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3 Reasons to Invest in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise

A proven business model making Expedia franchise owners successful

Our proven business model is designed to help Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisees achieve their goals and grow their business. Franchisees recruit Travel Consultants who earn commissions on the trips they book. A large team of Vacation consultants helps to drive top-line revenue, which in turn enables the franchisees to manage their Center as well as build profits.

The growth of the cruising industry has generated an explosion of demand for Expedia CruiseShipCenters around the country. Given the complicated nature of booking cruises, more than 70% of cruisers relying on travel retail centers to help them plan their dream vacations.

As one of the leading cruise sellers and most recognized brand in travel, we are rapidly expanding throughout the U.S. Here are three of the top reasons to start your own Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise and be a part of one of the largest travel company in the world.

The power of our brand

We have over 265 Expedia CruiseShipCenters locations open in North America, and our brand recognition is a huge marketing advantage. Because Expedia CruiseShipCenters is one of the top sellers of cruises worldwide, major cruise lines clamor at our doorstep to offer us competitive deals and promotions.

We then leverage those deals by creating marketing campaigns — some of which are largely underwritten by the cruise lines themselves. For instance, we are able to send out gorgeous fliers at little cost to targeted customers on behalf of our franchisees.

It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship — cruise lines get the word out about their trips and destinations, and we get the word out about our personal service and center locations.

The cruise industry is booming

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has over three decades of sales growth at an average of 11% each year. We’ve grown at 3x the rate of the cruise industry average, the rise of our brand has coincided with the popularity of cruising.

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“Cruises are becoming increasingly popular because they offer comfort and convenience while making it easy for people to visit several exotic locations on a single trip,” says Expedia CruiseShipCenters CEO Matthew Eichhorst.  “At the same time, though, the sheer magnitude of travel options has become overwhelming for many travelers — which makes a perfect opportunity for our expert consultants at Expedia CruiseShipCenters.”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners receive ongoing support

Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners get outstanding systems and support from our corporate team. We have grown faster than the rest of the cruise industry by building incredible systems that make it easy for franchisees and their travel consultants to share knowledge about destinations and build custom itineraries that suit clients. We also have built a strong culture of teamwork that allows franchisees and team members to build upon one another’s success.

“So much sets them apart: the strength of their technology, their commitment to their franchisees, the open-minded culture,” says Joyce Ripka, a former CPA who owns an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise location in Brossard, Quebec. “Their door is always open for us to make recommendations. We have a lot of support from our franchise-partners, as well. The people in Vancouver keep us well-informed and are really willing to help us grow our business.”

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For more information on the Expedia franchise opportunity, complete the form below.

How Contests Drive Revenue For Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchises

Travel franchise owners benefit from our relationships with major cruise lines

How do Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owners attract new customers? There are many ways, but there’s one that’s gaining traction among our franchise owners is truly fun and exciting — contests!

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Fun and effective – contests help to bolster consultants’ customer base and re-engage with existing contacts.

Contests are a great way for our franchise owners to build a database of prospective customers, especially when they’re first getting started. Thanks to our strong relationships with some of the biggest names in the travel industry, each year Expedia CruiseShipCenters partners with brands like Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International for our annual and promotional contests to serve both the franchise owner and also potential customers. It’s the epitome of a win-win situation, franchisees grow and nurture their contact list while a few lucky individuals embark on the vacation experience of a lifetime!

These contests help you to add hundreds of new subscribers to your databases year round and keep our brand top of mind for travelers. Our dedicated marketing team makes contesting a breeze for our franchise owners by overseeing and promoting all contests. Print and online marketing pieces with consistent messages are prepared, along with in-store messaging. To best support franchise owners and vacation consultants, an in-depth contest guide is also available.

Our Win 1 of 5 Free Cruises Contest with Norwegian Cruise Line is on now until October 31st where five lucky winners will receive a free 7 night Caribbean cruise for two! Contest entrants can earn up to ten additional chances to win by referring their friends and family members. Last year, we received more than 200,000 entries with 80% of entrants subscribed to 1 or more of our email marketing pieces which are personalized to the local franchise. Contests like this provide amazing exposure to travelers who may not know about our services yet and allow franchisees to re-engage with their existing database.

Grow, build and nurture customer relationships

Not only do contests help us attract new contacts and email marketing subscriptions but it also allows travel agents in the Center to connect with their existing contacts and help them to enter the current contest. This point of connection strengthens the relationship and also serves as a great opportunity to check in on travel needs, update contact and marketing subscription information.

Contest entrants’ information is dispersed among our local franchises based on ZIP code to increase their databases of potential customers. Since many people also choose to subscribe to our email newsletters when they enter the contest, our travel franchise owners can keep their services top of mind when those new contacts go to book their next dream vacation.

“Our annual contest is something we look forward to every year because there’s nothing more satisfying to us than providing people with the experience of cruising,” said Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “These contests are extremely beneficial to our franchise owners because they provide a deep well of new potential customers to reach out to long after the contest is over.”

Cruising is more popular than ever before

According to Cruise Lines International Association, 100 million people are expected to cruise in the next four years. CLIA reports that the average age of a cruise traveler is 49, with an average income of $114,000. While cruising certainly appeals to the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations, the industry is also experiencing a boom in younger travelers. According to MMGY, travel agent usage has hit a six-year high and one out of three Millennials seek the advice of a trusted travel professional for their travel arrangements. Of those who cruised in 2014, 38% had never cruised before, which bodes well for future growth of our travel franchise.

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According to Cruise Lines International Association, 70% of cruisers opted to book using a travel agent in 2015.

CLIA, in their 2017 North American Market Profile of the industry, noted 70% of cruisers opted to book their vacations using a travel agent. The thriving cruising market, as well as consumer trends, allows Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owners to have viable, profitable businesses that reflect their owners’ passion for travel.

We’re growing rapidly, and so are our sales

Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is one of largest sellers of cruise travel in North America. Our travel agency franchise is rapidly expanding, with more than 265 locations open or under development.

