Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Kyle Matheson of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

A growing industry, customer-centric culture, and big brand name led this hotel executive to trade land for sea.

A life-long traveler, Kyle Matheson, shares his experience taking over an existing franchise location and reveals what he believes is the key differentiator setting Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors.

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

Kyle: Most recently I was the Director of Sales for the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver, BC, but I’ve always worked in tourism and hospitality. I started in the travel business as a tour guide for my dad’s corporate event company and transitioned into hotels in 2000 and I have spent the last 18 years in sales and marketing for hotels.

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

Kyle: There are a couple of things that led my wife, Tammy, and I to Expedia CruiseShipCenters. I could see the cruise market being an area for growth with every year at least 50,000 more people cruising through the port of Vancouver alone. We initially looked at a couple independent travel agencies, but once we attended Discovery Day for Expedia CruiseShipCenters we were sold. We realized that we could own our own travel agency that specializes in cruise, and get the technology, marketing, and the Expedia brand recognition, it was really a no-brainer for us to go with the travel franchise option.

Originally, we were looking to open a new Expedia franchise, but there weren’t any available in our area so we started looking at existing locations for sale and purchased one of the original 10 Centers ever built.

Why an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise?

Kyle: The very first thing we noticed about Expedia CruiseShipCenters was the support. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has great technology, customer management systems, good marketing programs as well as a large corporate team that help us. On top of that, we are backed by Expedia, the largest brand in travel which allows us to offer the best deals and our Travel Consultants can earn higher levels of commission.

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

Kyle: It’s really about the service that we offer. Everybody says they have great service but what I like about Expedia CruiseShipCenters is that it’s backed up by the training. We’ve added 10 new Consultants in the past year and to be able to put them through a set of training that formalizes what they’re meant to do — how to take care of a guest, how to look for customers, how to qualify properly, how to match the customer to the right cruise line — all of that is really drilled home through the training and in the end is what benefits the client. It’s all about living the Promise that Expedia CruiseShipCenters puts forward.

How do you find your customers?

Kyle: I think when you buy a franchise you’ve got to jump in with both feet and really work the system. We participate in every one of the flyer mailings, email blasts and Facebook marketing initiatives. For our Center, the secret sauce for finding new customers and hosting an event in conjunction with the 7 core promotions Expedia CruiseShipCenters has each year. Sometimes we’ll hold the event here in the Center and other times at an offsite location like a golf course or a community venue. Partnering with a participating cruise line and holding an event around the promotion provides a reason for people to act on the marketing we’ve sent them and has been a real winner for us.

The other thing I’d say is when you buy a business you need to put work into it. I tell potential new franchise owners on the validation calls, you’ve got to keep recruiting and promoting top of mind and constantly network. I’ve had three leads just from standing in bank line-ups! If the opportunity comes up to have a meaningful conversation and I’ve got my branded Expedia CruiseShipCenters shirt on I jump on it.

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

Kyle:Kyle: I believe it’s important to build strong relationships with our customers to drive repeat business. I’m so lucky to have such a great team of Vacation Consultants who are passionate about travel and love helping customers book memorable vacations. If some issues come arise either before, during or after our customers trip, we can work together and keep their business because we have a good relationship. Creating a deep customer connection allows us to follow up after their vacation and ask if they enjoyed that 75th birthday trip or that 15th wedding anniversary cruise was and if they would like to plan their next vacation.

What aspects of this business do you enjoy the most?

Kyle: For me, it’s the people. I don’t think people get into the hospitality business if they don’t enjoy being part of a team and bringing people together. We get to deal with clients when they are at their happiest. They’re dreaming about their next vacation or their bucket list trip or a special occasion, and that’s just fun to talk about and be in the office for.

Another thing that I didn’t expect is the great community of Franchise Partners. Quite a few of them have taken the time to have a coffee or a meal with me to let me pick their brain and help me get up to speed and improve my business. I’ve found the entire Expedia CruiseShipCenters community has been super helpful and open.

How would you describe the culture at your center?

Kyle and his team celebrating 1million in sales

Kyle: We celebrate birthdays with wine and cheese at our Center! It really has a family feel, which is something that I like and have tried to foster after working in my own dad’s business. This business is very personal to me. My wife and I have made the investment to do this and we involve our 9-year-old daughter as much as we can. I feel like the people in the office really care about each other and their shared success. The previous owners built a Center where people wanted to be and enjoy each other’s company and I’ve worked hard to continue that so that everyone feels that same level of trust. Some of the Consultants even go on vacation together which I think that says a lot about how well they get along.

