In the News: Expedia CruiseShipCenters President Featured in Benzinga

Cruise Industry Embarks On ‘The Golden Age Of Cruising’

This story appeared in the August 2017 edition of Benzinga.com

After a rough 2016, the major players in the cruise industry have experienced a dramatic comeback in 2017, as the “golden age of cruising” sails into industry experts’ view.

Three of the major industry players have turned in sizeable gains so far this year: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd shares are up 34 percent year to date, Carnival Corp shares are up 30 percent and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd has turned in a 46 percent gain.

Rapid Growth Expectations

“Just in the next 10 years, we look to go from 25 million cruisers to 38 million by 2027,” said Expedia CruiseShipCenters President Matthew Eichhorst. “Cruising has moved from being a North American product to a more global product, in Europe and Asia particularly.”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has capitalized on the optimism surrounding the industry by adding 1,000 agents this year.

“We have had a year of very positive growth numbers. A year prior there was global uncertainty, but now we see no signs of the recovery slowing down. Cruising isn’t for just retirees any more; the product has dramatically changed,” Eichhorst told Benzinga.

Several of the big cruise liners are capitalizing on the industry growth by adding new ships. Walt Disney Co is expected to nearly double its fleet by building three new ships in the coming years.

Virgin Enters The Market

Another exciting entrant into the market is Virgin Voyages, expected to open for business in 2021. Virgin’s disruptive approach when entering new markets could help push the industry forward as a whole to improve the product and experience. Eichhorst predicts the company headquarters will be in Miami.

“It’s exciting because when Richard Branson enters a market, it is going to create a lot of noise in the industry,” he said.

“Virgin has tried to enter the market in the past. Branson has a way of doing things his own unique way — instead of doing a partnership, he is going to go all in a product that people are going to find very compelling and exciting.”

New Panama Canal

Another key catalyst driving the cruise industry’s growth is the widening of the Panama Canal, which opened up in the first half of 2017. Two new sets of locks were added, part of a nine-year canal expansion project that will enable not only bigger cargo ships, but allows many of the world’s biggest cruise ships to pass through, cutting off the extra 8,000 miles it would take to sail around Cape Horn.

“Historically, you could not get these big ships to the West Coast. With the New Panama Canal, you will see West Coast cruising ships expand and we will are going to see a lot of new cruise travel to Mexico,” Eichhorst said.

Given macroeconomic and industry trends, it appears to be smooth sailing for an industry on the rebound, he said.

“I am more excited about the next 10 years than I ever have about the business. Cruising is going to become mainstream.”

Click here to read this article on Benzinga.com

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.

In the News: Merrick Franchise Owner Featured in Forbes

From Cop To Cruise Franchisee: Joyce Mariner Turns A Passion Into A Second Career

This story appeared in the July 2017 edition of Forbes.com

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Merrick, Franchise Partner, Joyce Mariner.

As a career coach, I hear from a lot of aspiring career changers, as well as people looking to turn a passion into a career. Joyce Mariner has done both. Mariner started at the NYPD in 1988 and worked various units – Patrol, Narcotics, Robbery, Precinct Detective Squad –culminating with six years in Homicide as a 1st Grade Detective. Her husband, Gary Mariner, also worked for the NYPD as part of the prestigious mounted horseback unit. When they retired from the force in 2013, they didn’t want to retire from work altogether, so researched different businesses to start. Having taken more than 40 cruises together, the Mariners decided on an Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel agency franchise and opened their Center in 2015. They have seen continuous growth in the first two years, with 66% growth last year! I connected with Joyce about her and Gary’s impressive second act, and here were my favorite takeaways:

Look to your interests and priorities

“I tried being a housewife for a couple of months, but found that this was not one of my greatest strengths! My love for travel and the desire to visit all the places on my bucket list were the reasons I had to find something in my next career that allowed me to pursue my passion.” – Joyce Mariner

Photo credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images

Mariner had a bucket list and picked her next career to suit that life. How can you incorporate your life priorities into your career choices?

Build on your skills

“People say it sounded so different from my previous career, but it’s still a service-oriented field…. At first, the thought of becoming a travel agent seemed to be a great career change – I had training and experience of interviewing people, as long as I remembered to separate my interviewing and interrogating skills.” – Joyce Mariner

That Mariner can tap into years of working narcotics and murder cases and translate that into fulfilling people’s vacation dreams is proof positive that all careers have translatable skills, and you can make extreme switches in industry. It could be service orientation and interviewing skills, as Mariner mentioned. Attention to detail and exhaustive research (formerly looking for case clues and now looking for travel deals) are other skills I can see that translate well. How can you break down your day-to-day skills so they fit another, very different industry?

Put in the time

“One of the great opportunities of working in the Police Department was that it afforded us more than five weeks of vacation time a year – this is what allowed my passion for travel to blossom. My husband and I took two cruises a year during our time with the NYPD, traveling to exotic destinations like the South Pacific, China, Europe, Baltics, Caribbean, and the Panama Canal.” – Joyce Mariner

Notice that the time the Mariners put in towards their second career in the cruise industry included vacation time while in their first career. How can you use your free time – evenings, weekends, vacations – to focus on your next career?