Our sales have grown an average of 20% a year over the past two decades. While the internet had a negative impact on many other retail travel businesses, we have flourished. The reason for our success is simple: cruises, while popular, are not cheap. And choosing from the myriad of available cruise options is not easy. The complicated nature of booking cruises, combined with the force of our brand name, lead an ever-growing number of people to our travel franchise locations.

“The value we add is in being thoughtful,” says Mary Beth Casey, owner of an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We know what this vacation will bring to them and their families. There’s a lot of patience and hand-holding from our side. And then when our customers get off the ship, we do a follow-up: Did we meet their expectations? And where are they going to go next?”

Learn More

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.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Rides Wave of Record Growth

2016 best year ever for franchise openings

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters is on pace for a record year as we stay on target to open nearly 40 locations in 2016. Consumer recognition for the Expedia CruiseShipCenters brand is growing, and more people are cruising – both strong contributing factors to our banner year of travel agency franchise openings.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters expands from coast to coast

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters is expanding nationwide, with new locations now open across North America that span from from the West Coast to the East Coast. Meet some of our newest owners and hear what they have to say about their experience so far as part the Expedia CruiseShipCenters team during this exciting growth period for the cruise industry and our brand.

Rob Steinfeld and Dean Hanson – Tampa Bay, FL

“We live the brand. People know us as ‘the cruise guys.’ There’s never a time we’re not wearing an Expedia shirt or an awesome T-shirt that says, ‘Ask Me How To Win A Cruise!’ Down the line, when someone starts to get ready for a vacation, we want them to think of us first. No one comes in here without being signed up on our database,” says Tampa Bay, Florida, franchise owner Rob Steinfeld. Rob runs his Expedia CruiseShipCenters store with his life partner, Dean Hanson. The franchisees have been featured by several news outlets, including the the July 2016 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, the Tampa Bay Business Journal and local cable news network Bay News 9.

Peggy Mehos and Brianna Grewal – South East Edmonton, AB

Edmonton, Alberta, franchise owners Brianna Grewal and Peggy Mehos, a mother and daughter duo, were looking for a business venture with flexibility. Brianna had a background in Human Resources, and Peggy had owned a dental laboratory. Having traveled on their own or as a family to many beautiful destinations, whether it was taking fabulous cruises, relaxing annually in Hawaii or backpacking across Europe, traveling has been a staple for both of them. With that passion, Peggy gained interest in a travel business and started doing her research.

Eventually mentioning it to Brianna, they decided to partner up. “Having the Expedia brand backing the business made the decision to become franchisees that much easier, as they are a trusted brand in travel. We are excited to help others experience these amazing getaways, and we want their customers to go on spectacular vacations and retain memories for a lifetime,” says Brianna.

Rob Henderson – Tustin, CA

Tustin, California, franchise owner Rob Henderson, who opened his Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in April, is excited about helping the residents of his community plan their dream vacations. “Cruising is really a popular option for anyone looking for a spectacular vacation, and our vacation consultants at Expedia CruiseShipCenters can help everyone navigate through all the options out there to put together a perfectly suited package – from finding the right ship to choosing the best destinations and planning the best excursions. Currently there is a huge investment going into cruise ships globally. In fact, every shipyard in the world is booked out through 2021. The ships are better than ever, with fantastic new designs and amenities, and more people are cruising now than ever before because it is a great way to use your holiday time to not only explore the world, but to do so in comfort.”

Barry and Tina Gallant – Fredericton, NB

Fredericton franchisees and high school sweethearts Tina and Barry Gallant have been married for 25 years. Tina has spent most of her career with New Brunswick Power Corporation where she was an Administrative Supervisor, responsible for administration staff around the Province. Barry’s career in engineering as an independent contractor has taken him throughout Canada. While their careers were successful, there was no passion. They wanted to do something that they loved that would allow them to work toward their own goals. They also wanted to set an example for their three children that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Barry and Tina had talked in the past about owning a business, but it never seemed to be the right fit or the right time. However, when they saw an ad about owning an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise and began investigating the opportunity, the pieces fell into place. From the beginning, they felt like they belonged with the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family. This became even more apparent once they met the corporate team in Vancouver and in the time since, from signing their lease to opening day. “They care about you and your success is their success. We feel blessed and proud to be part of such a wonderful caring organization.

We can hardly wait to see what the next few years have in store for us! We know it is going to be an awesome journey!”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ 4,300+ Vacation Consultants across North America provide trustworthy travel advice and personalized service to the millions of people planning to cruise every year. The cruise industry is booming with 24 million people are expected to set sail in 2016 alone, according to the 2016 CLIA State of the Industry report. Cruise lines are also expanding to meet the growing demand for cruise vacations. The cruise industry is investing $6.5 billion in 2016 with 65 new ocean ships planned to debut over the next five years to meet the growing demand from travelers who want to spend their vacation dollars on cruising.

Running an Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a perfect fit for entrepreneurs with a passion for travel. It’s also a rewarding venture; our owners are in the business of helping people plan their dream vacations.

New franchisee support resources help owners succeed

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters we are constantly investing in new support resources to help our franchisees succeed in key areas of the business, including a new resources dedicated to supporting our franchise owners with recruitment of high-quality travel experts to join their local teams.

We are committed to setting our new franchise owners up for success. Our startup team is your go-to resource to get your location ready for customers, including assistance with site selection and guidance as you design and build out your space. We also help with the entire hiring process, from onboarding to recruitment, as you assemble the perfect team of vacation experts.

You will also attend an intensive, week-long franchisee training program called Cruise Management Academy held at our corporate headquarters. By the time you open the doors to your franchise the goal is for you to have at least six Vacation Consultants on your team ready to sell travel packages.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is gearing up for expansion

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 220 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America, and plan to reach 500 locations by 2020.

With our course charted for explosive growth, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will continue to be a leader in a vibrant industry. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has grown at three times the rate of the cruise industry overall, enjoying an average sales growth of 20% annually for more than two decades.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

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 the Expedia franchise here.

Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Joyce and Gary Mariner of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Owners of New York travel franchise share their insights

Expedia CruiseShipCenter Franchisees Gary and Joyce Mariner are both retired from the New York City Police Department.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchisees Gary and Joyce Mariner are both retired from the New York City Police Department.

When Joyce and Gary Mariner retired after more than two decades of serving the New York City Police Department, they soon realized that retirement wasn’t for them. Throughout their years working for the NYPD, Joyce as a detective in various units and Gary as part of the prestigious mounted horseback unit, they spent their vacation time traveling and planning more travel excursions. Cruising, in particular, kept them grounded, and they have shared more than 40 cruises together. As they researched potential businesses to invest in, they looked to their shared love for travel as the basis for a brand new career. They soon opened the first Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in New York State, and they recently threw a celebration for clients, suppliers and consultants to commemorate the one-year anniversary of their Long Island Center.

This is Joyce and Gary’s story:

Tell us about your career before becoming Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisees?

Joyce: Both of us were New York City police officers. I served 25 years, and over the course of my career I worked in investigative units such as narcotics and robbery, as well as detective squad. I earned the rank of detective first grade, which is the top rank for a detective in New York City. During my last six years I was in the homicide bureau covering the Brooklyn area.

Gary: I retired after 26 years of serving with the mounted unit of the police department, which conducts patrols strictly on horseback. It’s one of the most prestigious units in the police department. I like to tell people that I got paid every day to ride a horse.

What appealed to you about opening an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location?

Joyce: People say it sounded so different from our previous careers, but it’s still a service-oriented field. We could have retired after 20 years of working with the police department, but we stayed on. Part of the reason we did was because it allowed us to afford to take our vacations, which we love to do! We took two cruises a year during our time with the police department. That kept us grounded and helped us stay sane. When we got back from vacation, we went right back to work. It’s important for people with stressful jobs to get back into the game by taking a vacation.

When I retired, I looked into several things. I tried being a housewife for a couple of months, but that didn’t work out. Being a travel agent was attractive to me because I love to travel, and we’ve all heard the advice that says to do something you love to do. The opportunity with Expedia CruiseShipCenters came up, and I felt that it was right for me at the time. Gary and I were fortunate enough to retire early with the police force and start another entirely new career.

You were both already fans of taking cruises. Tell us a little about that. :

Joyce: Before I started with Expedia CruiseShipCenters we were almost to the 40-cruise mark. That was our passion — cruising.

Gary: We’ve been on land tours to locations such as China, Russia and even Tahiti, but taking cruises is really our passion.

Where is your Expedia CruiseShipCenters located, and why did you feel it would be a good location?

Joyce: We are in the suburbs in Nassau County in Long Island, New York, which is approximately 30 miles from the city. Our location is just two blocks from the Long Island Railroad, which is the commuter train into Midtown Manhattan. We are right in the town of Merrick on the main street, and we are surrounded by local retailers and restaurants — plus we have a big chain supermarket and big chain drugstore right up the street.

Gary: We are definitely centrally located in town in a good, high-traffic area.

What sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors?

Joyce: Expedia is a brand name that is well known. If we had opened a travel agency with just our last name, although Mariner is a great last name for a travel agency, it’s just not well known — so it’s not as effective. With Expedia, everybody knows the brand. Then to be the first location in New York and all of New York State was a plus.

Gary: The low-risk investment aspect compared to other franchises that we looked at was also appealing. Opening an Expedia CruiseShipCenters was more affordable for us.

How do you market your business?

Joyce: We send out brochures to Merrick residents using a direct-mailing service. The brochures coincide with Expedia CruiseShipCenters promotions six to seven times a year. We also rely on social media, and I place ads in our local newspapers.

Once or twice a month we hold informative “cruise nights” at our location. I bring in suppliers from cruise tours and land tours, and they come in to talk with the community. I send email blasts to invite residents to listen and learn. I serve refreshments, and sometimes we have small giveaways at these free events.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Merrick, NY celebrates the Grand Opening of their new travel agency franchise.

What was the reaction from the community when you opened?

Joyce: It was very positive. We have built such a good clientele so far, and as the months and years go by I’m just looking forward to building these relationships. The clients that we have built already from this community are like family. We sell cruises and vacations to residents who come in afterward, and they are so happy to see us. They are also happy to sit down and talk to somebody instead of researching their trip online or on the phone.

What do you look for in a consultant?

Joyce: I want a consultant who is as passionate as I am about travel. Not to say that they travel a lot, but they should be interested in it and have a following or friends and family who love to travel. Bringing those consultants in with their circle of influence helps our business grow. We have 23 Vacation Consultants onboard, and about half of them work from home.

Do you get a lot of referrals?

Joyce: We do have a lot of customer referrals. In fact we recently sold a 10-day Italy highlights trip for four women who were referred to us by another woman who walked in off the street a couple of months ago to buy a hotel and airfare package to Hong Kong. That was a nice referral.

What is your customer demographic like?

Joyce: It varies so much. We have a lot of civil service employees, such as teachers and doctors. They range from young families in this neighborhood to the baby boomers ready to retire. Then we have active seniors who love to travel.

What is rewarding about your business?

Joyce: There is always something to learn about travel. It’s changing every day, and you have to stay on top of it. To be in the business you really have to know what is going on. That is what your customers want; otherwise, they could just go online and do it themselves. I like watching our relationships grow among me, my consultants and our customers. We enjoy it, especially after we plan their trips and they come in and tell us what a great time they had. That is the best satisfaction. Plus, that brings referrals.

You’ve been on almost 40 cruises? Can you still travel with the business?

Joyce: You know what? You have to. We still take that one cruise or other vacation just for us. There is a national conference with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and that’s a cruise. We call it a work cruise, but it’s still a cruise.

In addition to cruises, do you sell land tours?

Joyce: We are a full-service travel agency, so yes. Seventy-seven percent of our business now is cruises, and then land tours would be next — followed by air, then short excursions and car rentals.

How does the main office support you?

