3 Reasons to Become Your Own Boss in 2018

With a passion for travel, business savvy and a proven model, travel agency franchise owners are finding success in entrepreneurship

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Travel Franchise Owner

In 2017 Expedia CruiseShipCenters awarded 25 new retail travel agency franchises awarded across North America.

The decision to leave a full-time career for a new life as an entrepreneurial business owner doesn’t have to be a scary one. The benefit of joining a proven franchise system is that the blueprint for success has been established for you based on the years of experience brought by franchise owners before you.

That’s why Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owners come from a wide range of backgrounds: from former executives in high-profile ad agencies, to former upper-level managers in the energy industry, to former newspaper editors. What unites our travel franchise owners is their love of travel, their desire to lead a team, and their ability to leverage our proven business model to connect with cruisers in their communities.

Here are three reasons why 2018 is a great year to fulfill your dream of being your own boss in the booming cruise industry:

Turn Your Passion into Profit

Whether you love trying new cuisines, working with animals, or exploring the world, starting your own business gives you the chance to pursue your passion while building a career you love. Franchising provides endless industries and opportunities to choose from so you can find the perfect fit for you and build a business doing something you’ll enjoy every day.info-industry-satisfaction

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, our travel franchise owners are passionate travelers, but more importantly, they are passionate about sharing in the vacation experiences of travelers in their local community. Each of our travel agency franchises is not simply a store selling travel, they are navigators of spectacular vacation experiences! From the time a customer begins their research, to the time they return home from their trip, our travel franchises are the one-stop-shop for expert vacation advice, personalized service and Expedia value.

That means our travel franchise owners are also passionate about providing exceptional customer service.

“The value we add is in being thoughtful,” Mary Beth says. “We have to know what this vacation will bring to them and their families. There’s a lot of patience and hand-holding from our side. Our customers can, and do, ask us anything. Then when our customers get off the ship, we do a follow-up: Did we meet their expectations? Where are they going to go next?”

This passion and dedication is why the majority of cruisers still want to consult with a real person before purchasing their vacations. In fact, Cruise Lines International Association reports that 82% of cruisers tend to book their vacations through a travel agent, and that number is likely to rise as the options for cruise vacations continue to expand.

Take on a New Challenge

Building a thriving business from nothing can be incredibly challenging. It’s also incredibly rewarding when you succeed. Nothing is more exhilarating than overcoming your fears and fulfilling a life-long dream. Many people who turn to franchising come from corporate backgrounds or vastly different industries because they want to experience the challenge and satisfaction that comes with building their own business from the ground up.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we don’t have any trouble finding people who love to travel. The biggest challenge our travel franchise owners face is their daily task of recruiting, coaching and motivating a large team of Vacation Consultants. Many of our franchisees have no experience managing a sales team, but with the training and coaching tools we provide, they can become exceptional team leaders if they love to work with people. Our most successful franchise owners approach this challenge head on and make team leadership their top priority every day. They know that the larger and more successful their Consultants are, the more successful and profitable their franchise will be.

Chris Meyer, who owns an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in Orange County, California, sums up our customer service hierarchy nicely:

“The corporate team’s mantra is that the franchisees are their customers. My mantra is that the Vacation Consultants are my customers, and the travelers are the Vacation Consultants’ customers,” he says. “I’m focused on helping others succeed, which helps me. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has the same attitude. They provide systems and support that give me the ability to be more successful.”

Control Your Own Destiny

Perhaps the most enticing aspect of entrepreneurial freedom is the ability to control your future success. The more effort you put into your business, the more you’ll get out of it. Unlike a corporate job where your next raise depends on someone else, being your own boss means you get to control your own destiny. Of course there are pros and cons that come with that kind of uncertainty, but in most cases of franchise ownership there’s a direct correlation between how hard you work, your ability to follow a system, and the rewards you’ll reap.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owners love what they do and their hard work is a huge part of why our company has enjoyed an average sales growth of 11% annually for more than two decades. Plus, our travel franchise model is built for scalability, which also allows our franchisees to continuously build their business over the course of many years.