Find support systems

“The franchise industry allowed me to go into business for myself but not by myself – by following Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ proven system and leaning on my interviewing skills to excel in customer service, I knew I’d find success as a travel agency business owner.” – Joyce Mariner

Franchising is how the Mariners got support for their business. Specifically, Joyce Mariner pointed to the Expedia brand name in travel and the training, ongoing support, collective buying power (along with the other franchises), use of an established business model and marketing and advertising support as key benefits. I have seen career changers use numerous other support structures – for example, a training or certification program as a way to build and test skills; volunteer experience to get firsthand experience; or a side hustle in a field they already know as a way to practice entrepreneurship. What support structure can you use to start your career change journey?

Find supportive people

“It took a lot of self-reflection, but when I knew I was ready to make the career change, I found most value in speaking with other small business owners within the travel agency sphere. This allowed me to dig deeper into the challenges, opportunities, day-to-day responsibilities, and of course words of wisdom and advice. Collecting all this background information made me feel confident in my decision to make the career change and helped me build a network of support to guide me on this journey.” – Joyce Mariner

That Mariner surrounded herself with other business owners and particularly travel agency owners shows how changing your network can help change your career. Mariner points to the information and support benefits. I also find that career changers who immerse themselves in a new network of people already doing what they want to do get constant reinforcement that their new career goal is doable. How can you expand your relationships to support your career change?

Put in the work

“I spend six days a week in my business, usually up to nine hours a day. Each day, I am managing my back-office duties – doing commissions and bills and accounting, and I’m planning events and monthly team meetings. I’m training consultants, and then on top of that I’m recruiting new consultants. I enjoy being very hands-on and involved in constantly updating the whole team on any news and checking in on their progress with leads and new bookings. Being so engrained in the business and helping every consultant achieve their full-potential has significantly contributed to our Center’s ongoing success.” – Joyce Mariner

Every job, even the “fun” ones like travel agent, comes with grunt work. Getting involved in the nitty gritty is a good way to see if your hobby is indeed a viable business or better off as a hobby. How can you take on more in your target career?

Just do it

“The most important thing I’ve learned during my career in law enforcement is that life is too short – if you have a vision and see something you want, go for it . I always want to be remembered as the woman who never said, “would have, could have, should have.” Discover your passion, build your skills, find a support system, stay determined.” – Joyce Mariner

Click here to read this article on Forbes.com

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 Shawn Friesen of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

With 10 years under his belt as a Franchise Partner, Shawn Friesen wouldn’t trade a single minute

Expedia CruiseShipCenters multi-unit franchise owner, Shawn Friesen and his wife Tammy on holiday in Budapest.

From the day he got his first contract to sign, Shawn knew his life was going to change forever. Now with four locations, and over 100 Vacation Consultants, and plans to keep growing, he hasn’t once looked back.

What were you doing before becoming an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner?

Shawn: For 20 years I was a front-store manager with Shoppers Drug Mart. My store was a 24 hour store, 365 days a year, and after many years of chasing down shoplifters, or getting robbed, I decided I needed a change. I decided on the travel industry, as it’s very nice, and the clientele is wonderful to work with.

What lead you to consider franchise ownership? In particular, why a travel franchise?

Shawn: When I was looking to make a move, I bought the Canadian Franchise Association booklet. Inside there was a travel section, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t that be cool, to run a travel agency!” Plus, building your travel clientele is just like building a prescription clientele as it is very relationship-based. Whether it’s prescriptions or travel, when you leave your customer feeling well taken care of they come back and buy from you again and again.

Having worked for Shoppers Drug Mart, which is the number one drug-retailer in Canada, I knew I wanted to join a best-of-class company, and Expedia CruiseShipCenters was exactly what I was looking for.

What lead to your decision to open multiple Expedia CruiseShipCenters locations?

Shawn: There are some similarities across the different towns in northern Ontario, and I noticed that it was very underdeveloped cruise-wise. After opening up Thunder Bay, I began looking at the Sudbury market as it was larger and made sense geographically to open a Center there. Plus I believe that size gives you more advantages. There are economies of scale in this business. Whether you are paying your accountant to take care of one center or four, it’s the same price. I am a sales-driven guy, and I believe that bigger is better.

Looking back, do you remember what the experience was like opening up your first center?

Shawn: Not coming from a travel background was a little bit intimidating. So I focused on following the system that Expedia CruiseShipCenters lays out for you, and I tried to figure out the best way to get the absolute most out of it.

Shawn Friesen and his team at the opening of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Sault Ste. Marie, ON.

Now comparing that experience with opening your fourth center, how is it different?

Shawn: By the fourth center, I had our systems and procedures down. I now have the knowledge of the suppliers, the destinations, and the cruise lines. We are getting better and better at starting up each new Center and can do a better job because we know what we are doing.

With Centers in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Woodstock, and Sault Ste. Marie, is there anything in particular about these communities that you identified as being ideal for your Expedia CruiseShipCenters locations?

Shawn: In the northern Ontario market, there’s only enough space for  four Centers – Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and North Bay. Those were basically the only choices that I had for northern Ontario. One thing about Northern Ontario, people vacation. Vacation is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and so people will always find a way to travel.

I purchased the Woodstock Center as a re-sale. I saw an opportunity to purchase an existing location that was struggling and then turn it around to make it profitable.

