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.

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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.

Transitioning From Travel Agent to Travel Agency Owner

How one veteran travel agent took her business to a new level by making the leap from agent to agency owner.

TraceyCoddTeam

Tracey and her team of Vacation Consultants celebrate travel agent appreciation day with Carnival Cruise Line.

With over 24 years of experience in the travel industry and a willingness to learn something new every day, Tracey has a passion for people and a drive for results that allowed her to open three travel agency franchises in her first year. Tracey shares her experience transitioning from agent to owner and what it’s like when work doesn’t feel like work.

Here’s Tracey’s story:

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

CoddLorenz_Tracey-ClearwaterTracey: Prior to my entry into the travel business I was a school teacher where I taught kindergarten and tutored 8th grade algebra. Though I loved shaping young minds, the call to the travel industry was strong for me.

In late 1992 I took my very first cruise where I met the man who would turn out to be my first boss in the travel industry. He and his wife had a small travel agency in Englewood, FL and after a brief conversation, their passion for the industry was clear.  Although I didn’t admit it at first, I knew that I would go to work with them.  Everything fell into place and I joined their team in January 1993. It’s amazing to sit back and look at 24 years in the industry, where I’ve held many positions (each more challenging than the previous) and I still get up in the morning and want to go to work!  I’ve  I almost feel guilty when I go to work, because it doesn’t really feel like work to me!

What inspired you to make the transition from agent to owner, to franchise owner?

Tracey: In 2005 I decided to open my own independent cruise travel agency in Port Charlotte, FL after a large merger resulted in the closing of the agency in Englewood, FL where I had worked for 12 years. I phoned an old friend and industry veteran with my idea and within 3 months we were open and I was running my own location.

About 5 years after we opened, we connected with Expedia CruiseShipCenters and started to think about transitioning our independent agency over to an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise. At first I was reluctant having experienced a corporate merger however the challenges of recruitment and technology were heavy for us and were preventing us from growing the way we wanted to. We decided to take our list of challenges (that had grown to about 25 items in length) and fly to Vancouver to meet with Expedia CruiseShipCenters and see the potential of their answers to our challenges.

By the end of the meeting, I had gone from sitting back arms folded to leaning over the table. I was immediately in. It became almost instantly clear that Expedia CruiseShipCenters was the solution for not one or two, but every single one of our 25 challenges. We needed the support of the corporate office, access to the technology, and we saw the opportunity to leverage the Expedia brand.

Eventually the partnership with my old colleague dissolved and we went in different directions. I knew it was time to start off on my own. I found a retail space in Venice, FL and I converted it to my very own Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

Can you tell us about your experience building and leading your team of Vacation Consultants?

Tracey: I am always recruiting. My team says I have a “vibe” – I’m sizing up everyone I come in contact with. You could say that I live the brand and the business. Then there’s the recruitment marketing that Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers on my behalf that generates recruitment leads for me! Even my Consultants are out there promoting and recruiting for us, they believe in the brand and our team. Your vibe attracts your tribe right?

With each of my Consultants, I always start by asking them “what do you want to get from this business”? First we get clear on what their goals are. Then, I work with them to map out a plan to get them there in a realistic and manageable time frame. I’m very honest with them about what I think they need to do. Once they help me understand what their goals are, we make a plan of engagement and I tell them, “If you use and follow the system, you will be successful. In fact I guarantee it.” 
My team is a great mix of Consultants that have previous experience in the travel industry, and those who are brand new to it. Having both in the Center is fantastic because they each bring different things to the role, and they feed off of each other. We are a family.

How would you describe the culture at your Centers?

Tracey: Fun and rewarding. We love to celebrate everything, including every holiday and the Consultants love it! One morning after dropping my children off at school (it was pajama day) I arrive at the office to find the entire team dressed in pajamas. I loved it!  We recognize that we are together more than we are home at times, so working together to keep that vibe strong is important. We respect each other, and we loooove to have fun.