Joyce: In the police department we used to say that the Patrol Services Bureau, the guys in the radio cars, were the backbone of the police department. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters headquarters is the backbone of our franchisees. They’ve always been responsive to my questions or problems, and if they couldn’t help then they would find the right person who could.

We have two conferences a year with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, which we look forward to. Going to these conferences brings me back to reality and reminds me why we joined and why we bought this business. The camaraderie within Expedia CruiseShipCenters is fantastic. At first I thought it was just for us in New York and our brothers and sisters in blue, but I can see it all throughout this organization.

Do you talk to other franchisees?

Joyce: My counterpart in Staten Island and I do talk if we have ideas or thoughts, or if we run into a problem. Then during our two conferences we get to meet and interact and mingle with franchisees who have been in business for over 20 years or the new ones who are just coming in. There is always a lot of feedback, and every franchisee has opened their arms and told me to call them any time I need help.

What is a typical day as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisee?

Joyce: I spend six days a week in my business, usually up to nine hours a day. And each day I am managing my back-office duties — doing commissions and bills and accounting, and I’m planning events and my monthly team meeting. I’m training consultants, and then on top of that I’m recruiting new consultants.

It’s a busy day. Some days I come in at 10:30 a.m. and I look up and it’s already 7 o’clock. So I have a full six days. I think it’s so important to be available to clients. If clients want to come to the Center, you need to be open and be there.

Do you have a favorite customer success story?

Joyce: We had an elderly man come in who wanted to go on a cruise leaving from Florida. He was going to drive down, and he wanted hotels in certain spots. Our Vacation Consultant worked with him for a couple of days. She found him the right cruise, and she also found four hotels on I-95 going down and coming back for him. She made a map and plotted it all out for him. And then when he came back from his cruise he stopped by to say hello and brought his dog. He was so impressed with her, and he asked her to plan his next cruise.

Tell me a little bit about training that franchisees receive when they come onboard.

Joyce: As a new franchisee, there is initial training online with the Expedia CruiseShipsCenter learning center through our CruiseDesk. There are a lot of courses that help. Right before opening, we spent the week at headquarters for cruise management training. That was fantastic. And there is constant training. There are webinars to keep us up to date on new promotions, how to plan our team meetings — anything that could help a franchisee in their business is provided by corporate. Knowledge is power, and it’s easier to sell the product if you know the product.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

After a Banner Year for the Cruise Industry, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Ramps Up for Explosive Growth in 2016

As the cruise industry continues its phenomenal rise, the time to open your Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise is now

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters has big plans for expansion in the United States and other nations around the world.

When cruisers were first counted in 1980, they numbered only 1 million. Today, cruising is a global phenomenon — spurred by decades of innovation and cultural awareness. Thirty-five years after the first annual cruising population was tallied, Cruise Lines International Association reports that 23 million people will have cruised in 2015. Better still, CLIA reports that in 2016, the number of cruisers will grow by nearly 1 million more.

As the cruise industry races to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for cruise travel, significant investments are being made to further the popularity of the lifestyle. CLIA reports that 30 new river ships will set sail for the first time in 2016, while 57 new ocean ships will come online by 2022, expanding the capacity for cruisers by more than 9 million overall. The influx of new ships will likewise extend what the cruise industry can offer to its customers, in terms of luxurious comfort and new destinations and adventurous day trips.

How the cruise industry is evolving

With nearly 24 million expected to cruise in 2016, the lifestyle is no longer dominated by seniors. CLIA’s recently published “2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook” speaks volumes about the universal appeal of the cruising lifestyle. The vastly important Millennial demographic is cruising more than seniors for the first time, which speaks to the long-term growth potential of the industry. The good news doesn’t stop there: All demographics are cruising in larger numbers.

Cruise Lines International Association reports that 70% of travelers prefer to book their cruises through a travel agent.

Cruise Lines International Association reports that 70% of travelers prefer to book their cruises through a travel agent.

And why wouldn’t they? With more ships going to more destinations than ever before, cruisers can customize trips to create their dream vacations. Customer segments are likewise blurring: contemporary cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are now offering luxury accommodation as a premium experience, while luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises have begun offering family packages.

The trends reported above signify that the golden age of cruising is yet to come. As the cruising population continues to grow by the millions, Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise is the only brand with the name recognition, the proven business model and the industry relationships to capture a significant share of a booming industry. That’s why our sales have been growing at an average rate of 20% each year for more than two decades.

The time is now to launch your Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise

The seemingly limitless vacation options that cruisers have to choose from has made expert travel franchise owners a hot commodity. In fact, CLIA reports that 70% of cruisers prefer to book their vacations through a travel agent, and that number is likely to rise as the options for cruising expand.

Given that the wide majority of cruisers prefer to book their cruises with a travel agent, it is of added importance that our trusted brand is visible in their communities. This is why our franchise owners operate out of brick-and mortar-retail locations. Our retail locations give us increased visibility with our customers and also provide an office environment where we can host events — and where our independent Vacation Consultants can share knowledge and work together.

“You don’t have to explain who you are when Expedia is part of your name — our brand gives our travel franchise owners instant credibility,” says Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, who has helped us achieve double-digit sales growth since 2003. “Also, Expedia has more than 200,000 hotels in their system and access to a ton of air travel. We bolt that supply and data into a traditional travel agency franchise, and it provides a huge advantage.”

The new year will find our brand rapidly expanding across America

As large as the cruising industry has become, Expedia CruiseShipCenters has grown at three times the rate of the cruise industry overall, enjoying an average sales growth of 20% annually since we launched our brand more than two decades ago.

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters generates 10 times the average sales of competing franchise Cruise Planners, and 15 times more average sales (sales per unit) than Cruise One, according to the 2015 Power List in Travel Weekly. There are a lot of reasons for those figures, but perhaps the biggest is our business model — Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisees sign up to become travel sales leaders, not travel agents.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has more than 200 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America and has plans to open dozens more travel franchise locations over the next three years.