 

How has the Expedia CruiseShipCenters corporate support team helped you launch and grow your business since you started?

Kyle: Since I joined the Expedia family I’m felt consistent support from the corporate team from the very beginning. I felt like the corporate head office truly wanted to get to know me and understand what I was looking for in a franchise. My Franchise Performance Coach is awesome at helping me grow my business in the right direction. She’s encouraging, but also knows I like numbers and benchmarks so she gives me all the information I need. She’s also great at providing the check for blind spots and is always encouraging me to recruit. The proof is in the pudding: halfway through this year we were already over half of our growth and it is from the new Consultants we added last year who are now starting to hit their stride. Without her support and encouragement, we wouldn’t have been as successful.

Where do you see your business in 5 or 10 years? How do you see your lifestyle changing as a result of your business growth?

Kyle: Even though we’re an established Center, I’m still in growth mode. When I look at the high performers in the Expedia CruiseShipCenters system they have more Consultants. We have 32 Consultants right now and I’d like to get to 50, while still maintaining our great Center culture. I see us growing over the next 5 years with Tammy ideally joining the business in the next year or two.
In terms of lifestyle changes, I truly have more flexibility now. Working in hotels, especially at the leadership/executive level, it was hard to get away and have family time. The biggest change in my life since buying my Expedia franchise is I have been to every single one of my daughter’s dance recitals and school assemblies because I’m my own boss.

Kyle and his wife Tammy – Korto hike

 

 

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For more in-depth details on how you can be your own boss and open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters retail travel franchise, fill out the form below.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Veteran Franchisee Feature: Francis James

Open your own Expedia franchise and be your own boss

Join forces with the largest brand in travel paired with a proven system and over 30 years of experience. Expedia CruiseShipCenters is seeking passionate travelers who are natural leaders to join its expanding network of franchise owners. We are proud to support Veterans and First Responders as they pursue their business ownership dreams by opening a retail travel franchise is their community. Our franchise model is a great fit for Veterans and First Responders where they can apply their previous experience and dedication by leading and developing a successful team of travel consultants.

Francis James – Santa Clarita, CA

Meet veteran franchise owner, Francis James. Francis joined the Expedia family earlier this year and opened his Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Santa Clarita, California. Previously, he had worked for Fortune 500 companies and the Department of Defense and has 35 years’ experience problem solving, leading, managing, financing and business operations. Francis began his career following graduation from the Air Force Academy as an Air Force Officer, serving as a Project Manager for large-scale defense acquisitions. After 10 years of active duty and transitioning to the Air Force Reserves, he became Comptroller for field funds disbursement operations at March Air Reserve Base in California, where he retired as Lieutenant Colonel.  Concurrent with his Reserve role in the Air Force, Francis started civilian life as a Financial Consultant for American Express and Merrill Lynch before becoming a Finance Manager for several corporations. Over the past two decades, Francis has worked in various senior management positions where he gained great mentoring and leadership skills.

Before discovering the Expedia franchise opportunity, he worked as a Senior Manager of Financial Planning & Analysis for a medical technology company. Ready for a new challenge, Francis found the Expedia franchise opportunity and was drawn to helping people plan spectacular vacations while being his own boss. When Francis isn’t running his Center, he enjoys spending time with family including his three kids ages 17, 20, and 23.

Are you a Veteran or First Responder looking to transition into a new career where you can build equity and have a fun lifestyle? You may be eligible for a 15% discount off the initial franchise fee! Click here to learn more about our Veterans and First Responders program.

Learn More

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is committed to setting all franchise owners up for success. We believe your success is our success and we provide franchise owners the tools and support needed to achieve their business goals. Learn more about our proven franchise model and award-winning technology as part of our franchise discovery process by completing the form below.

In the News: Expedia CruiseShipCenters Receives Top Honors at World’s Leading Cruise Line Excellence Awards 2018

The article was published September 2018 in FranchiseHarbor and FranchiseFarm

Koreen McNutt – Senior Director, Global Cruise Supply Commercial Strategy and Services

Bellevue, Wash. – The leading cruise travel agency franchise in North America, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, was the recipient of three prestigious awards at this year’s World’s Leading Cruise Lines Excellence Awards. Carnival Corporation’s three largest North American cruise brands, top cruise retail organizations, as well as travel agencies and agents from across the continent gathered in San Diego for the formal awards ceremony.