We love adding the extra to the ordinary; recognizing and rewarding. I believe the little things that are important to my Consultants are–and should be–important to me. In the same way that we build relationships with our customers, I continue to build and strengthen relationships with my Consultants. I do my best to help them remember what we’re here to do and to have fun. If we’re not having fun in this business, then something is wrong!

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

Tracey: Where do I begin? When you become a Franchise Owner, you are buying a system that works – I am living proof! You are backed by a powerful brand. Who hasn’t heard of Expedia? We have customers who come into a Centers simply because they’ve seen the sign outside and recognize the name. It’s also powerful in helping us build relationships with our suppliers as they see Expedia CruiseShipCenters and they know that the company has integrity and that we’re here to build relationships and do business.Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 3.15.44 PM

The CruiseDesk technology that comes with the system  is second to none. To have your CRM and booking engine all in one is just amazing. We have a strong relationship-building culture in our office, and the technology allows us to excel in a very organized fashion at that. Our Consultants are able to use their 7SEAS customer database, to support them in strengthening their consumer relationships with special personal touches. For example, we can send reminders to customer if their passports are expiring, or phone them to wish them a bon voyage or welcome home from their vacation. All the information to support that relationship is right there at the click of a mouse. CruiseDesk allows our Consultants to show their customers what it means to be a navigator of spectacular vacation experiences!

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters system is what’s going to support a brand new person as a Franchise Owner in this industry and help them be successful. With the support you get from the corporate team, you can truly work on the business and focus on growing your sales – and still have time to make your kids’ field trips or plays at school

TraceyCoddFamily

Expedia CruiseShipCenters allows Tracey the flexibility to enjoy a successful business, and a great lifestyle.

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

Tracey: “With you every step of the way” is part of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters Promise, and it starts from the top with the Corporate Support Team. I honestly don’t know if  the Technical Support team members sleep, because they are amazing! One of them even returned my support call from the elliptical trainer at the gym – on a Saturday! This might not have been a big deal to them, but it meant so much to me.

How do you find your customers?

Tracey: As a company and a team, we strongly believe in relationship marketing. Our 7SEAS database grows daily either because someone walked into a Center, or they call in on the phone because they have received some of our direct marketing, or someone signs up online to receive information from us. When that happens, either myself or one of my Consultants picks up the phone and gives them a call. A simple “thanks for signing up” is an opportunity to tell them a bit more about us and to start building that relationship. Providing that personal touch really makes a difference. The customer wants to hear from you. They want to chat, hear about promotions, and have their questions answered by a real person.

Referrals, recommendations, participating in promotions – each aspect of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters brand and system attracts new customers. From there, the ongoing marketing and CRM technology supports our Consultants in keeping those Customers For Life.

What do you do to drive repeat business?

Tracey: As a team, we constantly reflect on everything we do and what we could have potentially done better. We like to ask our Vacation Consultants, “what can we do today to make our customers know that we love them?”, and they come up with some amazing feedback! One of the things I love most about this business is that I am always learning from our customers, Consultants and fellow Franchise Partners. In fact, I was at an Expedia event the other day, and another Franchise Partner shared that when he has a customer who sets sail for 21 or more days, he sends them a personal, home cooked meal when they return from their trip. What a great personal touch!

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

Tracey: It wasn’t a difficult decision for me and I’m not done expanding. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters system allows you to easily manage multiple locations remotely, so spreading our passion throughout multiple locations is fun!

We opened our second Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in Punta Gorda, FL, which has been my hometown since 1979 and more recently announced our official third location to open soon in the Villages, FL.  The community and demographics of The Villages area are amazing. There is plenty of business up there for multiple travel agencies.

What would you say makes a community an ideal fit for an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise?

Tracey: I’d have to answer that by saying “If you build it they will come”. I love unique locations, where there’s plenty of character, or it has something scenic about it. I believe that once you build your database of prospects and customers, it doesn’t matter where your location is. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters brand attracts customers of all ages – from a retirement community, to a large city, or even a rural area with a storefront that has decent walk-by traffic – these are all great options. As long as you’re participating in the national promotions offered by corporate and the systems that Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers, you’re marketing to your people, and they know where you are.