Expedia-franchiseWe set our franchisees up with a system that’s designed for continuous growth over time. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, there is no limit to how large you can grow your sales team of Vacation Consultants who sell travel on your behalf, which means the growth potential of a single franchise location is substantial. If you want to take your business to the next level, you increase the size of your team and continue training, motivating, and coaching them to set and exceed their own personal sales goals.

Opening multiple locations is another way to continue building equity in your travel franchise.

“My goal has always been to have 5 centers.,” Franchise Partner Tracey Codd says. “I love this industry and I would love to find key personnel who are as passionate about this business as I am. I would love to place them at 4 of my Centers where they can love it like it’s their own and let it be their own. Then I can work with them and develop them into leaders. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters system allows you to easily manage multiple locations remotely, so spreading our passion throughout multiple locations is fun!”

Ready to Be Your Own Boss?

There has never been a better time to start a business in the cruise industry. In 2017, Cruise Lines International Association estimates that 25.8 million people took a cruise — and they project that number will rise to 27.2 million in 2018.

As the 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 more than 100 new ocean and river ships will come online between now and 2026 and demand for cruising has increased 20.5% in the last five years. The golden age of cruising is yet to come.

With more than 240 travel franchise locations open or under development and another great growth year in 2017 with 25 new franchise markets awarded, Expedia CruiseShipCenters is one of the largest sellers of cruise travel in North America, generating up to 15 times the average sales per location of competing franchises. There are a lot of reasons for those figures, but perhaps the biggest two are our business model and the strength of our brand name.

“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. “Our vision is to be the largest cruise retail network in North America and a trusted brand in our communities,” Matthew says.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is actively seeking entrepreneurs who are passionate about travel, customer service, and team leadership. If that sounds like you, we’d love to have a conversation about how you can make 2018 the year you become your own boss.

Learn more 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.

Reflecting on Another Great Year

 2017 in review with Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Edmonds, WA Grand Opening

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we continue to gain traction as the largest retail network across North America. Over the course of 2017 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 31st year in business we’re proud to share another year of records and even more excitement on the horizon.

Continued Growth Coast to Coast

Over the past year we opened 23 new retail travel agency locations in our expanding network and added a record 1,700 new Vacation Consultants at Centers across North America. We’re not even close to being finished growing throughout North America as we have major growth plans to open a further 30+ locations in the year ahead. In 2018, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will be coming to communities in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Texas 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, Arizona and Illinois as these states are home to more than half of North American cruisers.

Dropping ANCHOR in Vancouver

We held our Anchor meeting in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, home of Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ corporate headquarters and welcomed Franchise Partners from across the continent. It was a great success with more than 200 Franchise Partners in attendance for valuable seminars, engaging keynote presentations from industry leaders and the opportunity to network with fellow franchise owners. This year we had the pleasure of hosting the inspirational keynote speaker, Mark Okerstrom, CEO of Expedia Inc., he was later joined by Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters to discuss the bright future of the cruise industry.

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. 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

• Royal Caribbean International:National Partner of the Year

• MSC: Canadian Consortium Partner of the Year

Carnival Cruises: Chairman’s Award

2018 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 27.2 million passengers to cruise in 2018! Over 100 new ships are scheduled to debut between now and 2026. The demand for cruising has steadily increased 62% over the last ten years and as more travelers will be seeking the expert advice of a trusted travel agent 100 million more people are expected to cruise in the next 4 years. According to CLIA the demand for cruising has increased 20.5% in the last five years.

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 over 30 years, we’ve been dedicated to navigating spectacular vacation experiences from our 235+ franchise locations. We look forward to further growing our team in 2018 and serving communities as 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.