Sales and marketing representatives from Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises were on hand to celebrate excellence in cruise sales in 12 categories on the national and regional levels as well as sectors of the business, such as consortia, franchises and online agencies. Expedia Group was presented with the first-ever Princess Cruises – Presidents Award, and Expedia CruiseShipCenters was presented with the Carnival Cruise Lines – Retail Partner of the Year Award and Holland America Line – Franchise Agency Network Award.

“We are thrilled to have been recognized for these top honors as it is a direct reflection of the hard work of all of us at Expedia CruiseShipCenters and the Global Cruise Team,” said Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “We see this as a testament to our commitment to maintaining the highest level of respect for our relationships with our partners and customers alike, and look forward to continued long-lasting relationships for years to come.”

Adding to these notable achievements, Expedia CruiseShipCenters also broke into Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise 500 ranking. With 165 locations in Canada and 90 in the United States, the brand is moving full steam ahead with expansion plans. Riding this wave of success, Expedia CruiseShipCenters plans to open more franchise locations in 2018 with a particular focus on Florida, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Washington and Arizona – to best serve travelers across the country.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers cruise vacations and more through its 255 locations across North America. Customers can choose from numerous vacation possibilities over land, sea and air, including customized trips, coach and rail tours, and insurance – all at Expedia prices. Each franchise location offers personal vacation consultations in person, through email or over the phone, so customers have the freedom to book when, where, and how they choose. As part of the Expedia family of brands, customers get to enjoy the best of two worlds: competitive pricing on a wide range of travel products and expert, personalized advice from a real person connected to a locally owned business.

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.

Meet some of our Newest Franchise Owners

Join forces with Expedia the most recognized brand in travel

Are you considering a career change? Imagine owning your own Expedia CruiseShipCenters retail travel agency franchise and serving your community as navigators of spectacular vacation experiences! The cruise industry is booming with 27.2 million people expected to set sail in 2018 according to Cruise Lines International Association, we continue to grow our brand and are seeking new franchise owners across North America. You might be surprised to learn that previous travel experience isn’t a requirement for our exciting opportunity – in fact, our franchise owners come from a variety of backgrounds but share the common trait of strong leadership skills and a passion to recruit and train a team.

Last year we welcomed 24 new friendly faces to the Expedia family. Meet a few of our newest franchise owners who have recently opened their doors.

Clay Platt – Chula Vista, CA

Franchise owner, Clay Platt, has always had a love for travel from a young age. Before he married his wife of 25 years he completed his pilot license and enjoyed flying to Baja California for fun, his interest in travelling continued throughout his career as a long-distance driving instructor for semi-trailer truck drivers. When he discovered the Expedia franchise opportunity he knew it would combine his passions of recruiting and training a team and travelling. Clay’s positive attitude and presence in his local community has made his Expedia CruiseShipCenters a great addition to the community in Chula Vista, CA.

Paul Coplan – Glenview, Il

Franchise owner, Paul Coplan, is a long-standing resident of the Northern Chicago area. Before owning his own Expedia franchise, he was the sole proprietor at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange as well as a managing partner of Triangle Trading LLC for 27 years. He was ready for a career change and his experience in mentoring and leading teams made him a perfect fit for the Expedia CruisShipCenters franchise opportunity. Paul and his wife have three children and they love traveling in their spare time.

Brenda and Eric Skogen – Castle Rock, CO

Franchise owners, Brenda and Eric Skogen, opened their Center in December 2017 in Castle Rock, Colorado. Brenda came into the business with some previous travel experience with certification as a Travel Counselor and as a Global Travel Professional and has been in the Corporate Travel Management industry for over 20 years. Eric has more than 15 years of progressive IT education was the IT Director for Briotix – a company specializing in workforce performance solutions. Both Benda and Eric’s shared experience supporting and managing large groups of people has given them the ability to recruit and lead a strong team of Vacation Consultants. When Brenda heard of the Expedia Franchise opportunity she knew it was something she wanted to pursue. In their free time, Brenda and Eric enjoy boating and spending time with their three kids, three dogs, and two chinchillas.

Lisa Maxwell and Al Acorn – Bowmanville, ON

Franchise owners, Lisa and Al, have been married for 11 years and opened their Center in Bowmanville, Ontario in September 2017. Prior to franchise ownership, both Lisa and Al worked at Ontario Power Generation, Lisa for 28 years working her way up the ranks to become the Maintenance Specialist and Al for 33 years as a Senior Advisor. After Lisa’s retirement she became a Vacation Consultant at a nearby Expedia CruiseShipCenters and was inspired to build equity in her own Center. Lisa and Al’s experience training and managing teams has given them a great foundation to opening their own Expedia franchise and recruiting a team of their own Vacation Consultants.