We had an event in January, and we had over 1,000 people attend that day. Considering this is our first year, and our Center in Punta Gorda, FL, had just opened, that kind of turnout and our cruise bookings that followed, were amazing! Our customers come to us – they make it like a field trip for themselves

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

Tracey: I love cruising and believe it is the absolute best way to vacation – multiple destinations, no packing and unpacking, being pampered, and doing everything or nothing at all! Honestly, what more could you ask for?

cruisers are among the highest users of travel professionals with 82% of them saying they tend to book through an agent according to CLIA’s 2017 Cruise Travel Report

I’d have to say one of the most memorable cruises was with my family, shortly before my mother passed away. To have family from across the country come together and make happy memories prior to such a loss gave us all strength to face what was to come.

Then there was the first time I took my three adopted children on a cruise. WOW! Talk about getting a whole different view of cruising. Who knew you could sail on the exact same ship two separate times, and have completely different, fantastic experiences? We focus a lot on family travel at our locations, because no matter where in the world that you are traveling to, it’s always better with friends and family.

Where do you see your business in 5 to 10 years?

Tracey: My goal has always been to have 5 centers. 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.

I do not see myself retiring, but “rewiring” and doing something different. What do you do when you retire? You travel and spend time with family… but I do that now!

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.

Whether you’re an industry veteran like Tracey, or brand new to travel, we can help you leverage our proven system to build a successful business doing something you love. 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.

Meet Some of Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ Newest Franchise Owners

Franchise ownership can be a natural fit for a variety of backgrounds and interests

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Tustin opened it's doors in April of 2016. Photo credit: Anthony Wang & the Tustin Chamber of Commerce.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Tustin opened it’s doors in April of 2016. Photo credit: Anthony Wang & the Tustin Chamber of Commerce.

Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® franchise owners each have their own unique story and path that led them to franchise ownership. Their reasons for choosing a retail travel agency vary from the desire for a change of career, a balanced lifestyle of travel and business ownership, to simply a desire to earn income on their own terms – on a schedule they can dictate. There’s a common theme amongst our franchise owners: they’re natural leaders with a passion for travel!

Last year we welcomed 31 new retail travel agencies to our family spanning throughout the United States and Canada. In 2017, we plan to open a record setting 40 new locations including our first ever locations in Utah and Wisconsin! Meet a few of our newest franchise owners who joined our team over the past year.

Rob Henderson – Tustin, CA

Henderson_Rob-TustinFranchise owner, Rob Henderson’s entrepreneurial spirit is limitless, after opening his first business in the early 80’s – a wall covering installation business – he founded a stone and tile care company in China and served as CEO of three small manufacturing companies and a contracting firm. In between opening and running businesses over the years, he and his wife Michelle, enjoy an active lifestyle and traveling the world which led them to consider a business opportunity that would allow them to maintain their income, lifestyle, wealth and equity goals. He discovered the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity through a past MBA classmate who opened a location years prior and the rest is history. Rob opened Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Tustin late April of 2016 and is thrilled to be able to share his lifelong love of travel with his community.

Barb Gossack – Wilsonville, OR

Gossack_Barbara-WilsonvilleFranchise owner, Barb Gossack, has explored a variety of careers in search of the perfect fit. In January of this year, she opened our only location to date in Oregon state. With a wide ranging background including experience working as an American Airlines flight attendant, occupational therapy, and real estate. When she discovered the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, she knew it was the perfect fit where she could combine the highlights of her past careers together into one new adventure. Barb brought Expedia CruiseShipCenters to Oregon state, in January of this year. Today, she’s able to help her community plan spectacular vacation experiences like she has enjoyed with her daughters.