No Travel Industry Experience Required

Join a proven franchise system with tools and support for success

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a brick and mortar retail travel agency franchise that is affordable to start and scalable, perfect for someone wanting to grow a profitable and valuable business. No previous travel industry experience is required but the drive to lead and develop a team paired with a passion for travel will help you achieve success as a franchise owner. Starting your own business brings many challenges but by joining forces with a proven system backed by the most recognized brand in travel provides you with a plethora of tools, ongoing training and support to operate and manage a successful retail travel franchise while achieving your business ownership goals.

How we set you up for success – Franchise Partner Onboarding

During the Franchise Awards Process, our team does extensive market research on the most optimal locations for our franchises. We set you up for success from the very beginning and help you choose the best location in your region. From the moment you sign your Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise agreement our startup team is here to help guide you in the search for the perfect Center location. We offer geographically protected market areas, designed with customer visibility and accessibility in mind allowing you to reach your target market in your community to recruit a team of all-star Vacation Consultants.

Before opening your doors, you’ll attend Cruise Management Academy (CMA) – our weeklong intensive training held at our corporate office in Vancouver, BC. During our onboarding and start-up process, we’ll train and teach you about our industry leading technology, CruiseDesk, and award-winning marketing tools that will help you run and market your franchise. Together we go through the tools and steps so that you’ll feel comfortable and confident in managing your franchise to grow your business.

How we set you up for success – Consultant Recruitment & Team Leadership

Franchise Partners support Vacation Consultants with ongoing training and support.

To be a successful Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Partner you’ll need to build and support a large high performing team of Vacation Consultants. We provide all our Franchise Partners with a custom recruitment website that will help attract the right personality for success as a Vacation Consultant. The larger your team, the further your reach in the community and in turn the greater your customer base for follow ups and marketing initiatives. Keeping your team engaged, trained and motivated is essential to your success. To help you lead and motivate your team you’ll use our programs designed to help you coach and mentor your team with structured meetings, conversation guides and recognition programs created to support you in building positive relationships with your Consultants. There’s no such thing as too many Vacation Consultants as each Center can support unlimited number of agents working as independent contractors, allowing the business to continuously grow and increase in value over time.

How we set you up for success – Ongoing Resources and Support

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ mission is to “empower our franchisees with a proven system to grow a profitable and valuable business”. Everything we do supports that mission and we always have our Franchise Partner’s best interests top of mind. As an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Partner, you’ll be joining forces with the most recognized brand in travel, Expedia Inc. Being part of a global brand gives your franchise instant credibility and brand recognition plus being backed by Expedia’s $84 billion buying power means your Center can sell an extensive range of travel products with the best pricing and extras.

Along your journey to becoming a successful franchise owner you can depend on our diverse 125+ corporate support team here to help you with any guidance you may need in recruiting, onboarding or developing your team of Consultants. The support doesn’t stop there, once your doors are open and your business is operating you’ll be assigned a Franchise Performance Coach (FPC) who will work with you on an ongoing basis as a business advisor supporting you and your Center. They’ll be your critical thinking partner that will help you to continuously increase efficiency, keep you on track for hitting targets and achieving success. Your FPC will have insight into your Center performance and will coach you through Center visits and calls to deliver individualized and enhanced coaching that will empower you to guide, lead and grow your team of Consultants.

Plus, each year we hold our annual franchise conference at sea where our Franchise Partners attend and have a chance to meet and network with their fellow Franchise Partners and they have the opportunity to share and grow from each other.

Better Bigger and Stronger Together

As part of the most recognized brand in travel our Franchise Partners are well equipped with the tools and support to manage their Franchise. Our proven business system has grown to a network of over 230 franchise locations each operating as full service travel agencies selling all types of travel with a specialization in complex cruise vacations and a commitment to customer service.

We are dedicated to helping you every step of the way to build value in your business and achieve your personal as well as Center goals.