When you join forces with Expedia CruiseShipCenters no previous travel experience is required. We set our franchise owners up for success, providing the tools and training necessary to hit the ground running from day one. We continue to search for passionate leaders across North America who are eager to open their own business and join the most recognized brand in travel.

Learn More

Are you ready to be your own boss? To learn more about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters opportunity, complete the form below and receive our Franchise Information Report, which includes more detail on our proven system and how you can bring our retail travel agency to your community.

You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here

Meet the Franchise Services Start-up Team

Dedicated Resources Guiding You Through Opening Your Center

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we take great pride in providing new franchise owners with the tools and guidance to set them up for success. From the moment you sign your Franchise agreement and join the Expedia family our Startup Team of Franchising Managers and Franchise Service members help guide you through the process to launch your Center. The first step is beginning our startup process where our dedicated Franchise Services team will support you through your physical location selection, Center design and construction planning, licensing, and getting set-up with all suppliers to hit the ground running.

Meet Alicia Reilly – Franchise Services Manager

Alicia is an experienced Expedian having worn a variety of hats within Expedia CruiseShipCenters over the past 10 years she knows the business inside and out. Alicia’s background in project management and hospitality has excelled her in the role as Franchise Services Manager. She works closely with each new franchise owner guiding them through every step of the startup process. She works closely with the Franchise Service Coordinator throughout location set-up and compliance with the franchise agreement seeing them through to the milestone of officially opening their doors for business! Get to know Alicia better in this Q&A!

What advice would you give franchise owners?
Trust the system and believe in yourself! This can be an overwhelming endeavor but with our tools and support you will find the process is efficient and focused on getting your doors open as quickly as possible.

What is of your favorite vacation?
While on a multi-generation family trip to Amsterdam (which was also incredible) my husband and I got to leave the kids behind with my in-laws and we took the high-speed train to Paris for a few days. This has been on my bucket list since I was a little girl. A few of the highlights included drinking champagne while sitting on top the Eiffel tower overlooking the city at night, riding bikes along the river discovering the most beautiful parts of Paris and tasting the most amazing macarons along the way… I was in heaven.

Where is your next dream vacation?
Cambodia has been on my list for a long time now and is one of the few places my husband has not been to, he has travelled the world and is usually my tour guide on any vacation we take – it will be a new adventure to visit a country where we are both experiencing it for the first time.

Meet Lyzbeth Aranda – Franchise Services Coordinator

Lyzbeth’s passion for travel and tourism led her to accomplish a Bachelor of Arts in Tourism Business Administration in her hometown, Mexico City. After moving to Canada, she completed a Marketing Management certificate as well as a Business and Hospitality Management certificate. She worked at Air Canada Vacations as a Groups Coordinator and gained a solid background in communication and support. Lyzbeth’s role as Franchise Services Coordinator is managing all technical and supplier set up for all new franchise owners, relocations, and refranchising locations. Her positive attitude, previous work experience and fluency in three languages makes her a strong asset supporting the franchise startup process!

What advice would you give franchise owners?
My advice to new franchise owners is to keep your motivation and excitement level high while building your business, even if takes longer than expected, when you work hard for your dreams, at the end of the process, you will feel great satisfaction once you see the positive results.

What is of your favorite vacation?
I have been very fortunate to have great travel experiences to share, each place has its charm and travelling it has always helped me to discover new Cultures and gastronomy. One of my favorite trips so far was traveling to Europe with my mother, we visited some of the major cities such as London, Brussels, Rome, Florence, Venice and Paris, they have lots culture and architecture to offer and we really enjoyed all the incredible food!

Where is your next dream vacation?
My next dream vacation will be visiting Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, I haven’t visited Asia before, so I am sure it will be amazing discovering their ancient temples and to visit an elephant and tiger sanctuary; and I would love to go to Ko Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

The start-up process is an important step in the launch of your business as a new franchise owner. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we are committed to setting you up for success from day one. Alicia and Lyzbeth are dedicated to helping open your doors four to six months after signing your Franchise Agreement.

Learn More

Are you ready to be your own boss and launch your own business? Learn more about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity and complete the form below to receive our franchise information brochure here.

In the News: Love to Travel? You Might be the Perfect Franchisee at This Company.

With Expedia CruiseShipCenters, you’ll never work a day if you’re passionate about what you do.

