Sales Manager and a trainer. Those who can do that can do really, really well.

How do you set earning expectations for your franchise partners?

In the first year or two we focus a lot on top-line revenue. Right now 65% of sales volume comes from cruises, and 23% of sales volume comes from booking hotels for a customer who needs help with the land aspect of their trip.

We help our franchise owners build their store sales, and once they hit enough volume we start working on improving their profitability. Of course, some owners are more successful than others, so the numbers can fluctuate. The Item 19 in our Franchise Disclosure Document provides a good overview of potential earnings for a franchise partner.

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Where is the industry headed? How will you grow with it?

The future of cruising is very bright. There is a growing audience that wants to buy cruises with nearly a quarter of all cruisers falling in the 30-39 age group. The cruise lines are investing billions with 57 new ocean cruise ships coming out over the next seven years, so there is more product for us to sell. The product itself is being enhanced, too, which improves yield. A $1,000 cruise in five years may be worth $1,500, so that raises the amount of the commission going to our franchise partners and consultants. Our internal goal is to grow at a rate that is triple the growth rate of the industry. We have been able to do that every year for more than two decades — when the industry grows by 7%, we grow by 21%.

In the year 2020, I see 500 Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise locations in North America, with 300 stores in the United States — which is really exciting. At our National Conference last month, our theme was “20/20 Vision: Bigger, Better, Stronger, Together.” We’re growing quickly, but we never stop thinking about improving current systems to help existing stores be more profitable, too. After all, we’re not successful unless they’re successful.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Father-daughter Team Opens Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise on Staten Island

Our travel agency franchise is a great choice for family franchisees

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Harold Verde and his daughter Nicole recently joined forces to open a new Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Staten Island, New York.

When Harold Verde purchased the first Staten Island Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®, he was pursuing a passion he’s carried most of his life. A 32-year veteran of the commercial HVAC industry, Harold is now following his lifelong desire for cruise travel — only this time it’s from an agency perspective.

“I kind of needed a change in life, you could say,” Harold says. “I got tired of working in the HVAC industry. I had gotten an email from Expedia saying they were now in New York State, and the timing was perfect.”

As a seasoned cruise traveler, Harold already knows what his customers expect and look for when they plan a cruise. Although he hasn’t worked in the travel industry before, Harold is passionate about traveling and knows what is important to people who wish to plan a cruise. One thing he hopes to assist travelers with is making the right choices. His Expedia CruiseShipCenters location offers full travel services, but it specializes in cruises — the most complicated vacations to plan, according to Harold.

“There are so many options and so much to choose from that a person can spend days trying to see all the different options,” he says. “When it comes down to it, dollar for dollar, when you’re traveling with a family of four or five, the airfare alone could pay for the cost of your cruise. Get out of the car, get on the boat, and everything you want is right there.”

Harold and his team are taking advantage of New York City’s expanding ports by offering the “typical” Mid-Atlantic cruises to Canada, Maine, New England, the Bahamas, and the rest of the Caribbean, as well as more exotic trans-Atlantic trips to Europe, or through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is a top seller of cruise travel in North America. Our travel agency franchise is rapidly expanding, with over 200 locations open or under development. Our growth is driven by three overarching realities: our proven business model is affordable to start and extremely scalable, our focus on cruise vacations makes us a trusted resource among cruise customers who overwhelmingly prefer to book with a travel agent, and the cruise industry is rapidly expanding.

Joining a family-friendly travel agency franchise

Harold operates his Staten Island Expedia CruiseShipCenters with his daughter, Nicole. As the oldest of three siblings, Nicole has fond memories of traveling with her family. From Washington D.C. to the Caribbean, the Verde family always took the opportunity to bond while on vacation. Now, at 26, Nicole has taken an extra step toward bonding with her father in a vacation atmosphere.

“I always loved to travel, and I’ve always wanted to work in an office, so being in an office and traveling was the perfect match for me,” Nicole says.

Nicole-Verde

Nicole Verde has partnered with her father, Harold, to operate the first Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in Staten Island.

The family franchise hopes to bring their travel experience and passion to their franchise, where they can help customers plot out the vacation of their dreams.

“How do you go to work every day and not feel like you’re at work? It’s to enjoy what you’re doing. This business is that,” Harold says.

Training and support from an iconic travel franchise

Despite having no previous experience in the travel industry, Harold has run a business and will take advantage of the extensive support and training Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers its franchisees. With more than 100 people in our corporate headquarters in Vancouver, our mission is to empower franchisees with a time-tested system to grow a profitable and valuable business.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is with franchisees from day one. On the day you open your business, a Franchise Performance Coach will be on-site to help you get acclimated, answer questions, and to help ensure a strong start. An FPC will continue to touch base regularly, especially during the first two years you are in business, as you work together to help your office develop a strong sense of teamwork and a culture of connectivity.

Once established, we continue to provide franchisees with the tools, systems, and support to facilitate their success, and we offer extended support in the field, online, and via phone, to help franchisees troubleshoot issues that may arise.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.