How do you find your customers?

Shawn: We do a number of things: Follow the system, send out flyers, build our 7SEAS Database, attend tradeshows, and host cruise nights, to name a few. But I think the most important and powerful way to find customers is by building your consultant team because they bring family, friends, and friends of friends, to your agency that doesn’t cost you anything. As our team grows, our client list grows because our consultants talk to people. Travel is one of those topics that is very easy to talk about, and because we are Canada’s largest cruise retailer, it’s easy to encourage others to come and talk to us before they book or go on a trip. It’s important for us to remember that we can’t just live off our past passengers, so our team is constantly growing our client base.

What do you do to drive repeat business and Customers For Life?

Shawn: What we’re really working on right now is never being more than 120 days without contact. Our clients may only travel once every 24 months, and they will make a buying decision once during that period. So if my consultants are not in constant contact during that time, they won’t be top of mind when their clients go to book their next trip. Setting up the next call date is probably the most important way for getting repeat business.

What has your experience been like recruiting and leading a team of Vacation Consultants?

Shawn: I love it. My team is so varied. We have part-timers, full-timers, brand new moms, retirees, and professionals. I even have a lawyer but she sells travel because she loves it and has a passion for travel. One of the biggest joys that I get is being able to let people be travel agents who would probably never get a chance to do it without joining my team.

Franchise owner, Shawn Friesen and his team on a familiarization trip.

We totaled it up, and my team have personally gone on over 1000 cruises. I really believe that we are the most knowledgeable travel team in northern Ontario and Woodstock. We have likely cruised on every cruise line, been on every ship, and been to almost every destination. They know what their clients are looking for, they want you to make their trip better. We know things you can’t get from Rick Steves, or Cruise Critic, just from having been there and having that first-hand knowledge.

How would you describe the culture at your Centers?

Shawn: My number one rule is that everybody has to play nice in the sandbox, and there is lots of sand for everybody. This has to be a fun place to work because we’re not selling Tupperware or funeral plots, we’re selling travel, which is fun! One of my consultants just booked a 26 passenger group on Disney for a grandfather who is gifting this trip to his family. It’s a $100,000 sale. That’s a fun sale because that client is going to create memories for the grandkids, and the kids, and they are going to have that for the rest of their lives.

Flexibility is also really important. Northern Ontario is big, and I have 25 consultants who do not live close to one of my Centers, so I have lots of remote consultants. With my local ones, some of them will work full time from the center, or part time, and some will only pop in to work on files or to meet with a client. Even though we’re spread out, we are still extremely supportive of one another, and have a private Facebook group where the consultants can post pictures, ask questions, share travel stories, and give recommendations to each other.

What do you believe sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors, including travel websites?

Shawn: First, there’s the Expedia name. They are the world’s largest travel company, and with that comes tools that nobody else can offer like our CRM system, CruiseDesk, and the groups program. Plus, with a franchise, you have a local owner, who is invested in the community, and who develops a team that brings real passion to the business. I like to think back to our first year in business. We had a client come in and inquire about booking a trip to Alaska. We walked them through all of the options. They went away, and after three days they came back and said, “We want to book with you. We talked to Sears. We talked to Marlin Travel. You were the only one who seemed excited about our trip.” That’s when I realized that if you have that passion, and excitement for your customers, price doesn’t matter. We have so many great things going for us, but I think the fact that we care about your trip and want to make it better is probably the biggest advantage.

How would you say that Expedia CruiseShipCenters headquarters team help support your business?

Shawn: There is nothing that I have needed or asked for, that headquarters has come back and said no to. For example, I have a lot of consultants, and I was struggling to find a way to collect all the information about them in one centralized location. So, I asked corporate for a consultant database, and about 9 months later there was a brand new tool! They are very responsive to good ideas, and they listen to their Franchise Partners.

What aspects of this business do you enjoy the most?

Shawn: I love working with my consultants, and I love my clients too. One of my favorite bookings of all time was a couple that came in with their two small kids. They had a dream of taking their family to Disney World. They didn’t have a lot of money, so we booked them the very cheapest package. They would come in once every two months or so, with $5 bills, and wrapped loonies. They were scraping dollar by dollar just to be able to go. They went and had amazing time, and were so thankful. It was a very low-price booking, but priceless to be able to help a family fulfill their dream.

Where do you see your business in 5 years, or possibly 10 years? And how do you see your lifestyle changing as a result of your business growth?

Shawn: In the next 5 years, I plan to acquire 3-4 more Centers. I feel like in the first 10 years of my business, I put in the time and work to build an amazing travel company, and now it’s time to build the support team, and size gives you the ability to do that. I would eventually bring on a general manager, who would watch over the company and a person to handle all of the marketing for each of the Centers. Plus, I would start to bring on program specialists, like a person who deals only in flights, or someone who specializes in groups or hosted cruises. Building up my support team would allow me to work on the entire company, while also not needing to work so hard.

What do you love about cruising? Any memorable trips you’ve taken?

Shawn and Tammy Friesen in Bora Bora.

Shawn: Cruising, to me, is a slice of heaven. I sleep so well at sea. I love how a ship is a floating resort that will take you to places that you would probably never get to by land. My favorite trips, well I’ve gone to Tahiti twice. Talk about heaven! It’s like the Caribbean, but not as crowded.