The video was published August 2018 on Entrepreneur

Booking travel online can be easy and convenient. We’ve all done it. But when it comes to booking complex travel like a cruise vacation, it often helps to have the special touch of a real-life, human travel agent. The people behind Expedia CruiseShipCenters realize this and have made it the foundation of their retail travel agency franchise business.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners lead and develop a team of vacation consultants who are dedicated to helping cruisegoers in their community navigate every option—from which ship to choose, to which itinerary is best, to meal times, and more—to find the getaway of their dreams. They not only sell cruises but are a full-service retail travel agency selling air, hotels and vacation packages as well.

And they’re looking for new franchisees—if you love to travel. “It’s really a passion business,” says Jeff Warkentin, a Franchise Development Manager for Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “You get to travel, you get to meet people, you get to talk about travel every day.” In other words, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters—which is part of the Expedia Group network of travel brands—started franchising in 1987 and has more than 255 retail travel agency locations throughout North America. Initial investment will run a franchisee between about $165,000 and $282,000, including the franchise fee of $39,000 and 18 to 36 months of working capital.

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.

In the News: The 4 Techniques That Helped Me Walk the Fine Line of Work and Single Motherhood

Being disciplined with your time is one of the most important skills a momtrepreneur needs to master

The story appeared in the July 2018 edition of Entrepreneur

There’s no such thing as an easy path to entrepreneurship, and being a single mom makes that journey even more difficult. As a franchise business owner and single mother myself, I speak from experience when I say that maintaining a business while raising the ones I love most can be challenging. Yet, despite the challenges, my role as single momtrepreneur is one I wear with pride. When you’re surrounded by the two things that excite you most — your kids and your business — every day is a learning experience. So, if you too are a single mother looking to pursue your dreams as an entrepreneur, here are a few things I did that helped me get to where I am today.

Be transparent with your priorities

Being disciplined with your time is one of the most important skills a momtrepreneur needs to learn. Establishing a natural rhythm in alternating your attention among your children, clients and workforce will help you find your footing on the journey. Entrepreneurship by no means is a 9-to-5 job, but creating a list of priorities and a road map for your day will help you feel less overwhelmed.

It’s also important to recognize your limits. I used to be an overachiever working eight- to 12-hour days for six days a week, and although my business was growing and we were in one of our busiest seasons, I realized that I wasn’t giving the proper amount of attention to my kids. I needed to make a change.

To adjust, I learned to be transparent with my team about my need (and maybe their need too!) to balance time with my family; and I made sure they understood what times they could and couldn’t reach me.

For example, I encourage my team to text and email me any time the need arises, but unless it’s an emergency I may not be able to reply until regular business hours. While it took some time for the team members to adjust, everyone came to understand that life outside of a business is just as important as life inside.

Be crystal clear with your team and lay out some ground rules on when and how you can be reached outside of the office. At the beginning of every week, I bring my team together to identify goals and discuss how we plan to reach them. Creating this outline will help you manage your workload in the office, while also allowing you to plan your day-to-day obligations as a mom.

Don’t suffer alone

Momtrepreneurs need to understand that there are some instances when things are out of our hands. Trying to be perfect at juggling everything around you is the tempting thing to do, but it takes a certain level of bravery to be vulnerable and to ask for help when help is needed. Whether it’s seeking out assistance from the team you’ve built firsthand or seeking out guidance from your family, understand that it’s the recovery that’s more important than the fall. How you bounce back will shape how you charge ahead further down the road.

One great way to find help is to form a network of mothers in your neighborhood. Early on as a parent, I organized a playgroup of more than 30 families, allowing us to get together on a regular basis to socialize and discuss the challenges we faced. Any kind of network, whether a book club or sports group, is a great way to get people together, so find a way to better connect yourself with those around you.

Use online resources, as well. Whether you turn to a site like Meetup.com, which helps you find others with similar interests and hobbies, or an app like 2Houses, which helps keep track of your children’s schedules, or to a meditation tool like Stop Breathe & Think, find — and use — the tools that can assist with your work and personal life.

Team up with your kids

Children are very inquisitive, and one of the duties of a parent is to foster that curiosity. As a momtrepreneur, I’ve realized that one of the best places to nurture my children is right there in my office. They don’t understand every intricacy of my travel business, but showing them around and even letting them “work” is a great way for me to spend time with my kids while getting things done.

Giving my children assignments in the office is more than simple delegation. My kids sometimes sweep up and keep things tidy, put stamps on envelopes or shred papers that I no longer need. I also take them to community events.

Children can be great ambassadors to a brand. I ask them to help with direct marketing at events and to greet potential customers. And all of these activities allow me to harness my children’s curiosity, giving them a leg up on life while also showing them the working world.

Celebrate every victory

I used to think that my life would be defined by a few key moments, but I’m learning every day that it’s the little moments with both my kids and my team that I cherish.

