Why the Cruise Agency Industry is Growing
Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners are experiencing a booming, multi-billion-dollar cruising industry
Industry data reflects that the cruise industry’s significant growth over several years is not showing signs of slowing down. According to Cruise Lines International Association, an organization that conducts continual industry analysis, cruisers spent $21 billion on their vacations in 2014. The association also points out that the U.S. economic impact of the cruise industry is even larger, at $42 billion annually. These numbers reflect the significant investment cruise lines are currently making to expand their fleets. According to CLIA, 65 new ships will debut between 2015 and 2020, which demonstrates not only the continued growth of the industry, but a commitment to further the industry’s growth from the cruise lines.
Unlike most retail businesses, the cruise industry has not been diminished by the rise of consumers shopping online. CLIA, in their 2015 Annual Report, notes that most cruises are sold by travel agents, not through websites. In fact, 75% of cruisers opted to book their vacations using a travel agent. The thriving cruising market, as well as consumer trends, have allowed Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® to have viable, profitable businesses that reflect their owners’ passion for travel.
Noam Meppen, owner of an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise business in Phoenix, Arizona, is scouting two potential new locations after just opening his first one in 2014.
“I have one location and plan to open two more in Phoenix,” Noam says. “I also have two other territories on hold. My commitment is to have three locations by 2020. Phoenix is a massive city. The other two geographies are both 30 miles away — 30 miles west and 30 miles south. People will only go so far, stores do a lot of business with people who live within two to three miles. The true magic of this system, and why it is different, is the credibility of having a location the customer can visit.”
Travel franchise appeals to expanding demographic
CLIA reports that the average age of a cruise traveler is 49, with an average income of $114,000. However, while cruising may appeal to the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations, the industry is also experiencing a boom in younger travelers. CLIA reports that more Millennials are cruising than ever before. Furthermore, 38% of those who cruised in 2014 had never cruised before, which bodes well for future growth of our travel franchise.
“We get a lot of people who have cruised before, a lot of retired people,” says Joyce Ripka, owner of an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Quebec, Canada. “What is exciting is that we getting more and more families who are discovering how fun it is to cruise together. Our customers see the value in cruising, and they are eager for us to take charge. They want the good value and the good advice.”
While cruises are popular, they are not inexpensive. The average cruise guest pays more than $2,000 for a trip, and they want to make sure they enjoy every penny they are spending. That’s why they are eager to have experts to talk to and learn from, experts who can design travel plans that aren’t cookie-cutter. According to Cruise Lines International, 75% of cruises are sold by travel agents (2015 North American Market Profile). Even in the age of the internet, planning a cruise can be complicated and involved without a consultant to serve as a guide. The positive experience our Vacation Consultants give our customers is the reason our customers keep coming back to us to book their cruises.
“The value we add is in being thoughtful,” says Mary Beth Casey, owner of an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We have to know what this vacation will bring to them and their families. There’s a lot of patience and hand-holding from our side. Our customers can ask anything from the simplest questions to the most absurd. When our customers get off the ship, we do a follow-up: Did we meet their expectations? Where are they going to go next?”