“Our vision is to be the largest cruise retail network in North America who is the trusted brand for cruisers in their communities,” Matthew says. “In the year 2020, I see 500 Expedia CruiseShipCenters, with 300 of those stores in the United States.”

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Chris Meyer of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Owner of fast-growing travel franchise shares his insights, lessons

When Chris Meyer of Orange County, California, decided to leave the newspaper industry after 30 years as a professional journalist, he began looking for an opportunity that would improve the quality of his life. He found it as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner in Orange County. Meyer’s location broke sales records during his first three years in business. This is his story.

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Susan and Chris Meyer sailed out of New York City on the Norwegian Breakaway for Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ annual conference.

What did you do before you became an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner?

I started in journalism when I was in junior high school by creating a sports page for our teams.  I continued newspaper work in high school and college and then spent 30 years as a professional. I was running the Orange County Register’s local news and business news coverage until I left in 2011. At one point, I was interested in moving into upper management, so I returned to college to earn an MBA. While I was in that program, the bottom really fell out of the newspaper industry. When I came up for air at the end of the program, I figured that rather than manage the long decline of a newspaper, I should do something else. I saw a targeted ad on my LinkedIn profile and started investigating.

I had not been planning to become an entrepreneur, but I was impressed by the business plan — the idea of a big digital company also doing brick-and-mortar locations to appeal to every segment of the market.  I thought it was very forward-looking compared to what was happening in the newspaper industry.

What was the process like, learning about the company?

There were many web pages, webinars and learning modules. I could see how the company was structured. I placed many phone calls to the folks at corporate, as well as to franchise owners.

What made you want to open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location?

I had covered business in my area for a long time, so I knew about Orange County’s economy. I also knew who in the county would be likely travelers. I knew the location I wanted was near a huge senior citizen community. I crunched numbers to figure out how many vacations I would need to sell each year to survive and how many I would need to sell to do really well. The numbers didn’t seem unfathomable, and I decided to roll the dice. I’m a risk-averse person, but I was again facing the task of laying off several members of my staff.

What was your startup like?

We opened at the beginning of 2012. We’ve done well — significantly better than the average. I had looked at the averages and decided that I wouldn’t be happy with that. I started talking to people about what I would need to do to beat the average significantly, and I convinced myself that it was possible. In the first four years, we have significantly exceeded the averages.

What sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors?

I think the Expedia name is huge. It is a household name that has instant familiarity and instant credibility. The headquarters team is focused on continuous improvement. Most of our competitors don’t have a big brand for people to connect with. Some of our competitors are affiliated with American Express, and we all remember travelers’ checks. But that seems a little yesteryear. Expedia is now. Our folks are committed to technology. It is at our core, and that gives us a competitive edge. Our online software, CruiseDesk, has a very good CRM that saves administrative steps and enables us to be more efficient.

What have you done to get off to such a strong start?

Like anything else, there are multiple pieces to success. People are always important in any business, so attracting, motivating, and retaining the right Vacation Consultants is critical. Having the right macro-location and micro-location is important. We are next to a Trader Joe’s and a senior citizen community of 18,000 people — a community of people with the time and money to travel. Then, it is mostly training and motivating my people.

How do you win over customers?

Expedia does a lot of web marketing that includes contests to win a free trip and encourages people sign up to receive our free e-newsletters. These develop customers. We also reach out into the community to make sure people know about us. I encourage consultants to develop simple business plans.

You get best of both worlds with the power of brand to attract customers and the buying power of the brand to put together great travel packages. And since we work with all the major cruise lines and land-based travel companies, we are able to help customers get the vacation they want at the price they can afford.

We’re a like a travel version of the Apple store. When you go in, you already know that you want a computer, but you don’t know how much RAM you need, or how big your screen should be. It’s a big purchase, so you want to be able to ask an expert three or four questions. Similarly, many people know the type of vacation they want to take, in general terms, and come in to talk about exactly what is available. Customers may learn about a trip offered by one cruise line, and we help them understand the options available from competitors.

What do you enjoy the most about the business, your staff and your customers?

I enjoy talking about travel. I enjoy it when customers return from their vacation grinning, telling stories and hugging their travel agent. And we all get to go on vacations from time to time.

How often do you get out for a cruise?

I travel three to four times a year. It’s not always cruises. Cruises account for about 60 percent of our sales. We also book many land packages to Hawaii and land tours in Europe. I try to travel strategically to visit new places and experience new cruise lines, tour companies and vacation styles. Each trip gives me new insights to share with consultants and clients. I was not a cruise enthusiast when I started with Expedia. I had been on a couple of cruises, but I also had backpacked Hawaii and driven through Europe. I have now cruised on a variety of ships from the South Pacific to Alaska to the Mediterranean. I love variety!

How does the Expedia CruiseShipCenters headquarters team help support your business?

Their mantra is that the franchisees are their customers. My mantra is that the Vacation Consultants are my customers, and the travelers are the consultants’ customers. I’m focused on helping others succeed, which helps me. Expedia has the same attitude. They provide systems and support that give me the ability to be more successful.

Do you talk with other franchisees?

I communicate with a core group of colleagues regularly. Some are veterans, others a few years ahead of me and others joined at the same time as me. We share good ideas and troubleshoot problems as we all try to grow our businesses. I catch up with a wider group at our two annual conferences.

What does a typical day look like in the business?

It’s essentially a management job. I focus on working with consultants, working with our travel partners and working on marketing. A big role is business development.

What kind of people do you hire as consultants?

Our Vacation Consultants are independent contractors. Some are committed to it as a full-time job and want to travel to the ends of the earth. Others are hobbyists — they get their aunt and uncle on a cruise. My goal is to invest in the hard chargers and not let the hobbyists take up too much of my time.

What sort of training do you get?

I have received lots of sales training. When you are searching for a storefront for your business and going through the process of negotiating a lease, you have time to take advantage of a lot of training.

Has the business met your goals so far?

My goals were pretty lofty. I always like to stretch myself, and I am pretty satisfied with where we are going.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I like the outdoors. I like to work out. I like to have experiences. I do lots of things. I  enjoy time with my grandkids.