Katie Powell – Naperville, IL

Powell_Katie-PlainfieldFranchise owners Katie and Mitchell Powell relocated to Illinois with their two sons after living in the Southern US while Mitchell served on Active Duty in the army as a helicopter pilot. Before opening Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Naperville, Katie ran a company specializing in promotional products. Initially learning of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity when researching franchises online, they found the perfect business with a proven business model where they could interact with customers while enjoying flexible work hours and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Katie and Mitchell have opened the first Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Illinois in October, 2016!

Tracey Codd – Punta Gorda, FL

Franchise owner, Tracey Codd, is a mom of three and has worked in the travel industry for years. After initially joining the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family as a Cruise Sales Manager at her local Center she saw the potential of translating her passion for travel and helping her clients plan spectacular vacation experiences into her own business and opened her own location in Venice, FL. Fast forward one year, Tracey opened her second location in Punta Gorda in February of this year and is on schedule to open her third location in The Villages this summer! Tracey’s infectious personality has helped her to network in her community and help to build her team, her customer base, and in turn, her business.

Now is the perfect time to launch your travel franchise

Are you ready for a career change? The Expedia franchise opportunity sets franchise owners up for success with our training, support and proven system – no industry training or experience is needed. There’s never been a better time to join the travel industry with a retail franchise. Unlike many retail businesses, the cruise industry has not been diminished by the rise of consumers shopping online.

Cruise Lines International Association, notes in their 2017 Cruise Travel Report that most cruises are sold by travel agents, not through websites. In fact, up to 82% of cruisers opted to book their vacations using a travel agent. The thriving cruising market, as well as consumer trends towards personalized service, have allowed Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchises to have viable, profitable businesses that reflect their owners’ passion for travel.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is gearing up for expansion

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 230 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America, and has a goal of 500 operating locations over the next five years.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 230 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 230 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America.

In our 30th year in business, we’re on course for explosive growth, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will continue to be at the forefront of a fun, booming and exciting industry. In 2017 alone, an impressive 25.3 million people are expected to cruise according to CLIA. With an abundance of new ships coming online, new destinations and itineraries available – there’s never been a better time to join this vibrant industry.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

To learn more about the path to franchise ownership with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, complete the form below. You’ll gain immediate access to our Free Franchise Report, which includes everything you need to know about how to start a travel business in your community.

Great Leaders Make Great Franchise Owners

How Our Franchise Owners fill several leadership roles as they set their team and business up for success

As a franchise owner your role will include supporting and leading your team.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, there’s a key characteristic we actively look for in our franchisees – leadership. While a passion for travel in this business is important, it actually plays a smaller role in the realm of the franchise owner than you might think. As a travel agency Franchise Owner, the customer you’re devoted to serving is your team of Vacation Consultants (who sell travel on behalf of your retail travel agency) and your product is providing them with the tools and support to best serve their clients.

The role of a travel Franchise Owner is multifaceted; it is as dynamic and challenging (in the best ways) as it is rewarding. Here are three different ways you’ll put your leadership skills to work as you’re building a successful travel agency.

Recruiter and Trainer

Franchise Partners support Vacation Consultants with ongoing training and support.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Partners approach recruitment and onboarding their team of Vacation Consultants as an ongoing commitment and opportunity to continuously grow their team and business. You’ll find your dream team out in your community – they’re typically warm and energetic individuals who love helping others.

When it comes to training your team, we’re here to guide you through our training system designed to help people with little to no travel industry experience learn how to sell custom vacation packages. We help you to recruit and train your team in many ways from a dedicated recruitment website for your location to regular webinars and events to help your team boost their sales. The better equipped and supported your team is, the better the service their clients will receive and the higher the sales potential of your business. After all, we’re only as strong as the team we build and creating an environment for your team of independent consultants to flourish will be the most important contributor to your success.

Mentor and Coach

As part of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters system, you have access to our powerful proprietary software to help remain up-to-date on your location’s and team’s performance. This is a great tool for identifying opportunities for growth within your team as well as keeping your business on track to achieve your franchise goals. Teaching your team how to leverage the tactics of our proprietary sales methodology, The Navigators Approach, will also help them to build strong long-term relationships with their customers with our tools and programs in place. We provide ongoing sales leadership training for Franchise Partners to help you coach your Consultants to sales success. Coaching your travel consultants about our promotions as well as hosting events at your location will help your team excel and offer their clients the best products available along with advice they can trust.