Yes, birthdays, graduations and record sales deserve their own celebrations, but I have begun to appreciate and prefer the small moments of human connection, too. Reading a book to my kids before they fall asleep or helping a family find a cruise destination that’s perfect for them brings me an immense sense of joy and satisfaction. Moments like these are the ones that make my work as a momtrepreneur meaningful, and keep me motivated to continue on this journey.

Running a business while raising a family is definitely a challenge, but it’s one I look forward to taking every day. I know that every day is an opportunity to become a better person, both as a successful entrepreneur and a loving mother.

Click here to read this article on entrepreneur.com

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.

Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Erica Tulloch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Passion, customer service, and drive are the fast-track ingredients to building a successful center

Fresh to the travel industry, new Franchise Partner Erica Tulloch reflects on owning her own Expedia Franchise, and the joys of recruiting and leading a team.

Here’s Erica’s story:

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

Erica: I used to work for Alberta Health Services as an administrative assistant Prior to that I worked in the home and auto insurance industry as an insurance agent. This role was very people-oriented; however, the product was not very exciting. I was passionate about helping people, but people were not passionate about paying their insurance but now my clients are excited about visiting my Center and booking their next adventure.

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

Erica: I was familiar with the franchise business model as my sister owns a successful bakery franchise. I saw how hard she worked and decided that I wanted to own my own franchise, and I wanted to do something that I am passionate about. My family and I are always on the go and really love to travel so I did my research and Expedia came up as the number one brand in travel. I learned about all the awesome support, training, and systems offered by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and it seemed like a great fit for me with and blueprints to success provided.

Why is your community ideal for an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise?

Erica: I thought the east end of Edmonton was underserviced and would be perfect for an Expedia CruiseShipCenters since the area needed more retail services. There is some shopping in the area, but no specialty shops, and I was able to secure a very good location, right across from a McDonald’s, and next to a subway. We get lots of foot traffic from both restaurants. It helps to have a retail location where people can come and book travel.

Erica’s Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Edmonton

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

Erica: At Expedia CruiseShipCenters having exceptional customer service is important for us. We really care about our clients and our relationships with them. We ask our clients about their dream travel destinations, and then match our products to their desires.
We provide a retail travel agency location that allows customers to drop by and book travel with our expert Travel Consultants. We have such strong relationships with our customers that they come back to our center after their vacation to tell us all about it!

How do you find your customers?

Erica: I start by simply following the system and doing my due diligence. We utilize our personal network to let as many people know where the center is and that we’re open for business. We also take advantage of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters flyer and marketing program. During our promotion seasons, I send out about 10,000 flyers to people in our designated market area. When people get our flyers and learn about our retail location they are happy to know they can come into our center, sit down, and talk to a real person who will take care of all their travel needs.
I also use email and Facebook marketing, that is coordinated through the corporate office. For example, when a big promotion is happening, the corporate team will send out an email to everyone in our database and run Facebook ads on behalf of our center. It’s great to have the help from the corporate team!

What has your experience been like recruiting and leading a team of vacation consultants?

Erica: It’s been a lot of fun! Everyone I’ve brought on board is passionate about travel and the work they are doing. They are always looking for other ways to promote the business. My consultants really enjoy working at the center, and I have enjoyed recruiting and leading them too. I’m passionate about my team, helping customers, and planning vacations. I see it less of me leading my team, but more as collaborating and brainstorming with my consultants on ideas for how to grow the center and get involved with the community.

Are there specific qualities that you look for in a vacation consultant?

Erica: I look for someone who is very customer service oriented first and foremost. Having passion and willingness to go the extra mile to service our customers is very important. We want our customers to leave here feeling like they’ve been helped, and they can come back anytime to book another vacation with us.

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

Erica: We ask a lot of questions when they first come in here. We had a couple walk into our center the other day, who were going to Australia. They had already booked their flights and hotels but were looking for a car rental. So, we booked them a car, but we were curious and asked them about where they wanted to go next after Australia. They shared their dreams of visiting Dubai and taking a cruise on the new Princess ship. By the time they left the center, we were already preparing the booking for their Dubai trip and they would be back in to complete the booking when they returned from Australia.
We are personable and really care about our customers making sure their vacations are everything they dreamed of.

What aspects of this business do you enjoy the most?

Erica: I really enjoy leading my team of consultants and being in the office. I like researching new ships and learning about clients dream destinations. Whether it’s interviewing, recruiting new consultants, or meeting new customers I love the people aspect of this industry.

How would you describe the culture at your center?