One of my funnest trips was on a cruise through the Mediterranean where I spent 4 nights in Israel. I got to go to Jerusalem, Nazareth and Galilee, all the places you learn about in Sunday school. St. Petersburg, Russia, was amazing, as I got to experience a radically different culture. And then there’s Venice! Everybody needs to sail into Venice once in their lifetime.

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 Announces Expansion Plans for Texas

Leading Travel Franchise Seeks to Add Up to Seven New Locations in the Coming Years

9.6 percent of all American cruisers come from the state of Texas in 2016.

DALLAS, TX (BUSINESS WIRE) — Announcing targeted expansion, Expedia CruiseShipCenters unveiled a plan to bring additional travel franchise locations to Texas. Joining five locations already open or under development in the state, the leading travel franchise brand plans to add up to seven locations over the next three to five years.

Folded into an overall growth vision for the brand, the new Texas locations are key to Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ goal to reach the 500 location milestone in North America over the next five years. Texas’s expansion is building off of the success and efforts of local franchisees like Heather Fahle and Patrick Walker in Frisco who have seen tremendous success since opening last year. Specifically, Expedia CruiseShipCenters is looking to target the greater Dallas area, as well as Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

“Given the density of the market and the cruise industry’s increasing focus on domestic cruise departure ports like Galveston, it makes sense for us to target Texas as a growth region for new franchise locations,” says Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “Our promise is to navigate spectacular vacation experiences for cruisers – wherever they live – and we see enormous potential to reach those customers by bringing our franchise model to Texas.”

According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an organization that conducts continual analysis of the industry, over one million cruisers came from Texas in 2016, accounting for 9.6 percent of all American cruisers. As driving distance to port is a key decision making factor for cruisers, Texas is a prime market for expansion given its significant source of cruisers and close proximity to the cruise port in Galveston.

Cruises are becoming increasingly popular because they offer comfort and convenience while making it easy for people to visit several destinations on a single trip. CLIA reports that the demand for cruising has increased more than 60 percent in the last ten years. The association also points out that the U.S. economic impact of the cruise industry is larger than ever — at $42 billion annually. Cruise lines have responded to that growth by commissioning the construction of more than 97 new ships that are on pace to set sail between now and 2026.

With more than 235 retail locations already open or under development, the Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ franchise network is rapidly expanding. Fahle and Walker are key examples of the varied backgrounds the brand’s franchisees come from. Prior to opening an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location, Walker was in the Coast Guard for 27 years. With a passion for travel and the sea, he sought out a business opportunity to help community members go on their dream vacation. With Fahle being a seasoned small business owner, she was looking for a new investment opportunity to expand her portfolio. A natural fit, the duo partnered up to bring Expedia CruiseShipCenters to the market.

“Being in the Coast Guard provided me with life changing travel opportunities. Upon leaving the Coast Guard, I wanted a career that would allow me to use knowledge from my experiences and give back to the community,” said stated Walker. “After learning about Expedia CruiseShipCenters we spent a few months gathering the facts and the rest was history.”

With plans to open nearly 30 new locations during 2017, Expedia CruiseShipCenters continues to provide business opportunities for driven team leaders who want to build income, equity and a great lifestyle with a retail business they are passionate about.

For more details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity fill out the form below or take a look at this six step overview of our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

How to Build Your Dream Team

Discover how rewarding and profitable it is to build your sales team of Consultants as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owner.
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When prospective new owners are researching our franchise opportunity, we often get asked “What does it take to be successful as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner?” We always respond in the same way: Build and support a large, high performing team of Vacation Consultants. Our more than 235 retail travel agency locations serving communities across North America create a network of 5,000 Vacation Consultants dedicated to navigating spectacular vacation experiences for their customers.

All Expedia CruiseShipCenters Consultants are recruited as independent contractors paid by commission only. That means there are no salaries to pay and your overhead costs for the business are very low. So, the larger and more successful your team is, the more profitable your business will be.

We know how important recruiting a sales team is to the success of your business. That’s why we’re continuously investing in resources to help you make the opportunity to join your team as easy and appealing as possible.

Why Join Your Team?

There are plenty of great reasons for people to want to join your team as a Vacation Consultant, including our fantastic culture and increasingly positive data surfacing in the industry about the growing demand for travel consulting services. MMGY recently reported that travel agent usage has reached a six year high in 2016 while research from Cruise Lines International Association shows that 82% of all cruisers tend to book through a traditional travel agent. The proof is in the numbers, in June we reached a record 5,000 Vacation Consultants in total across all of our retail travel agency locations!

PTravel_Agent_Recruitment_Posterlus, as part of the Expedia family, your Consultants will benefit from instant brand recognition and credibility that comes with being part of the largest travel company in the world. Expedia’s $81 billion buying power for non-cruise product allows them to sell a full range of vacation options, all at Expedia prices.

We’ve also negotiated some of the highest agent commission rates in the industry because of our sales volume and reputation. Not only do top-tier commissions make the prospect of joining your team more attractive, they also impact your bottom line since your earnings are based on your Consultant’s commissions.