#1 Fan and Cheerleader

As a Franchise Partner, you are your Vacation Consultants’ biggest fan.

You are your Vacation Consultants’ biggest fan! Keeping your team motivated and feeling recognized and appreciated is important for their continued success. Making sales alone shouldn’t mean recognition – the path to being a successful salesperson takes time, on-the-job experience and a desire to improve skills. Everything from a Consultant providing exceptional service to their customers, to making connections with potential customers at events is deserving of recognition. We have a fantastic recognition program called Navigators Club that presents a great opportunity for Franchise Partners to continuously set goals for and applaud their team of both new and experienced Consultants. By recognizing the best practices of your Consultants, you establish a benchmark for your team to strive for and establish your location as the best source for all of your community’s travel needs!

As a Franchise Partner you’ll be dedicated to the ongoing success of your location as you manage the day-to-day operations of your retail business; you’ll also recruit and support your team of independent Vacation Consultants and create an engaging environment. It’s a busy job starting a travel agency that is incredibly rewarding. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we’re committed to helping our franchisees become exceptional leaders who build a strong team to help to set them up on the path to a successful business.

Learn More

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.

When you’re starting a travel agency; recruiting, leading and supporting your team will be the foundation of your successful business. If you have the drive and the leadership skills to take on this exciting challenge, we invite you to continue exploring the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity by downloading our Free Franchise Report by completing the form below.

 

Love to Cruise?

Here’s how to start a travel business and make your passion your career.

Franchise Owners on a Cruise

It’s a new year and anything is possible! If you’ve been thinking of taking the leap into business ownership, here are four reasons why investing in a cruise franchise could be your ticket to financial freedom and a great lifestyle in 2017.

1. The Cruise Industry is Booming

Interest in cruising is expected to hit an all-time high this year with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reporting that an estimated 25.3 million passengers will set sail in 2017. That’s a whopping 60% higher than just 10 years ago! Cruise lines continue to invest billions in future growth as well with 97 new cruise ships scheduled to debut between now and 2026. This presents a huge opportunity for travel agents and agencies who specialize in planning cruise vacations.

2. Travel Agent Usage is on the Rise

The media is certainly talking about this trend, and the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker confirms it: Consumer use of travel agents increased nearly eighty percent from 2015 to 2016. In particular, cruisers are among the highest users of travel professionals with 82% of them saying they tend to book through an agent according to CLIA’s 2017 Cruise Travel Report. With so many decisions to make about ships, staterooms and itineraries – made worse by the overwhelming amount of information available online – it’s no wonder cruisers are increasingly turning to travel agents to help guide the way.

3. Enjoy a Business with a Great Lifestyle

When we surveyed our franchise owners asking why they invested in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters business, they told us having a flexible schedule and lots of opportunities to travel were hugely important to them. Of course they put in a lot of hard work to be successful, but the long term benefits and the fun they had along the way made it all worthwhile.

4. Invest in Yourself

There are countless options for investing your hard-earned money, but few of them provide a return that’s controlled by you. When you own and operate a retail travel agency franchise, your success and the equity you build are directly tied to the effort you put in. Plus, the Expedia CruiseShipCenters model provides an infinite ability to grow and scale, so that when the time comes to sell your business, you’ve built a sizeable and valuable asset.

Are you ready to make a change in 2017?

Learn more about the many benefits of owning a cruise franchise with the #1 brand in travel by completing the form below. You’ll gain immediate access to our Free Franchise Report, which includes everything you need to know about how to start a travel business in your community.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Forecasts Wave of Franchise Growth in 2017

Cruise Industry Leader Looks to Build upon Record Setting 2016

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Tustin was one of 33 new locations to open in 2016. Photo credit: Anthony Wang & the Tustin Chamber of Commerce.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Tustin, CA was one of 33 new locations to open in 2016. Photo credit: Anthony Wang & the Tustin Chamber of Commerce.

