Several years ago, a leading travel industry publication wrote an article about our company entitled King of Brands, which described all the ways that joining the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family was a great decision for travel agents looking to align with a big name in the business. Now, as our brand and franchise network continue to grow – gaining national media attention in the United States – the title Kind of Brands is more fitting than ever.
Hear Matthew Eichhorst discuss our franchise model and partnership with Expedia
Our President, Matthew Eichhorst, was featured on Bloomberg TV on the show Taking Stock with Pimm Fox. Matthew discusses the incredible growth our company has experienced across North America and how our Franchise Partners benefit from a proven business model and our relationship with Expedia Inc. Watch the full interview below and hear how we’re making waves in the franchise and cruise industries!
Our relationship with Expedia explained
We’ll be the first to admit that attaching the name of a massive online brand to our retail travel agency franchise model sometimes causes a bit of confusion for those who are first learning about us. To help clear things up, here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about how we fit into the Expedia family, and how our Franchise Partners benefit from being a part of the most recognized brand in travel.
Q: What’s the difference between Expedia Inc. and Expedia.com?
A: The most common misconception we run into is that Expedia Inc. is the same as Expedia.com. Expedia Inc. is the parent company to an impressive number of large travel brands including Hotwire, Hotels.com, Classic Vacations, Travelocity, Expedia.com, and Expedia CruiseShipCenters. All of these brands operate independently from each other, but benefit from synergies across their business models, collective buying power and in cases like ours, the Expedia brand.
Expedia’s strategy is to own and power the best travel brands in the world and Expedia CruiseShipCenters is one of those brands.
Q: How did CruiseShipCenters become part of the Expedia family?
A: CruiseShipCenters began in 1987 and after 20 years of astounding success in Canada, we’d become the largest cruise agency in the country with over 20% market share. In 2007 we decided it was time to bring our model South and capitalize on the massive cruise market in the United States.
To ensure our success, we needed a recognizable brand name that would inspire trust and convey value to American cruisers. Simultaneously, Expedia Inc. was looking to break into the cruise market and needed the expertise of an established cruise specialist who could provide guidance on how to offer this complex vacation the way that cruisers wanted to buy it.
Stars aligned and Expedia CruiseShipCenters was born.
Q: Why would Expedia Inc. invest in a retail travel agency business?
A: Through their research, Expedia discovered that the majority of cruise vacations are booked through a travel agent (now 70% according to Cruise Lines International Association) due to their complex nature.
Expedia knew that cruisers felt more comfortable booking with a travel professional who could navigate through all the decisions that need to be made during the booking process: Which ship? Which destination? Which stateroom type, category and location? What to pack? When to dine? Cruisers want one-on-one advice and ongoing service that Expedia just couldn’t offer through its online travel agency model.
At CruiseShipCenters, we already had a successful service-oriented model and state-of-the-art booking technology in place to help cruisers answer all of their questions and plan a spectacular vacation experience. If our customers want to come into the store to book, their Vacation Consultant would be there. If they preferred to book online or over the phone, our Vacation Consultants could provide that option too – along with incredible service before, during and after their trip.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, it made sense for Expedia to invest in a company that was already doing it right.
Q: How do your customers benefit from the Expedia brand?
A: By partnering with Expedia, we not only got to attach the most recognized brand in travel to our name, we also gained access to their entire inventory of non-cruise product, which we can now offer our customers at the same prices you’d find on Expedia.com! Our Promise is to navigate spectacular vacation experiences for our clients, which means going beyond the cruise booking and taking care of every aspect of the trip, from pre and post-cruise hotels, to shore excursions, to travel insurance.
As part of the Expedia family, our customers now pay Expedia prices for these add-ons, but don’t have to book it on their own! Our Vacation Consultants earn commission on these bookings, but clients don’t pay any more than they would online – everyone wins.
Plus, if one of our customers wants a change of pace and chooses to book a tour or all-inclusive resort vacation instead of a cruise, their Vacation Consultant can handle that booking too through Expedia’s massive inventory of land products.
Q: How do your Franchise Partners benefit from the Expedia brand?
A: Expedia Franchise Partners enjoy countless perks as a result of our partnership with Expedia Inc. Here are just a few.
If you’re considering buying a franchise, you’re looking to invest in a proven system and a recognizable brand. Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers the best of both with a system that’s been growing for 28 years, and the most powerful brand name in the travel business. When people hear the name Expedia, they immediately associate it with value and credibility which helps our Franchise Partners establish themselves in their local community from the day they open the doors to their travel agency franchise. When potential customers learn that they can pay Expedia prices while also receiving outstanding service and expert advice from a cruise specialist, the decision to book with us every time is easy. That’s how we create Customers For Life.
More Than Cruises
When we were CruiseShipCenters without Expedia, we were still a full service travel agency offering both cruise and land vacations, but our brand name caused confusion for a lot of customers about what we sold. They assumed that with only cruise in our name, we only sold cruises. Now as Expedia CruiseShipCenters, it’s clear that we offer the full range of travel products you can get from Expedia, but that we specialize in cruises. When our customers visit the website of their local Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise, they can even book the products they’d usually buy on Expedia.com through our Expedia website widget. For quick and easy bookings like car rentals, hotel stays or flights that customers are comfortable buying online, they can do so through our site while ensuring the booking and commission are directed back to their local franchise and Vaction Consultant.
Leads from Expedia.com
In addition to the lead generation benefits of just having Expedia in our name, our Franchise Partners also receive overflow leads from Expedia.com. If an Expedia.com cruise customer has questions before they book, or would like some advice on which product is best suited for them, Expedia.com directs that customer to an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Vacation Consultant in their area. Afterall, helping our clients find the perfect cruise for them is what we do best!
Often, the types of bookings that are sent to our Franchise Partners are of the more complicated (and more expensive) variety that customers simply aren’t comfortable booking online without speaking to someone first. Our Expedia Franchise in Alpharetta, Georgia told us their very first customer they received from Expedia.com ended up booking four staterooms with them! Their Vacation Consultant was able to provide the peace of mind this customer was looking for on this large booking.
Joining the Expedia family has benefited our Franchise Partners, Vacation Consultants and our company as a whole tremendously. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership that is fueling our growth and our vision to become largest cruise retail network that is the trusted brand for cruisers across North America.