In the News: Expedia CruiseShipCenters Announces Expansion Plans for Texas

Leading Travel Franchise Seeks to have 23 Texas Locations Open by 2023

Expedia CruiseShipCenters plans to have 23 Locations open in Texas by 2023

TEXAS – PRNewswire, the top cruise retail travel agency franchise in North America, has announced targeted expansion plans to bring additional travel franchise locations to Texas. Joining four locations already open, and an additional seven under development, the leading travel franchise brand plans to have a total of 23 locations open and operating in Texas over the next three to five years.

Folded into an overall growth vision for the brand, the new Texas development efforts are key to Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ goal to reach its 500-location milestone in North America over the next five years. In addition to the four locations already in operation throughout Texas, Expedia CruiseShipCenters has seven locations currently in development in Dallas, McKinney, Houston, San Antonio and Waco, which are all projected to open over the next three to nine months.

“The strength and rapid growth of our brand is influenced by the increased popularity of the cruise industry which has continued to rise over the last decade,” said Bob Tipple, Senior Director of Franchising. “As the third largest state for cruise embarkations, Texas provides enormous potential for cruise vacation sales and is the perfect market for Expedia CruiseShipsCenters to continue its growth.”

According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), over one million cruisers originated from the Lone Star State in 2016 accounting for nearly 10 percent of all North American cruise passengers. As driving distance to port is a key decision-making factor for cruisers, Expedia CruiseShipCenters has identified the state of Texas as a prime market for its retail travel franchise opportunity due to its significant source of cruisers and cruise port in Galveston.

“Texas is the second most populated state in America—and with over 28 million residents residing there, we have room to add over 100 new Centers,” said Tipple. “Our current franchise development plan hones in on the next three years as we look to add 12 more Centers in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as in several other growth markets.”

Additional target markets for Expedia CruiseShipsCenters’ franchise development in Texas includes the greater Houston area, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and several markets in between.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ growth is in part driven by the continued expansion of the cruising industry. As noted in the recent 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.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters provides exceptional value and expert advice for travelers booking cruises and vacations through its network of over 250 retail travel agency franchises. As part of the Expedia group family of brands, the company’s more than 5,000 Vacation Consultants sell a wide range of vacation products including cruises, flights, hotels, vacation packages, tours, excursions and more. The company has been navigating spectacular vacation experiences for customers across North America for 30 years.

With plans to open 23 Texas locations in the next 5 years, Expedia CrusieShipCenters continues to provide business opportunities for driven team leaders who want to build income, equity and a great lifestyle with a retail business they are passionate about.

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

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In the News: Interview with Matthew Eichhorst, President at Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Matthew Eichhorst, speaks candidly about his role overseeing one of the largest retail travel agency franchises, and the business advice he would give to a younger version of himself

This story appeared in the January 2018 edition of USA Weekly.

Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.

Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.

What does your company do?
Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a retail travel agency franchise with over 30 years of success specializing in cruise vacations. Our more than 240 independently owned locations across North America and our network of over 5,300 sellers of travel serve their local communities by navigating spectacular vacation experiences. Although we are the experts in cruise, we are a full-service agency that sells all travel-related products associated with a cruise or standalone non-cruise vacations. As a Franchisor, we provide a proven, turn key system to execute industry leading marketing on a common technology platform backed by our parent company, Expedia Inc. We’re recognized as a top-ranked franchise each year as a result of our continued success and the support we provide to our franchise owners.

What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I am the Global Leader for the cruise line of business for all Expedia companies, and the President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. In my role, I provide day-to-day and long-term strategy to grow our overall business and the success of our individual franchisees. I love being an integral part of this fast-paced and exciting industry for a few reasons. Being in the cruise business, it’s incredibly rewarding being able to bring Expedia CruiseShipCenters to new communities and inspiring others to explore our world. And, with the cruise industry constantly growing and evolving, I’m presented with lots of opportunities to think creatively, act innovatively, and to grow and evolve myself.

What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
The current challenge is really focusing on the vast opportunities that lie ahead for the cruise industry in the next several years. With over 94 ships on order, the market is growing at an unprecedented rate and we truly are entering the Golden Age of Cruising. Our goal is to grow three times faster than the industry, and given how much the industry is accelerating, this could be a true challenge. We aim to do this by investing in our technology, digital marketing, and the operational efficiency of our distribution channel.

If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
If I could go back in time and give my younger self a piece of business advice, it would have been to be more open to taking risks. Although being very calculated with our decisions, there were many indicators that showed the cruise business was going to accelerate and become more mainstream. Taking risks allows for various learning opportunities and personal growth and development. The lessons one learns from taking risks helps them evolve into a leadership position.

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.

Reflecting on Another Great Year

 2017 in review with Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Bellevue, WA Grand Opening

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we continue to gain traction as the largest retail network across North America. Over the course of 2017 we have been actively expanding our brand throughout North America and providing the best tools and systems to our franchise owners to continue to grow a profitable and valuable travel business. As we enter into our 31st year in business we’re proud to share another year of records and even more excitement on the horizon.

Continued Growth Coast to Coast

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

We have plans for further growth across North America and have prime territories available in the United States where 75% of the population lives within driving distance of a cruise port. There’s huge potential for franchise ownership in Florida, Texas, California, Washington, Arizona and Illinois as these states are home to more than half of North American cruisers.