On average our franchise owners open their doors with at least six Consultants and recruit approximately one more each month thereafter. An ideal Consultant has an entrepreneurial mindset, enjoys building relationships and loves planning dream vacations. Consistently growing and coaching your team is essential to maintaining a healthy, profitable business.

So where should you start in building your dream team? Here are just some of the resources and tools we provide to help our franchise owners attract high quality talent.

Dedicated Recruitment Resources to Support You

When you invest in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise, you can count on a robust 130+ corporate support team to help you grow a profitable business, including a dedicated team focused on helping you with the recruitment and onboarding of Consultants. This valuable resource provides tools and training to help you make it easy to develop your most valuable asset: Your sales team.

Custom Recruitment Marketing Tools & Website

Once you become a franchise owner, we’ll provide you with your own custom recruitment website that will help you attract the right sales people and help them learn about our Vacation Consultant opportunity through a series of easy to follow videos like the one below.

Our comprehensive recruitment marketing strategy also includes a wide range of print and online marketing tools and customizable templates to help our franchise owners grow a team of passionate, enthusiastic consultants. From newspaper ads, flyers and brochures to web banners, email campaigns and in-store merchandising, we’ve got all recruitment marketing needs covered!

Our recruitment marketing team also executes national recruitment advertising on our franchise owner’s behalf with leads that come directly to you.

Recruitment Lead Management System

Once you have a prospective recruit, our proprietary recruitment lead management system will allow you to track and engage with candidates through the process from their first inquiry to the day they join your team. Since recruiting a sales team is an ongoing and essential activity for our franchise owners, having this system provides them with a quick snapshot of who is where in the recruitment process and which follow up activities are required at any given time.

In the same way that your Consultant can set reminders to follow up with their clients, you’ll be able to set reminders for yourself to follow up with your Consultant leads about the opportunity to join your team.

Recruitment Events

One of our most successful recruitment strategies is our recruitment events we call Discovery Nights. Discovery Nights are an opportunity for our franchise owners to meet recruitment prospects in person and provide a live presentation of the opportunity in their franchise location.

In addition to hearing the presentation, prospects get to see the office environment, meet the owner and some of their team members and have the opportunity to schedule a personal interview in order to take the next step.

Bellevue_TeamMeetingWe provide our franchise owners with all of the marketing and training to advertise and lead a Discovery Night in their location including tools to help them get attendees excited about the opportunity to join their team such as a customizable presentation, professional videos and printed recruitment collateral.

Award Winning Consultant Training

Once a Vacation Consultant joins your team, our online International Cruise Academy and award winning Navigators Approach sales training sets them up for success! This in-depth training develops their knowledge, skills and sales behaviors to deliver a spectacular vacation experience for each and every customer.

Keeping your large team engaged and high performing will be essential to your success too, which is why we also provide a kit of tools to help you coach and mentor your Consultants on an ongoing basis. Our Navigators Club recognition program is a huge part of what motivates our Consultants to take their sales to the next level, while our team meeting presentations are carefully crafted by the corporate support team to help you deliver an engaging, exciting and informative presentation to your Consultants each month.  We also host Consultant training events in cities all across North America called Navigator Rallies which deliver product, sales and serving training to your Consultants.

Learn More

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we are committed to helping our franchise owners become best in class leaders who can build a strong team and become the go-to cruise experts in their local community.

For in-depth details about our franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more through this six step overview of our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

What Does It Take to Be a Top Franchise Owner?

How Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ culture of goal setting is driving record-breaking results for local franchise owners

Each year, Expedia CruiseShipCenters holds a National Conference for all of our franchise owners. We get together to communicate company updates, network, share best practices, and celebrate the organization’s continued growth and success over the past year. We hold this event on a 5-7 day cruise to experience the best that our incredible industry has to offer and reinvigorate our collective passion for this business.

The theme of this year’s National Conference was Leading the Way as we reflected back on our 30 years of success as innovators in the cruise and franchise industries. One of the highlights of our time together onboard is always our Presidents Circle Awards celebration where we take the time to recognize the amazing achievements of our franchise owners. This year’s awards event showcased our culture of celebration perfectly as our franchisees recognized the accomplishments of their colleagues with unbridled enthusiasm.

So why is franchisee recognition and goal setting so important to us at Expedia CruiseShipCenters? Here are three reasons:

Having a goal is extremely motivating.

Although there are some serious travel perks that come with being ranked among out top franchise owners (last year’s Diamond level winners received a free Oceania cruise in Europe!), the real motivator for our franchise owners is the sense of accomplishment they feel when they reach the goal they’ve set for their business.  That’s why we saw a record 28 locations this year who achieved the $6 Million single location booked sales threshold required to receive our coveted Presidents Circle Diamond award – the highest honor our franchise owners can receive. The fact that 8 more locations achieved the Diamond level in 2016 vs. 2015 shows the incredible potential for our franchisees to continuously grow their sales (and their business) even 10, 20 or 30 years after opening. Expedia CruiseShipCenters President, Matthew Eichhorst elaborates:

“When we first moved our franchisee recognition to a goal-based format, we received some push back from owners that $4 Million for the top Diamond level was too high. Now, just 6 years later, we have a record 28 locations achieving the $6 Million benchmark for Diamond. Our entire organization has benefited from this shift to goal-based recognition as we have drastically increased our average sales by franchise, all while growing the distribution channel from 120 locations to 235.”