What are some of your favorite customer stories?

A customer agonized for a long time about the cost of the Alaska cruise she was taking with her sister. The cruise offered a wide range of excursions and wide range of prices. For example, on the low end for the Alaskan cruise, you can go to a U.S. Forest Service center and look at a glacier. On the high end, you can take a helicopter to the top of the glacier and walk on it. This woman came in multiple times,  discussing whether to go big or go small. She finally decided to go big, because “I’ll probably never get back to Alaska.” After the trip, she brought in a photo with her sister on top of the glacier. She told me that going big was the best decision she made.

Another time, a woman in her late 20s came in to plan her honeymoon. She previously had horrible experiences with a travel agency near her home; she couldn’t get her questions answered. She Googled us after deciding to give the travel agent experience one more shot and wound up booking her honeymoon with us. She wanted to go around the island of Britain with her fiancé to see the big scotch distilleries. Very few people want to do this, and very few brides on their honeymoons want to do this, but one of our consultants designed a custom trip complete with car rentals and tours of distilleries. This woman wrote a very complimentary Yelp review about how this trip worked out perfectly, and how she never would have been able to plan it out on her own.

Would you recommend Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise?

For a person who finds travel interesting, it’s a  relatively low investment, which is attractive. You need to be willing to follow the system while integrating your own special qualities into it.  You need to work hard with a must-win attitude.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Father-daughter Team Opens Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise on Staten Island

Our travel agency franchise is a great choice for family franchisees

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Harold Verde and his daughter Nicole recently joined forces to open a new Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Staten Island, New York.

When Harold Verde purchased the first Staten Island Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®, he was pursuing a passion he’s carried most of his life. A 32-year veteran of the commercial HVAC industry, Harold is now following his lifelong desire for cruise travel — only this time it’s from an agency perspective.

“I kind of needed a change in life, you could say,” Harold says. “I got tired of working in the HVAC industry. I had gotten an email from Expedia saying they were now in New York State, and the timing was perfect.”

As a seasoned cruise traveler, Harold already knows what his customers expect and look for when they plan a cruise. Although he hasn’t worked in the travel industry before, Harold is passionate about traveling and knows what is important to people who wish to plan a cruise. One thing he hopes to assist travelers with is making the right choices. His Expedia CruiseShipCenters location offers full travel services, but it specializes in cruises — the most complicated vacations to plan, according to Harold.

“There are so many options and so much to choose from that a person can spend days trying to see all the different options,” he says. “When it comes down to it, dollar for dollar, when you’re traveling with a family of four or five, the airfare alone could pay for the cost of your cruise. Get out of the car, get on the boat, and everything you want is right there.”

Harold and his team are taking advantage of New York City’s expanding ports by offering the “typical” Mid-Atlantic cruises to Canada, Maine, New England, the Bahamas, and the rest of the Caribbean, as well as more exotic trans-Atlantic trips to Europe, or through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is a top seller of cruise travel in North America. Our travel agency franchise is rapidly expanding, with over 200 locations open or under development. Our growth is driven by three overarching realities: our proven business model is affordable to start and extremely scalable, our focus on cruise vacations makes us a trusted resource among cruise customers who overwhelmingly prefer to book with a travel agent, and the cruise industry is rapidly expanding.

Joining a family-friendly travel agency franchise

Harold operates his Staten Island Expedia CruiseShipCenters with his daughter, Nicole. As the oldest of three siblings, Nicole has fond memories of traveling with her family. From Washington D.C. to the Caribbean, the Verde family always took the opportunity to bond while on vacation. Now, at 26, Nicole has taken an extra step toward bonding with her father in a vacation atmosphere.

“I always loved to travel, and I’ve always wanted to work in an office, so being in an office and traveling was the perfect match for me,” Nicole says.

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Nicole Verde has partnered with her father, Harold, to operate the first Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in Staten Island.

The family franchise hopes to bring their travel experience and passion to their franchise, where they can help customers plot out the vacation of their dreams.

“How do you go to work every day and not feel like you’re at work? It’s to enjoy what you’re doing. This business is that,” Harold says.

Training and support from an iconic travel franchise

Despite having no previous experience in the travel industry, Harold has run a business and will take advantage of the extensive support and training Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers its franchisees. With more than 100 people in our corporate headquarters in Vancouver, our mission is to empower franchisees with a time-tested system to grow a profitable and valuable business.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is with franchisees from day one. On the day you open your business, a Franchise Performance Coach will be on-site to help you get acclimated, answer questions, and to help ensure a strong start. An FPC will continue to touch base regularly, especially during the first two years you are in business, as you work together to help your office develop a strong sense of teamwork and a culture of connectivity.

Once established, we continue to provide franchisees with the tools, systems, and support to facilitate their success, and we offer extended support in the field, online, and via phone, to help franchisees troubleshoot issues that may arise.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters family franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

The Importance of Finding a Franchise That Aligns With Your Values

Three ways that Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ values have affected franchisee culture and support

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Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ franchise values of Teamwork, Integrity, Respect, Dedication and Fun are integrated at every level of the organization.

With thousands of franchise opportunities available, finding the perfect fit for your personal and financial goals is an incredibly difficult decision. There are a number of things to consider, from the initial investment level, to the potential return, to the hours you’ll work, to the product you’ll sell, to the kind of lifestyle this new business will provide for you. But how important is cultural fit?

Like any organization, franchise companies have unique cultures that reflect their brand and the values they live by. A good franchisor will work hard to maintain and protect that culture by only awarding franchises to owners whose personal values align with the company’s.

So why is it important to consider a franchisor’s values when conducting your franchise research?

Here are three reasons why franchise values matter:

Support team will share franchise values

As a franchise owner who is learning new skills, a new system and maybe even an entirely new industry, you’re going to rely on your corporate support team to show you the ropes and help you build your new business — and that requires a high level of trust. Franchise values can help build that trust and provide a useful framework to guide interactions between franchisees and their support team. When everyone’s on the same page about what the expectations are of both employees and franchisees, and what those interactions will look like, that relationship tends to be very positive.