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 Cruise Industry’s Bright Future

Why now is the time to invest in this fast growing segment of travel

If the mention of cruising brings to mind images of Gavin MacLeod and “The Love Boat”, it might be time to rethink your definition of a cruise vacation. Cruising as an industry has come a long way since the 1970’s and as innovation continued to drive change, the prospect of taking a cruise vacation started to appeal to a wider and wider market. Today, cruising is a multi-billion dollar industry offering options for every age, interest and budget. In 2015, the global economic output of the cruise industry totaled $117 billion according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). And that number is on the rise as more destinations, ships and categories of cruisers continue to fuel the industry’s impressive growth.

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions we get from prospective franchisees considering investing in a business in the cruise industry.

Is the Cruise Industry Growing?

There’s nothing that shows confidence in the industry more than the world’s leading cruise lines investing in increased capacity. Their faith in the future of vacations at sea is so strong that new ships are being built at an unprecedented rate. Between now and 2026, CLIA reports that more than 100 new cruise ships will enter the market, which is why every shipyard in the world is currently in use bringing these new vessels to life. To give you a sense of the scale of these investments, new ships coming out in 2017 alone represent a $6.8 billion spend from the cruise lines. What’s driving this growth? Unprecedented demand. People love to cruise and in the last 10 years, demand for cruise vacations has increased an astounding 62%, and in 2017, it’s estimated that 25.3 million guests will set sail on a vacation at sea (CLIA).

How Have Cruise Ships Evolved?

Zip lines, surf simulators, world-class performances, celebrity chefs; today’s cruise ships have evolved beyond our wildest dreams. When modern cruising was first introduced in the 1960’s, there were a handful of lines offering a similar product. Today, there are a plethora of cruise lines offering a myriad of experiences to meet every desire – from the non-stop excitement of a contemporary megaship, to the peaceful intimacy of a small luxury line. River cruising (a category still in its infancy) has exploded in recent years and now boasts 184 ships with more on the way!

For a glimpse into what a cruise vacation looks like today, check out the video below for the spectacular new Norwegian Joy which debuted earlier this year.

And that’s just the ship! As more and more destinations become accessible by cruise ship each year, itineraries are becoming increasingly diverse and travelers can find the perfect mix of beaches, culture or days at sea to meet their vacation expectations. With so many options to choose from, it’s no wonder cruising now appeals to such a broad range of travelers. It truly offers something for everyone.

Who Is Today’s Cruiser?

An evolving product leads to an evolving consumer and typical cruisers today are much different than the grey-haired, shuffleboard playing stereotype than many have in their minds. With today’s ships offering amenities targeted at younger travelers, cruisers continue to get younger and younger with CLIA reporting their average age now at 49 years old. Part of the reason for this trend is growing demand from Millennials and multi-generational cruisers. Children who grew up cruising with their parents are now taking to the sea themselves, often with their own young children (and the grandparents!) as their preferred method of travel.

Cruising enjoys the highest satisfaction and repeat rates of any type of vacation with nearly 90% of cruisers saying they were highly satisfied with their trip (CLIA). However, non-cruisers also pose a significant untapped market. According to CLIA, when asked what kind of vacations might be of interest in the next three years 48% of non-cruisers also expressed interest in taking an ocean cruise.

Americans make up the vast majority of all cruisers with 11.5% of the world’s cruise guests coming from the United States (CLIA). Why do Americans love to cruise? A recent study from CLIA reported that 74% of respondents liked the convenience of being able to drive to a cruise, a fact that’s driving cruise lines to offer more itineraries originating in US home ports. Eliminating the need for flights is making cruising more affordable an enticing for Americans than ever before.

Where Do Cruisers Book Their Trips?

You might assume that the rise of online travel agencies has lead to all types of travel being booked online, however, cruising continues to be an anomaly. While many travelers turn to travel websites for simple purchases like flights and hotels, the majority of cruisers still choose to book more complex and expensive travel (like cruises) through a traditional travel agent. According to Cruise Lines International Association , 82% of cruise vacations tend to be booked through a travel agent.

