The article was published in May 2019 in Cruise Week
Bob Tipple, VP franchising, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, reports how this company is expanding in an unexpected way: storefronts.
The fact that a company with “Expedia” in its name is becoming a force in brick and mortar cruise selling is one reason Tipple’s report is not just a boring story of growth. But numbers do help tell the story: “We’ve got 37 more [franchisees] in development as we speak, so this will definitely be a banner year for us,” says Tipple.
Right now, the primary focus of expansion is the Southeast: “We’ve grown exponentially in Florida over the last couple of years, and now Georgia with several multi-unit locations,” notes Tipple.
Moving forward, the Northeast will be a focus. “Also, our focuses are Texas, California, and Illinois, as the greater Chicago area is gaining traction,” he says.
One reason Tipple is confident growth in storefront locations will succeed is that it comes in tandem with cruise expansion: “These five, six thousand passenger ships are just an absolute boon for capacity. And they need us to help fill those cabins.”
The Big Myth
While Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ foray into physical retail locations is not what one might expect from the Internet giant, that’s not the only unexpected thing about this expansion. Just ask John Q. Public what they would think of a successful web company opening a bunch of storefront cruise agencies.
Says Tipple: “When you ask the average person on the street about [storefront] travel agencies, they go, ‘Oh, retail travel agencies? Aren’t they going away? Or haven’t they gone away?'”
He calls it “a big myth” but one that is understandable. “When is the last time we ever would’ve walked into a travel agency to book a flight or a nice hotel somewhere?” asks Tipple. “It’s just way too convenient to do it yourself, and we’ve been trained over the last 20-odd years to do that online.”
But, he continues, using phrases everyone in this business has heard regarding cruise sales: “When it comes to cruising and the complexity and the higher cost of a cruise vacation, that’s where the expertise and the guidance from a travel professional is really gaining steam.”
Enter The Young
The third unexpected feature of Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ expansion is that younger people, relatively speaking, are coming into the business as franchisees.
Tipple draws a contrast with home-based consultants and franchisee operators in this regard. “Regarding the home-based consultants, I would say a lot of them are in a second career,” he says. “But as we bring brand new franchise partners on board, that group is getting younger.”
Specifically, Expedia CruiseShipCenters has opened franchises over the last two years where a lot of the owners grew up cruising with their parents or grandparents. “Some owners are in their late 30s, and many are in their 40s,” he reports.
And oftentimes, a younger franchise owner coming into the business is looking to recruit a team of people in their same general age group.
“So they’re not necessarily going out to look for the 62-year-old second career person,” says Tipple. “They’re looking for somebody who wants to build their own business as a travel consultant. They’re looking for people who have their own circle of influence.”
Whether at home or storefront, he says the demand is growing. “Now these new Gen-Zs are coming along. These people do all their research online, but they don’t know what to do when they finish the research. That’s where the help of a real travel professional comes in.”
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 retail travel agency franchise opportunity here.[/av_textblock]