Erica: It’s super fun and positive. We are welcoming to new Vacation Consultants and new customers. When customers come into our center my team is great at them feel comfortable and leaving with a positive impression.

How has the Expedia CruiseShipCenters corporate support team helped you launch and grow your business since you started?

Erica: They have done a tremendous job. The coaching has been one of the major assets to the franchisee training program. Throughout the initial training and setting up my center the corporate team has helped me through the entire process. When we first opened our doors, my Franchise Performance Coach was there to make sure everything went smoothly and is always available for support via email or and phone.

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

Erica: I’d like to focus on growing and nurturing my center, and potentially open a second center in my designated area. In five years I hope I’ll be able to travel more to new places. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has great business model and in the future, I hope I can hire an Office Manager, which will allow me to take more time to be with my family and do my own travel. I am happy I was able to build a business around travel because being passionate about it makes it that much more enjoyable.

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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.

In the News: Expedia CruiseShipCenters Rides Innovation Wave, Projects Significant 2018 Growth in Franchises

This story appeared in the February 2018 edition of PRNewswire.

BELLEVUE, Wash., Feb. 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The top cruise travel agency franchise in North America, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, announced today a milestone-heavy year for the growing brand. The brick and mortar travel agency achieved 20 percent year-over-year growth, opened 25 new franchise locations and welcomed a record-breaking 1,773 new Vacation Consultants to its network. Looking forward to 2018, the brand expects another high performing year with 35 new franchise openings projected.

Adding to the several notable growth achievements over the past year, Expedia CruiseShipCenters broke into Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise 500 ranking. The prestigious ranking is a testament to the brand’s ability to grow its footprint across North America while continuing to provide unparalleled franchisee support and customer service. Riding this wave of success, the leading travel company has announced plans to develop new and established markets across the United States in 2018, with particular focus on Florida, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Washington and Arizona.

“2017 was a terrific year, and it has provided us with insight on what we’ll be capable of achieving in 2018,” said Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “As the industry continues to thrive, with fleets expanding and new lines being introduced to the waters, we’re eager to play an integral part of this booming business while continuing to welcome new Franchise Partners and Vacation Consultants to our expanding network.”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ growth is in part driven by the continued expansion of the cruising industry. As noted in the recent Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) report, cruise travel is expected to rise in 2018, boosting the global economy. An estimated 27.2M passengers are expected to cruise (demand has increased 20.5 percent in last five years). Additionally, 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships are scheduled to debut. After years of stagnant performance, the cruise industry is coming back with a vengeance, contributing more than $126B in total output worldwide.

In addition to stimulating growth of the brand’s internal assets and franchise development, Expedia CruiseShipCenters was recognized by several industry leaders, receiving the President’s Award for Overall Achievement from Royal Caribbean International, Chairman’s Award from Carnival Cruise Line, 2017 Canadian Retail Partner of the Year from MSC Cruises, Travel Agency Partner West (awarded to Expedia CruiseShipCenters Port Coquitlam) and Travel Agency Partner Quebec (awarded to Expedia CruiseShipCenters Quebec) from Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Canada Region Strategic Market Account of the Year from Celebrity Cruises (Awarded to Expedia CruiseShipCenters Oakville South). Each honor provided further example of how Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ franchisees set the industry standard in quality and service, pushing the brand forward as a top competitor in the travel agency space.

Click here to read this article on prnewswire.com

 

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Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Reid and Christy Trego of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Franchise owners Christy and Reid at their Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Roswell, GA.

Partners in life and business, Reid and Christy Trego share their experience in their first year of owning their Center, and how they feel like they couldn’t have done it without their team, or each other.

Here’s Reid and Christy’s story:

What were you doing before becoming Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise partners?

Reid: We both worked for corporate America when we were newly married. We then owned a franchise tutoring business for 11 years. After we sold the tutoring business, we spent some time relaxing, and it gave us a lot of opportunities to travel and have fun. We started looking for something that we could do together, and that’s how we stumbled into the Expedia CruiseShipCenters opportunity.

Having previously owned a franchise, why did you decide that a travel franchise was best for you both?

Christy: The flexibility of being a business owner allowed us to travel more as a family. When we began thinking about our next chapter, and what kind of business we wanted, we liked the idea of owning a business in an industry that we love. We believe that travelling with friends and family is what bonds people together, and to have a business in that vein was really appealing to both of us.

Trego Family Vacation in St.Maarten

How has working together as partners served you as you navigate this new industry together? What is your working dynamic like?