So why do cruisers use travel agents? Unlike tours or other packaged vacations, there are a lot of decisions to make when booking a cruise. Which itinerary do I want? Which cruise line is best suited to me? Which ship has the amenities I’m looking for? Which stateroom category and location are best? Add shore excursions, transfers and onboard dining and you’ll be calling your agent for help before you can say “anchors aweigh”.

Even the most seasoned cruisers choose to book with cruise specialists like Expedia CruiseShipCenters year after year because they have a relationship with their Vacation Consultant who knows their travel preferences and can help them find the perfect experience they’re looking for. Best of all, it doesn’t cost any more to use a travel agent to book a cruise! Travel agent commissions come out of the cruise line’s pocket, not the customer’s, so that added expertise comes free of charge. Cruise lines invest millions of dollars each year in advertising and partnerships that support travel agents because they know this distribution channel is so essential to filling their ships.

The Future is Bright

Increasing interest from travelers; unprecedented capacity investments from cruise lines; broadening customer demographics; growing demand for agent expertise — all of this adds up to incredible potential for cruise-focused travel agencies like Expedia CruiseShipCenters. Brands with established cruise line relationships and a recognizable consumer names are well-positioned to take advantage of the cruise industry’s bright future, especially in the US market.

There has never been a better time to invest in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise. To learn more about starting a business in the growing cruise industry, get access to our Free Franchise Report by filling out the form below or read the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here.



Natural Leaders Make For Successful Franchise Owners

Q&A with Larry & Chris Dettmer  |  United States Air Force Veterans

Larry and Chris Dettmer, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owners in Florence, KY, are just one example of Veterans who have been putting our proven model to work for them in their community since they opened their doors in 2014. Here’s what they had to say about their experience so far.

testimonial3What made you decide to buy a franchise?

Chris and I met in the Air Force – I was an Inventory Management Specialist and she was a Security Police Shift Commander. After working nearly 20 years in insurance sales and sales management and with both of our kids raised, we had an opportunity to separate from the corporate world and fulfill our dream owning our own business. We felt it was the perfect time to take a chance on something that would allow us to control our future.

Why did you choose an Expedia franchise?
When Chris and I decided to start our own business it didn’t take long to decide on Expedia CruiseShipCenters. We both have a deep passion for travel and were familiar with booking our trips through Expedia. So the opportunity to start a business with the most recognized name in travel was very appealing. Visiting the corporate offices in Vancouver convinced us that Expedia CruiseShipCenters was the company for us. Their proven business model combined with the corporate and field support have given us the tools we need to build a successful business. We’ve been open for almost 2 years and our commitment to executing the business plan has resulted in our Center hitting the expected growth benchmarks. The future is bright and we are very excited to part of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters brand.

How has your military training helped with running your business?
To serve and protect our country was a tremendous honor. The military taught us discipline and commitment for the purpose of making a difference. Being a successful Franchise Partner with Expedia CruiseShipCenters requires the same skill set and passion for making a difference for travelers in our local community.

What advice do you have for military vets and first responders who might be considering a franchise?
Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers an exciting opportunity for anyone with service experience. Just like the military, Expedia CruiseShipCenters relies on effective planning and precision execution. As an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Partner, you will be given all the tools and support to successfully grow your business and your sales team.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
We are both really excited about the future. By the end of our 5th year, it is our goal to have a team of 40+ Vacation Consultants with annual sales exceeding the suggested benchmarks. We also want to eventually have full time Office Manager, which will allow us more time for personal travel.


Are you a Veteran or First Responder?

If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams by applying your strong leadership, dedication and service in a travel agency franchise, Expedia CruiseShipCenters could be a great fit. Working as your own boss, you’ll serve travelers in your local community by navigating spectacular vacation experiences every day. Expedia CruiseShipCenters is proud to honor Veterans and First Responders with a $5,800 discount on our initial franchise fee!

We are seeking people with an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of travel to open Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise locations in their communities. Veterans and first responders are a great fit for our model since they have the skill set that is necessary to run and manage a streamlined and efficient business.
Learn more about our Veterans and First Responders Program


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.