 

BELLEVUE, Wash.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The top cruise travel agency franchise in North America, Expedia CruiseShipCentersannounced a record-setting year after ending 2016 with exciting growth. The brick and mortar travel agency chain achieved over $560 million in gross bookings in 2016, with 18% year-over-year growth in fourth quarter gross bookings. The brand also opened 33 new franchise locations and welcomed 1,300 new Vacation Consultants to their network last year. Looking forward to 2017, Expedia CruiseShipCenters expects another record-setting year with 40 new franchise openings projected.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters experienced several major shifts in 2016 that provided a strong foundation for the brand to deepen and expand its roots. From the brand’s President, Matthew Eichhorst, assuming a new role with the Expedia group as the head of global cruise, to members of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters team receiving recognition at international industry events, like Christine Brown’s Rising Star award, the brand is poised to reach its goal of 500 operating locations over the next five years. At every level of leadership within the organization, members are keeping a finger on the pulse of the rapidly changing and thriving cruise industry.

“As we celebrate our 30th year in business, we’re reflecting on all that we’ve done to bring Expedia CruiseShipCenters to the forefront of the cruise industry, and how we’ve stood behind our commitment to deliver professional expertise and a fantastic service experience to each and every customer,” said Eichhorst. “The outlook on the cruise industry continues to strengthen as technology and new innovative approaches to the decades-old trend inspire generation after generation of travelers. The last year was just as impressive for the industry as it was for our brand.”

In 2016, the brand was honored to receive the following awards from cruise line partners: Celebrity Cruises’ North American Partner of the Year, Royal Caribbean International’s National Partner of the Year, Norwegian’s Franchise Partner of the Year and Carnival Cruises’ Outstanding Cruise Rookie Partner. Rounding out a strong year of accolades, the brand was also featured in Franchise Business Review’s Top 50 Franchises.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ growth is in part driven by the recent resurgence in the cruising industry. As noted in the recent Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) report, cruises are being offered at lower prices leading to an increase in travelers booking vacations; passenger volume on cruise ships is up nine percent from one year ago. The study also estimates 25.3M passengers are expected to cruise in 2017, up from 15.8M just 10 years prior. Additionally, CLIA reports that 26 new ocean, river and specialty ships are scheduled to debut in the coming year resulting in a total investment of more than $6.8B in new vessels.

With the brand’s proven business model – affordable to start and extremely scalable – combined with its focus on providing spectacular customer service and the rapid growth of the cruise industry overall, Expedia CruiseShipCenters is looking to award 40 new franchises in 2017. The leading travel company is seeking franchisees across the United States, with particular focus on Washington, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and New York which the company has identified as key markets for development. These states, within easy driving distance of cruise departure ports, provide the ideal foundation for a new travel agency franchise.

For more information about franchise opportunities with Expedia CruiseShipCenters continue learning about our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

 

5 Benefits of Starting a Franchise vs. an Independent Business

Why the franchise industry will reach $710 Billion in 2017 and how you can be a part of it with Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

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At the recent annual convention held by the International Franchise Association, attendees across most industries were very optimistic. That’s because franchising as a whole is on the rise. In fact, according to a report by IHS Economics, the overall economic output of the franchise industry is expected to increase 5.3% to $710 billion in 2017.

So why are more and more North Americans turning to franchising as a way to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams and what are the benefits of joining a franchise vs. starting an independent business?

Here are 5 things you can expect when you join a reputable, well-established franchise like Expedia CruiseShipCenters:

1. A recognizable brand, from day one

First and foremost, having an immediately recognizable brand that inspires trust and conveys value to consumers the day you open the doors of your business is a huge advantage for franchisees that join established companies. Building a brand is hard. It takes time, effort and usually a lot of money to make yourself known, not only as a place that sells X, but also as a good place to buy X in your community. When you can skip that step and immediately focus your efforts on building a base of loyal customers, your ramp up phase is that much faster.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owner from Orange County, Chris Meyer, describes how important having the Expedia brand has been to building his travel agency franchise:

“I think the Expedia name is huge. It is a household name that has instant credibility and instant familiarity,” Chris says. “And also the instant thought: ‘Oh, they are big — they must have good prices.’ That is a big differentiator. Most of our competitors don’t have a big brand for people to connect with.”