That’s the power of goal setting.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ top Franchise Partners enjoy their 2017 reward cruise aboard Oceania’s Riviera sailing from Athens to Rome.

When asked how the Presidents Circle program has impacted his business, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owner and Diamond level winner from Petaluma, CA, Brian Murphy, said that it gives he and his brother James something to strive for.

“Having a benchmark definitely impacts the way we run our business,” said Brian. “We set goals, develop sales plans to meet those goals, and evaluate progress regularly. Having the opportunity to network with the other Diamond winners on the reward cruise was also very motivating, and has now inspired us to do even better.”

As part of our the support Expedia CruiseShipCentes provides, our Franchise Performance Coaches help our owners set goals each year and check in regularly to make sure you’re on track and implementing the plan you came up with to get there. They’re like an accountability partner for your business!

It’s nice to know you’re on the path to success.

A few years ago, we realized that our new franchisees were having to wait a really long time to have their hard work recognized in the Presidents Circle program, so we developed a new franchisee award called Star Among Your Peers to recognize new owners who were hitting the recommended sales levels for Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchises in years 1-3. We think of them as check-in points along the path to profitability.

Our franchise owner from Greystone, AL, Jon Harvill, who knocked the sales benchmarks out of the park in his first two years, commented on what it meant to him to win this award and be recognized among his fellow franchisees.

“To be recognized with the Star Among Your Peers award is an honor that is truly humbling. To be in the company of successful entrepreneurs, business leaders and franchisees was quite an experience! I’ve been provided a tried and proven system that has given me clear direction on how to successfully plan and implement my daily activities. The benchmarks provide specific targets on what to aim for in order to excel.”

Expedia Franchise Owner, Jon Harvill accepts his Star of Stars award for first year franchise sales.

Expedia Franchise Owner from Greystone, AL, Jon Harvill accepts his Star of Stars award for achieving the highest second year sales in his peer group.

We love to celebrate.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, one of our core values is dedication. Every person in our organization works incredibly hard to serve their customers, whether they are on the corporate team, a franchise owner or a Vacation Consultant serving the end traveler. We’re dedicated to navigating spectacular vacation experiences. Another one of our core values is fun. That’s why we take a time out from that hard work each year to look back at what we’ve achieved as a company and as individual business owners, and celebrate how far we’ve come.

Elliott Finkleman, who owns two franchises in Ontario described that sentiment perfectly when he spoke about finding that balance between dedication and fun.

“Since Expedia CruiseShipCenters is full of professionals from top to the bottom, being recognized as with the Star of Stars award in my third year made me feel grateful. It also makes you feel very humble as so many of my fellow franchise owners are also deserving. Most of all it validates all the hard work and ups and downs of being an entrepreneur.  And of course, there is also that part of me that just wants to jump up and yell YIPEE!”

Learn More

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we understand the power of goal setting and support our franchisees through every step of their business journey, holding them accountable for the things they’ve told us they want to accomplish along the way. We call our franchise owners our Franchise Partners for a reason – it’s because we’re in this together. Your success is our success.

If you’re ready to make your goal of business ownership a reality, we’d love to share more about how Expedia CruiseShipCenters can give you the financial freedom and flexible lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of. Just fill out the form below to receive our free franchise report or read the essentials about our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

Celebrating 30 Years of Success

2017 marks Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ 30th anniversary. Take a look back at the making of this incredible success story.

30th anniversary logo

This month, Expedia CruiseShipCenters is celebrating an incredible 30 years in business. To say we’ve seen a few changes in the industry since we started out in 1987 is an understatement!

We’ve seen a plethora of new cruise lines enter the market, each with their own unique take on a vacation at sea. We’ve seen the popularity of river cruising rise as travelers embraced this new way to see the world. We’ve seen cruise ship size eclipse previous capacity and onboard innovations evolve beyond our wildest dreams.  We’ve seen travelers change the way they research cruises and travel agents change the way they book cruises with efficiencies enabled by technology.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owners aboard their annual National Conference cruise

We’ve seen our company change too as we’ve expanded our network across Canada and into the United States, now with over 4,700 Vacation Consultants and 235 franchise locations. We’ve been welcomed into the Expedia, Inc. family of brands, giving our franchisees a globally recognized brand on their door, and our customers access to every vacation option over land or sea, at exceptional prices.

But what has stayed constant throughout our 30-year history, is our unwavering commitment to our customers and our franchise owners.

Take a walk down memory lane with us in the video below!

We’re committed to our franchise owners

We’re committed to providing a powerful brand that instills confidence in their customers, builds credibility in their business and gives them every advantage over their competitors.

We’re committed to providing outstanding support – whenever and however they need it – to help them become incredible team leaders, savvy marketers and smart business owners.

We’re committed to our mission to empower our franchisees with a proven system to build a profitable and valuable business – with a franchise model that allows them to accomplish their dreams.

We’re committed to our customers

We’re committed to providing that personal touch – a professional Consultant who can find out exactly what they want from their vacation and confidently navigate the best path to get there.

We’re committed to providing them with options for connecting with us – whether that’s online, by email, over the phone, or in store for a face-to-face meeting.

We’re committed to going above and beyond – whether that means securing an exclusive onboard cash credit or delivering their passport to the airport when they’ve forgotten it at home (true story!).