Christy: Overall, we have a very good personal and working relationship. We have defined roles that play to our individual strengths. Reid likes to say that I am a “rows and columns” kind of person, and he’s more “squiggly lines”. Reid is in charge of advertising, marketing, and building relationships with suppliers. He’s great at that! Where I’m more interested in managing our customer’s bookings, and understanding all of the ins and outs of the different cruise lines so that I can spend time training our consultants.

We are fortunate enough to be life partners as well as business partners living happily together.

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

Reid: We have high quality people on our team, and I really enjoy working with them. It’s fun to see our consultants come in and dive right into the work. It’s much easier to steer them in the right direction as long as they’re moving forward. We discuss what their individual goals are and we work together to help them achieve them and in turn we achieve our Center goals as a team.

How would you describe the culture at your Center?

Reid: We knew that having a really positive and fun environment was critical to both of us when creating our team. We try really hard to create a personal relationship with each person, so each of them feel like they have a unique relationship with us. It keeps our consultants loyal, encouraged, and vested in the success of the Center.

Christy: We talk about being part of the “ECSC Roswell Rock Star Team” and how important it is to be supportive of one another all the time. We emphasize how important it is to take care of each customer when greeting them at the door or on the phone – even if they’re someone else’s client. Everyone is willing to pitch in. We have a good balance of motivation and cooperation in our Center.

Franchise owners, Reid and Christy Celebrating $1M in sales with their team.

Why is your community ideal for an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise?

Christy: Roswell, GA is a pretty affluent area. There are a number of neighborhoods around us that have the means and time to travel. It’s also nice that we can drive to a lot of ports. It’s an easy drive for a family who wants to go somewhere exotic without having to book plane tickets.

Reid: Our location is nice because we have a mix of mature and young families in the community. We also used our contacts from our previous business, and community activities, who refer their friends to us. Plus, we coach our travel consultants, to build their book of business by leveraging their own personal and social networks.

You’ve mentioned walk-ins and referrals, but how else do you find your customers?

Reid: We host several events a year in our area and we advertise upcoming promotions in local newspapers and magazines. Having a promotional calendar that is created for us by the corporate team is critical. Those promotions make it easier to talk to prospective customers. You’re not just calling and asking out of the blue to see if they want to book a vacation, but you can use an upcoming promotion as a lead-in to the conversation.

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

Christy: At least in our area, there isn’t any other travel agency option that combines a retail location and big brand recognition like Expedia. As much as people like to use the Internet to do their research and read reviews, it’s rare that a person will look at a $2000-$4000 price tag online and simply click “buy now”. That’s a scary thing to do.  Having a local retail business, and a trusted travel professional nearby is comforting to our customers.

How has the Expedia CruiseShipCenters Corporate Support team helped you launch and grow your business since you started?

Reid: Our experience with the corporate office has exceeded our expectations.  They are incredibly encouraging and responsive to our questions and concerns.  We came into this venture with a solid business background, but we had no travel industry experience, and in under two years, Christy has become a true travel professional and we’ve got a team of professionals who can offer advice that our clients can trust.

Christy: Just as we view our consultants as our clients, I feel that corporate views their Franchise Partners as their clients. When I have an issue or a problem, they are very responsive, helpful, and nice.

What aspects of this business do you enjoy the most?

Christy: I love when I have a client who is excited about a trip, and I can help bring their dream vacation to life. It’s really fun to partner with them and build an amazing vacation experience.

Where do you see your business in 5 years? How do you see your lifestyle changing as a result of your business growth?

Reid: We’re still new but I want to exceed benchmarks year after year. The future looks great for us and I hope we’ll generate enough sales activity where we can hire an office manager. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters will be a household name in Atlanta and the top place to speak with rock star travel consultants in the city.

Christy: Over the next couple of years, I want to continue to develop skills and capabilities of our team members.  I’ve spent the first couple years learning the industry for myself, so I want to get to the point where I can fully dedicate myself to training and supporting our consultants so that each of them is the best travel resource to their own clients and prospects.

What do you love about cruising? Any memorable trips you have taken?

Christy: I think it’s a great way to see a lot of places with minimal effort. Plus, cruising is a great way to travel with a group of friends or family. When you have a large multi-generational family, everyone has different interests but each person can still have their own version of a fun vacation, and still experience it together. My favorite so far was last spring break when we cruised the western Caribbean with our family.

Reid: I love cruising for the same reasons Christy does, but I’m really excited to experience different ships. My favorite trip was one we took to Italy with our kids. It was great trip and we made so many memories with the family.

The Trego family enjoying the Silent Disco on their cruise vacation!

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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.