Dropping ANCHOR in Vancouver

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

Another Award Winning Year

The partnerships we continue to build and nurture with our partners is something we take a great deal of pride in and value greatly. We’re honored to also be recognized with the following awards from a few of our biggest travel partners:

Celebrity Cruises: North American Partner of the Year

Norwegian Cruise Line: 2016 Franchise Partner of the Year

• Royal Caribbean International:National Partner of the Year

• MSC: Canadian Consortium Partner of the Year

Carnival Cruises: Chairman’s Award

2018 is the year to Open Your Expedia Franchise

There’s never been a better time to go into business with the most recognized brand in travel as CLIA expects 27.2 million passengers to cruise in 2018! Over 100 new ships are scheduled to debut between now and 2026. The demand for cruising has steadily increased 62% over the last ten years and as more travelers will be seeking the expert advice of a trusted travel agent 100 million more people are expected to cruise in the next 4 years. According to CLIA the demand for cruising has increased 20.5% in the last five years.

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise system is built upon a proven model designed to support franchise owners achieve their lifestyle, income and business goals. Our franchise model is designed to support individuals with little or no experience in the cruise industry and help them build and grow a successful travel business and achieve their income, lifestyle and business ownership goals. For over 30 years, we’ve been dedicated to navigating spectacular vacation experiences from our 235+ franchise locations. We look forward to further growing our team in 2018 and serving communities as the trusted cruise retail network for all travelers across North America.

Continue Learning About Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about owning a business with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here.

In the News: Expedia CFO, Mark Okerstrom Featured in Business In Vancouver

Expedia Inc. CEO Mark Okerstrom addresses his company’s annual conference in Las Vegas earlier this month | Expedia

Expedia makes Vancouver the hub for all cruise sales

Travel giant consolidates platforms to be ‘a more strategic partner for the cruise lines’

This story appeared in the December 2017 edition of Business In Vancouver.

Expedia Inc.’s move to consolidate the cruise-sales side of its business highlights Vancouver’s growing role within the global travel-industry conglomerate.

The Bellevue, Washington-based owner (Nasdaq:EXPE) of brands such as,, Trivago, Travelocity, Orbitz and Ebookers, among other online travel sites, is starting to do for the cruise industry what it has already done for the hotel sector, CEO Mark Okerstrom told Business in Vancouver earlier this month at Expedia’s annual partner conference in Las Vegas.

“In the hotel business we’re very differentiated from a lot of other players in the market,” he said.

“We have one team that goes out. With one conversation, one contract, you get access to distribution on the whole Expedia portfolio…. That’s where we’re going to be going with cruise.”

Cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE:RCL), previously had to deal separately with various Expedia teams whenever they wanted to merchandise a cruise package on multiple Expedia brands.

There was no one-stop shop where, for example, the cruise line could promote its Vancouver-to-Alaska route on all Expedia properties.

Substantial investments in technology during the past year have changed this situation, with the result being that all of Expedia’s cruise business is run out of Vancouver.

The city has been the headquarters for Expedia Cruise-ShipCenters since 2007, when Expedia bought Vancouver’s CruiseShipCenters International Inc. for an undisclosed amount, rebranded and started to rapidly increase the division’s number of franchised cruise-oriented travel agencies.

That part of Expedia now has 247 franchises, which each have owners who have paid tens of thousands of dollars in one-time fees and pay ongoing royalties to Expedia for the right to operate an Expedia CruiseShipCenters operation in a territory.

Steady growth prompted Expedia CruiseShipCenters two years ago to move its headquarters to a 28,000-square-foot office in the Oceanic Plaza building at 1066 West Hastings Street, nearly triple the 10,000 square feet that it had occupied at the Guinness Tower across the street.

The division is increasing its staff count and has about 180 employees, up from 143 workers two years ago.

The Vancouver-based president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Matthew Eichhorst, has been promoted to supervise all cruise operations within Expedia.

“The transition is great for cruise ship lines such as Royal Caribbean,” said Eichhorst, who is a past BIV Forty Under 40 winner.

“It’s also great for Expedia because of the volume of our brands collectively. We’ve become a more strategic partner for the cruise lines,” Eichhorst said.

Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

BIV asked Okerstrom why Expedia has waited many years to to integrate all of its cruise operations for suppliers.

“I’d rather do fewer things better and faster than lots of things in parallel but not so well,” said Bellevue-based Okerstrom, 44, who grew up in Coquitlam and has degrees from both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

“We started our innovation, really, in the hotel business. We’ve expanded that out into air and car and activities and now cruise. We can’t do everything all at once – even with US$1.3 billion in [annual] technology spending.”

Okerstrom became Expedia’s CEO in August, when former CEO Dara Khosrowshahi left Expedia to become CEO of Uber. Khosrowshahi also has ties to Vancouver. His uncle, Future Shop founder, Persis Holdings Ltd. owner and billionaire Hassan Khosrowshahi, lives in the region. •

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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.

Natural Leaders Make For Successful Franchise Owners

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

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

testimonial3What made you decide to buy a franchise?

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

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

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

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

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


Are you a Veteran or First Responder?

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

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


In the News: Expedia CruiseShipCenters President Featured in Benzinga

Cruise Industry Embarks On ‘The Golden Age Of Cruising’

This story appeared in the August 2017 edition of

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

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

Rapid Growth Expectations

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

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

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

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

Virgin Enters The Market

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

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

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

New Panama Canal

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

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

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

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

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For in-depth details about owning a business with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here.

In the News: Merrick Franchise Owner Featured in Forbes

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

This story appeared in the July 2017 edition of

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Merrick, Franchise Partner, Joyce Mariner.

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

Look to your interests and priorities

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

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

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

Build on your skills

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

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

Put in the time

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

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

Find support systems

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

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

Find supportive people

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

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

Put in the work

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

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

Just do it

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

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For in-depth details about owning a business with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here.

In the News: 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’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’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?”

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Continue Learning About Expedia CruiseShipCenters

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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.