Watch the video below to hear the Expedia CruiseShipCenters Corporate Support team talk about what our franchise values of Teamwork, Integrity, Respect, Dedication and Fun mean to them.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, the impact of our values trickles down from the leadership team, to the corporate employees, to our franchisees — all the way down to their teams of Vacation Consultants and even to our customers! Our value of Dedication may look different at every level of the organization, but it’s at the core of everything we do. For the corporate support team, our dedication is to our franchisees and fulfilling our mission “to empower our Franchise Partners with a proven system to grow a profitable and valuable business.” For our Franchise Partners, their dedication is to their team of Vacation Consultants — whom they train, coach and lead to sales success. For those Consultants, their dedication is to their clients and delivering on our promise to navigate spectacular vacation experiences for each and every one of them.

Franchise values influence franchisee culture

Choosing a franchise is a bit like choosing your family. You’ll spend a lot of time with your fellow franchisees at company-wide training events and annual meetings, which can be an incredible experience when those events are full of like-minded individuals who share the same values. One of the most important values for our Franchise Partners at Expedia CruiseShipCenters is Teamwork. It’s shaped our franchisee culture so profoundly that we came up with a mantra, “Stronger.Together®,” to describe the impact it’s had on our organization. In practice, “Stronger.Together” is displayed in the way our franchisees share best practices with one another and support each other in running their businesses. There’s competition among locations to be sure, but there’s also a common understanding that when one franchise does well, we all do well, and that’s how the brand will grow stronger and more successful.

Of course, our Franchise Partners also live by our value of Fun! If our annual National Conference held each year aboard a seven-day cruise is any indication, it’s clear this franchise value has also had a tremendous impact on the franchisee culture at Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

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Franchise Partners showcase the franchise value of fun during the walk for breast cancer research onboard the annual National Conference.

Franchise values carry you through ups and downs

Franchise ownership can be incredibly rewarding, but even when you find a great cultural fit, it isn’t always easy. Like any business, your franchise will have ups and downs, but one of the incredible benefits of owning a franchise business is that you’re never going it alone. A franchise that has strong, organization-wide values will leverage them in both positive and challenging times.

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, our value of Fun shines through when we’re celebrating success, but our value of Integrity also serves as a reminder of who we are if we happen to be dealing with a difficult situation.

Our commitment to “Truth & Transparency” was especially evident in 2012 when the cruise industry was under scrutiny from the media after some unfortunate incidents at sea. Instead of ignoring what was happening, our leadership team addressed it head-on and spoke openly with our franchisees so we could overcome it together. We came out on the other side even stronger.

Now, three years later, the cruise industry is thriving, and the demand for our franchise opportunity has never been higher. With 57 new ocean cruise ships set to launch in the next five years, our goal to add 300 travel agency franchises to our North American network by 2020 is entirely within reach.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Do you share our franchise values of Teamwork, Integrity, Respect, Dedication and Fun? Find out how you can be a part of our incredible franchisee culture as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Partner by completing the form on this page. For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise 2015 National Conference Recap

Franchise Partners and corporate staff hop onboard Expedia CruiseShipCenters annual conference

Each year Expedia CruiseShipCenters holds its National Conference for franchise owners at sea onboard a spectacular cruise ship and sets sail for destinations like the Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska. This year, our weeklong conference took place onboard Ruby Princess® sailing out of Los Angeles to Mexico and brought together more than 300 Franchise Partners, travel industry executives and corporate staff.

Stronger.Together®

When considering a franchise opportunity, the culture of the franchise is an important factor to keep in mind to find the right fit. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we call our franchisees our partners for a reason. It’s because we’re in this together, and the more we grow, the better we become. Our Stronger.Together® culture came from the hearts and mouths of our franchisees as we built our travel agent business. Working together, we can provide unparalleled service to customers, pool our buying power, leverage our travel expertise and so much more!

“Our yearly conference is a phenomenal opportunity to bring together and empower our Franchise Partners, ensuring we are maintaining the Stronger.Together® culture that sets us apart in the franchise industry,” says Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “As a franchisor, the success of our franchisees is our top priority. That’s why we’ve set aside this time to showcase the many initiatives we’re taking to best serve our Franchise Partners in growing their businesses in 2016 and beyond.”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters 2016 National Conference

More than 300 Franchise Partners, travel industry executives and corporate staff attended Expedia CruiseShipCenters 2015 National Conference.

This year’s conference consisted of keynote presentations, workshops, panel discussions and the unveiling of exciting new initiatives. This year’s theme, “2020 Vision: Bigger Better Stronger Together,” focused on our company’s growth over the next five years through investments in technology, marketing and franchise programs. The theme emphasizes our goal to continuously improve and drive results toward our mission to “empower franchisees with a proven system to grow a profitable and valuable business.”

Highlights from the National Conference include in-depth presentations from cruise industry leaders such as Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support and Services for Celebrity Cruises and John Chernesky, Vice President, North America Sales for Princess Cruises. Corporate keynote presentations included Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and Geraldine Ree, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales, providing great insight for Franchise Partners on how to set their business up for growth with the changing landscape of the cruise industry. Other key takeaways included the growth plans of Expedia CruiseShipCenters as we expand across North America and how to take marketing to more households in more communities, more often, in 2016.

Major expansion in the United States

Our 2020 Vision includes significant growth in the United States and Canada, and we have plans to grow to 500 locations across North America over the next five years. The cruise industry is booming as cruisers spent $20 billion on their vacations in 2013, and the U.S. economic impact of the cruise industry is even larger — at $42 billion annually according to Cruise Lines International Association. The cruise lines have responded to that growth by commissioning the construction of more than 65 new ships that are on pace to set sail over the next five years.
“The future of cruising is very bright,” Matthew says. “There is a new audience that wants to buy cruises, and the average age continues to get younger as the Millennial market gets on board. The cruise lines are investing in the industry, so there is a more product for us to sell. And the product itself is being enhanced, which improves yield. Our internal goal is to triple the growth rate of the industry — we have been able to do that every year. If the industry grows by 7 percent, we grow by 21 percent.”