2. The power to negotiate with the big industry players

It’s not rocket science to figure out that 100 stores selling the same product have more buying power than one store selling that product. So unless you’re selling artisanal ketchup that consumers are willing to pay a premium for, you’re going to have a hard time competing on price as an independent business. As part of a large franchise network, however, you get to leverage the industry relationships that your franchisor has already established on your behalf.

In the cruise industry, our negotiating power benefits Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ 230+ franchise locations and their customers in a number of ways. Not only does our massive sales volume for cruises ensure our pricing is always competitive, we can also negotiate top-tier commissions for our franchisees and their agents which ultimately boosts the profitability of our stores. Our Senior Vice President of Franchise & Supplier Performance, Geraldine Ree, explains why this is especially important to for new franchisees in the video below.

Since 75% of all cruises are still sold through travel agents according to Cruise Lines International Association, our cruise line partners rely on us to fill their ships which often allows us to negotiate exclusive extras for our clients, like onboard cash credits, free upgrades, or other amenities, that customers can’t get booking elsewhere – not even online. When our franchisees can offer competitive pricing, exclusive extras and incredible service, there’s no reason for clients to book travel anywhere else.

3. Peace of mind

Starting your own business takes a huge leap of faith. Making that jump into the unknown world of self-employment can be scary, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. One of the benefits of starting a franchise is that you own your own business, but you’re not stepping into completely unknown territory. You get the perks of being your own boss, doing something you love, and controlling your own destiny, but with the comfort of knowing that there’s a proven system behind you. A franchise provides a how-to guide based on years of experience that shows you exactly how to make your business successful.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we’ve been continuously improving our system and the way we operate our stores since we started in 1987. That’s 30 years of experience that has helped us become the one of North America’s leading sellers of cruise vacations and a top ranked franchise year after year. But we’re not finished yet. We believe we can always be better; for our customers, for our agents, and for our franchisees who depend on us to deliver on our mission: To empower our franchisees with a proven system to grow a profitable and valuable business.

4. A built-in support network

One of the biggest benefits of joining a franchise that often comes as a surprise is the built in support network you get from your fellow franchise owners. 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. When you start an independent business, that support network is either non-existent, or much more difficult to find.

Our culture of Stronger.Together at Expedia CruiseShipCenters is ingrained in our core values and our franchisees take it to heart. They share best practices with one another and support each other in achieving their business goals. Of course there’s a healthy spirit of competition among them, but at the end of the day, each franchisee’s success contributes to the success of our overall brand. We’re all in this together.

5. An asset to sell when the time comes

If you’ve built a successful business, it will be worth something when you decide to sell it. But how much it’s worth and how easily you can sell it may vary greatly between independent and franchised businesses. The fact that your business also comes with all the other franchise benefits we mentioned will make it an even more attractive asset to prospective buyers. They’re not only buying a business, they’re buying an established system and brand that comes with initial training and ongoing support. Another benefit of joining a franchise is that your transition out of the business much easier because the operations manual is already written and the start-up team is already in place to get the new owner of your store up and running.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, our goal is to not only help our franchisees generate income, but also to help them build long-term equity in their business. All of our support is aimed at increasing their profitability and building value in their business so that when the time comes to sell, they should be getting a solid return on their initial investment. Plus, our dedicated Refranchising team at Expedia CruiseShipCenters is there to guide franchisees through the process of selling their business when the time comes.

Continue Learning About Expedia CruiseShipCenters

The benefits of starting a franchise are numerous and extend far beyond the five we mentioned. But of course, not all franchise opportunities are equal and you should make sure to conduct your due diligence before making a decision. 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.