Our service model has stood the test of time

Media headlines say the travel agent is making a comeback as new research shows travel agent usage reaching a six-year high in 2016 according to MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers. It’s no surprise when customers say their agent saves them an average $452 per trip, and four hours in travel planning time (ASTA).

But at Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we know that this isn’t a comeback. Our Franchise Partners and Vacation Consultants have been here all along providing travelers with unparalleled service and unbeatable value for the past 30 years. It’s the reason our sales have grown at an average rate of 11% each year for over two decades.

A future as bright as our past

With 83 new ocean cruise ships currently on order, we’re beyond excited about what’s to come for the cruise industry and our business. As our franchise owners continue to bring the Expedia CruiseShipCenters brand to new communities across North America, we get the privilege of sharing our passion for cruising and dedication to service with more and more travelers.

No matter what the next 30 years brings, we’ll always be here delivering on our promise to navigate spectacular vacation experiences and our mission to empower our Franchise Partners with a proven system to build a profitable and valuable business.

Build your success on ours

Want to become a part of our incredible success story? Expedia CruiseShipCenters is looking for passionate travelers to join our team as franchise owners across North America. For in-depth details about our franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more through this six step overview of our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

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.

 

In the News: Expedia CruiseShipCenters President Featured in Travel Market Report

Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

Headquarters Happenings: Dominant In Canada, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Targets U.S. Market

This story appeared in the April 2017 edition of Travel Market Report.

Editor’s Note: Headquarters Happenings is a regular feature that keeps you updated on the major travel agencies, host agencies, travel agency consortia, cooperatives, travel networks and franchise groups. Top executives detail how their groups grow their businesses and how their initiatives can help travel agents succeed.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is looking for a few good leaders – 262 of them, to be precise. That’s how many new franchise owners it needs to meet its goal of more than doubling its cruise agency store locations by the year 2020. And to be clear, it wants those new franchisees to be leaders – sales team leaders – more than travel sellers.

Matthew Eichhorst, president of the 30-year-old franchisor, has no doubt Expedia CruiseShipCenters will meet its growth goals. The company offers a “proven system” that allows its franchisees to grow “profitable and valuable” storefront agencies, he said, quoting from its mission statement. And interest among potential franchise owners is high.

The market opportunity is there too, especially in the United States, where Canada-based Expedia CruiseShipCenters is focusing its expansion. “Coming into the U.S., there’s more opportunity,” said Eichhorst. Also fueling his optimism is the rate of cruise industry growth, with dozens of new ships coming online and an expected 10 million new passengers on the horizon.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ growth plans were top of mind for Eichhorst when he spoke with Travel Market Report, not long after wrapping up the annual national conference in early April. It was held aboard the Celebrity Reflection, under the theme Leading the Way.

‘A system that works’

Expedia CruiseShipCenters currently has 218 locations, with another 20 in the pipeline. Roughly two-thirds of its stores are in Canada, where more than 20% of cruisers buy through Expedia CruiseShipCenters, he said.

The other third of its stores are in the United States, and the franchisor intends to grow that percentage to 50% in short order, said Eichhorst, who has been with CruiseShipCenters since before it was acquired by Expedia Inc. in 2007. (Last year, he was named global cruise leader for all of Expedia.)

ExpediaCruiseShip Centers boasts 4,750 travel agents, counting both franchise owners and the independent agents, or vacation consultants, who make up their teams. In 2016, they generated CA$740 million in sales (about US$560 million). About 41% of “mature” store owners have multiple locations, and the average store has about 25 independent agents.

By design, nearly all Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners are new to the travel industry when they sign on. Eichhorst said that’s because experienced travel sellers are likely to have a hard time adopting the franchisor’s way of doing things. “We have a system, and the system works,” he said. Like most franchises, it “almost runs as a corporate entity,” with look-alike stores and franchisees united on a shared technology platform.

Instead of seeking new owners who have industry experience or deep skills in any one area, the franchisor looks for individuals with strong leadership qualities who are prepared to focus on recruiting and training new agents. Nor does it expect its store owners to become top-selling agents. The business model describes franchise owners’ prime customers as their independent travel agents, and consumers as the prime customers of the agents.

It is this strategy that has fueled Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ accelerating growth and allowed its franchise owners to build saleable businesses, Eichhorst said. It also has endeared Expedia CruiseShipCenters to the cruise lines: “Suppliers our love our model. We bring new people to the business and that brings new cruisers.”

Devoted to cruise

Vacation consultants for Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchises can expect to earn top-tier commissions thanks to the company’s volume, as well as additional revenue selling Expedia.com’s non-cruise products. They also gain access to the franchisor’s group inventory on 2,000-plus sailings.

Franchise owners and their agents also benefit from a comprehensive digital marketing program that provides personalized websites and access to Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ promotions. “We have about 4 million people in our in database. We use all those contacts and execute a pretty sophisticated marketing system online,” Eichhorst said.

Owners and agents also do their own local marketing, especially in their spheres of influence, such as local golf communities and church groups.

