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What’s the Value of a Travel Agent?

Three reasons why Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owners are benefiting from the increasing demand for travel agents

According to Cruise Lines International Association, 70% of cruisers choose to book with a travel professional.

According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, consumer use of a travel agent increased nearly eighty percent from 2015 to 2016.

Who’s Still Using Travel Agents?

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a common question our Franchise Development Managers receive is “why invest in a retail travel agency franchise when all travel is booked online?”. We love dispelling this myth because there is an abundance of supporting data to show that travel agents are not only surviving, they are thriving. In fact, between 2015 and 2016, consumer use of travel agents increased nearly 80% according to the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker. Even Millennial travelers are finding value in travel agent expertise with 1/3 of Millennials choosing to book through an agent in 2016, a 19% increase from five years prior (MMGY Global’s 2016 Portrait of the American Traveler). AgentRequired

In today’s digital world the Internet is an incredible resource for researching vacation destinations; however, the abundance of information at your fingertips can quickly become overwhelming. While the web is great when making more straightforward travel bookings for things like flights and hotels; when it comes to booking more complicated, high value travel products like a cruise vacation, the knowledge and one-on-one service from a trusted travel professional is in high demand.

Why Do Cruisers Prefer to Book Through Travel Agents?

With 97 new cruise ships scheduled to debut between now and 2026 to accommodate the upward trend of cruisers, not only is there enormous demand for cruising but there are now more options to choose from than ever before. As a result, simply navigating the vacation planning process can be daunting without the right help, which is why 82% of cruisers tend to book with a travel agent according to Cruise Lines International Association. Even cruise lines have realized the importance of travel agents to their business and rely heavily on industry leaders like Expedia CruiseShipCenters to fill their ships. Don’t just take our word for it, hear it from top cruise lines executives in the video below.

Leveraging the value of a travel agent ensures customers are embarking on the best version of the trip they were intending to book. All of this is great news for our Franchise Owners who count on that exceptional service to build a base of repeat customers to continuously grow their business.

Read on to learn the top three reasons why travel agents are still in demand, especially for booking cruise vacations:

1) Expert Advice

Customers who choose to work with a travel agent get more out of their holiday than they would have had they booked it themselves. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, our Vacation Consultants, are industry trained professionals who are experts at navigating through the options and asking the right questions to ensure their clients find the right destination, cruise line, ship and stateroom to make their cruise the vacation spectacular. In addition, their expert recommendations for pre and post cruise hotels, onboard amenities, shore excursions, and more are the kinds of details that take a vacation from good, to incredible. Not to mention they’re typically seasoned travelers and cruise enthusiasts who can share their experiences and tips like must-visit galleries, monuments, restaurants, activities and more for destinations around the globe. This knowledge allows them to make educated recommendations based on their clients’ needs to craft the perfect holiday experience they’ve been daydreaming of. We don’t call our Vacation Consultants navigators of spectacular vacation experiences for nothing!

2) Best Value

Many believe that by removing the middleman they will save money on their vacation, but a key benefit of working with a travel agent is that they not only are the often able to secure better fares but they also add value to your vacation. They can save you hours of stressful research and review reading by asking you a few simple questions about what kind of vacation you’re looking for and guiding you in the right direction with their industry knowledge. Plus, by being a part of Expedia CruiseShipCenters and the largest travel brand in the world, our Vacation Consultants are able to provide clients every cruise option from the popular selection to luxury, ocean and river – all at Expedia prices. Because of our massive buying power, our clients often receive other exclusive extras like bonus onboard cash credits, stateroom upgrades, reduced deposits and more! Travelers who work with our Vacation Consultants enjoy the best of two worlds: they reap the rewards of Expedia pricing, but also feel confident in their booking knowing their itinerary has been designed by a real person with their needs in mind.

3) Personal Relationship

Working with a travel agent brings back the human component of sales that is few and far between in this day and age. Our retail travel agency model provides an opportunity for our Vacation Consultants to get to know their customers and build a relationship where they can provide them with the best service for their needs. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, clients can choose to visit their local Center for an in person consultation or reach out by em_MG_2220ail, phone or by booking directly on their Consultant’s website. As travel is considered a highly prized purchase by most consumers – they want to know they’re booking a trip that is right for them, at the best possible price. Our Vacation Consultants take pride in making dream vacations come true for travelers in their community and the retail space provided by an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise allows them to connect with clients on a more personal level.

As the number of options for cruisers continues to increase with each new ship that enters the market, travel agents who specialize in cruise vacations are becoming more and more relevant. Travelers want to have peace of mind knowing that they have spent their hard earned vacation dollars wisely and by booking with a travel professional they can rest easy. They will take off carefree thanks to the expert advice they received selecting the best getaway for their needs to the added value of Expedia Extras and personalized service before, during and after their trip. The value of a travel agent, especially an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Vacation Consultant, will keep customers coming back to book with our franchise locations again and again.

Learn more

If you’ve still got questions about the value of a travel agent or why investing in a retail travel agency franchise is a great decision, we’d be happy to answer them! For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more through this six step overview of our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

 

An Incredible Year in Review

Another Record Breaking Year for Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Caption needed

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.

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 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