Unlike some other cruise agency groups, Expedia CruiseShipCenters remains devoted to cruise, netting about 65% of its sales from cruises and 23% from hotel add-ons. “We don’t chase the non-cruiser from a marketing perspective,” Eichhorst said. But if customers want to try something other than a cruise on their next vacation, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will service them fully – and indeed, having access to Expedia.com’s enormous non-cruise inventory is a “huge differentiator.”

Franchisees reap the branding halo effect generated by Expedia Inc.’s outsized presence and its $3 billion annual marketing budget. The travel giant also invests about $1 billion in technology every year; that gives Expedia CruiseShipCenters access to great hotel, air and activities booking engines “so we can really focus on spending in the cruise space,” Eichhorst said.

Conference-Image 1

Developing the team

Among the Expedia CruiseShipCenters programs that franchise owners prize most, according to Eichhorst, is its technology platform. Of particular value are detailed analytics at the store level. “For example, they see their team profile of, say, 25 agents, divided into four quadrants: growth potential, top producers, low producers and growth risk. We have metrics and coaching programs for each of those segments, so they can change the way they lead.”

Training webinars for owners are offered in four key areas: 1) business planning and performance; 2) recruiting and onboarding new agents; 3) marketing and promotions; and 4) sales team leadership and recognition.

A step-by-step sales training program called the Navigators Approach includes leadership tools and train-the-trainer workshops to help owners teach the franchisor’s sales method to their agents. Owners also get content for monthly in-store team meetings, and “performance coaches” help owners develop their managerial and coaching skills.

Looking ahead

At this year’s national conference at sea, nearly 400 participants celebrated Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ accomplishments over its 30-year history, then turned their attention to “leading the way” into the future.

The conversation revolved around how to be more customer-centric so that franchisees provide “the best research experience, the best purchase experience and the best service experience” for consumers. “That’s really how we’re going to differentiate ourselves,” Eichhorst said. “The other big thrust is how do we combine high tech with high touch.”

While franchisee owners said they worry about keeping up with the pace of change, Eichhorst is most concerned about maintaining the culture of Expedia CruiseShipCenters amid rapid growth.

“How do we think big but act small to keep the culture of that close-knit family? I think our system works. My number-one thing is how do I keep this organization as fantastic as it is?”

Click here to read this article on Travel Market Report

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.

The Value of an Annual Franchise Conference

Our annual week-long conference at sea re-energizes our Franchise Partners and Corporate Team

Each year our Franchise Partners and Corporate team look forward to our much anticipated annual franchise conference at sea. As an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner, attending our National Conference is so much more than a sun-drenched cruise in the Caribbean it’s an opportunity to come together to celebrate our successes after a record-setting year in 2016 and gear up for our best year ever in 2017.

Nearly 400 franchise owners attended our 2017 National Conference onboard Celebrity Reflection!

In April, nearly 400 franchise owners attended our 2017 National Conference onboard Celebrity Reflection.

This April, we welcomed nearly 400 of our franchise owners, travel industry executives and Corporate team, onboard the Celebrity Reflection for a roundtrip Eastern Caribbean sailing from Miami. The seven-day conference consisted of an action-packed agenda with executive keynote presentations, workshops, and panel discussions aimed at leveraging the future growth of the cruise industry and helping our franchise owners prepare for another incredible year ahead. Our theme this year was “Leading the Way,” as we continually work towards being the best we can be and the best in the entire industry.

“Our annual conference represents a unique moment when our entire industry and system are united in the same space. Our Franchise Partners, Corporate executives, and industry thought leaders gather to share best practices, build relationships, and drive the industry forward,” says Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “This year we reflected on our thirty years in business and identified strategic initiatives to replicate and surpass our recent achievements.”

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

We thoughtfully craft the week at sea with our franchisees in mind. Our goal is to provide maximum value for our Franchise Partners as they take time away from their Center to work on their business. We organize a variety of educational workshops, inspiring keynote speakers, and fun networking events with industry leaders, suppliers, and fellow franchisees. Plus, a little downtime in the sun! By the end of the week, our franchisees come home with a renewed and elevated level of excitement for their business.

Build and Establish Relationships

Another benefit of attending National Conference is getting to meet or reconnect with members of the Corporate team that you work so closely with! You’ll also get to spend some quality time with your fellow franchisees who are truly your built-in support network. Having a group of people to turn to who have been in your shoes is an incredible resource for a franchisee, whether you’re just starting out and want advice on recruiting your dream team, or have been in business for years and are looking for fresh new ideas to reach travelers in your community.

Experience the Company Culture

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters we’re dedicated to recognizing our success when we’ve earned it and we make fun a priority. This couldn’t be more true than at our National Conference with great events like our Awards Dinner Gala, 80’s theme night, cocktail parties and more. Our franchisees live our mantra of Stronger.Together® and enjoy time together while recognizing our combined and individual accomplishments. We had a lot to celebrate this year including 30 successful years of navigating spectacular vacation experiences.

Award recipients at our Awards Dinner Gala held each year at National Conference.

Learn more about starting your own travel agency franchise

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a retail travel agency franchise backed by the largest travel brand in the world with more than 230 retail locations open or under development across North America. As the cruise industry grows larger each year, customers are seeking the expert advice of a travel agent who can create customized travel plans and provide personal service.

If you’re ready to learn more, we invite you to continue exploring the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity by downloading our Free Franchise Report by completing the form below.