Geraldine Ree, 2016 National Conference

Geraldine Ree, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Expedia CruiseShipCenters presenting at the 2015 National Conference.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has enjoyed average sales growth of 20% a year for the past two decades. We have grown at three times the rate of the cruise industry overall, and that industry has been experiencing a meteoric rise! We have even more growth in our future as our retail travel franchise is looking for partners across the United States, especially in the metropolitan areas of Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York and Seattle. Locations within easy driving distance of cruise departure ports have the demographics that provide the ideal foundation for a new travel franchise.

Walk for the Cure at National Conference

Our National Conference also provides a great opportunity to fundraise for a cause that is close to our hearts – breast cancer research. As part of our 2015 fundraising initiatives supporting Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ charity of choice, breast cancer research, all guests aboard Ruby Princess were invited to participate in the Walk the Walk For Breast Cancer. In 2015, Expedia CruiseShipCenters raised a total of $27,400 for the Breast Cancer Society exceeding our goal of $20,000!

Learn more

Want to be a part of our 2016 National Conference onboard Radiance of the Seas? Find out how you can build wealth, equity and your dream lifestyle as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Partner. For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Review: Veterans Chris and Larry Dettmer

How a married couple that met in the Air Force created a new career as travel franchise owners in Northern Kentucky

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Veterans Chris and Larry Dettmer just celebrated 30 years of marriage and are nearing their first year anniversary as Expedia CruiseShipCenter franchise owners. The couple had high expectations for the first year and has exceeded their original growth goals.

The Dettmers met and fell in love while they were both in the Air Force, stationed in Arkansas, in the early 1980s. Several years of military service created a lasting love of travel that led them to their new lives in the Expedia CruiseShipCenters network of travel franchise owners. In the Air Force, Larry rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant and traveled to far off destinations such as Korea and Philippines, while Chris rose to the rank of Captain. Their service to their country instilled in the couple a shared commitment to excellence, which they’ve applied to operating their franchise.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is seeking veterans with the entrepreneurial spirit to open travel franchise locations in their communities. Veterans are a great fit for franchising since they often have the skill set necessary to run and manage a streamlined and efficient business, and they have the drive to translate our tested business model into a successful business. Qualified military veterans receive a 15% discount on the initial franchise fee.

This is Larry and Chris’ story:

What were you doing before becoming Expedia CruiseShipCenters owners?

Larry: We met in 1983, when we were stationed on the same base in Arkansas. I did a four-year stint in the Air Force, while she did six years. My experience in the service is something I look back with a lot of fondness now, though, at the time, I knew that I wanted a career in the corporate world. I entered the sales industry, and I spent the next several years working for a few high-profile companies. In the summer of 2013, I was a sales director running a team of seven people. I got word from corporate that I could keep my job, but they were going to be moving me elsewhere. I decided to look at that situation as an opportunity. Luckily Chris and I were in a financial position where we could take a little risk, so we decided to try our hand at owning our own business. This is something that we’ve both wanted to do.

Chris: When I left the Air Force, I started working in the health insurance industry, but I chose to become a stay-at-home mother when we had our two children. I work part-time for a health insurance firm. Now that the children are older — our youngest is a senior at Northern Kentucky University — we decided that we if we were to open our own business, we could be active owners, which is very appealing to us. We have the time and the energy to devote ourselves to becoming successful.

What made you want to open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise?

Larry: When we knew that we were going to go forward with going into business for ourselves, it didn’t take us long to discover that Expedia CruiseShipCenters was going to be a good fit. I casually looked at a number of businesses and toyed around with a lot of ideas. I thought, “Maybe I’ll go into the restaurant business,” or “Maybe I can find a business that lets me work with my hands,” but ultimately we decided that travel was a passion of ours. Seeing how popular cruising has become, we thought it’d be a smart business to get into. When I was on the internet doing research, I stumbled upon on the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise, and I immediately filled out the franchise application to get the ball rolling.

Chris: Once we did visit the corporate office in Vancouver, we were both struck by their vision for the future and the pathway to growth. It was a great fit for us.

Larry: Their vision for the future was ultimately what sold us. When we were meeting the executive team, both parties are there to get a sense of the other — to find out if this will be a good match. We left that meeting with a sense of confidence in the brand, as well as their very pragmatic growth strategies and attainable goals. Of course, we did our due diligence before we signed the franchise agreement. We spoke to a lot of the franchisees, and we liked what we heard.

Once you signed the franchise agreement, how fast was the process of opening your new center?

Larry: Once we signed the franchise agreement, we focused our attention on finding the right location. We had initially thought that our center would be in Cincinnati, but once we looked at the demographics of Northern Kentucky, we thought, “This is an area where we could be very successful.” The hardest part of the entire process for us was finding the right location. We looked at a lot of property, and we delayed our target opening date a bit until we found the space that we’re in today. We held a soft opening in December 2014, and we officially opened in February of 2015.

Chris: It worked out better for us that we held out. We’re in a great location — right in front of a major shopping center here. The “Expedia CruiseShipCenters,” sign serves as a giant billboard for us, which helps to attract people to our store who may not have heard about us before.

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What do you enjoy the most about the business?

Larry: I really enjoy the challenges this business presents every day. Even though this is a small business, it is complicated in that you have to put a lot of things together and make them work. I don’t see a big difference between what my demands were in a leadership position as a sales director and what I’m doing now. I find that I have to use all of my leadership skills all of the time. This is a good fit for me. All of the different kinds of work that has to get done on a daily basis keeps me from becoming complacent.

There’s also the appeal of being in the travel business. During my time in the military, even though I knew it wasn’t going to be my career, I always volunteered to go places. I went to South Korea and the Philippines, for example. One of our goals for my wife and myself is to travel more.

Chris: We’ve always worked with people, and we enjoy that aspect of it. It’s a lot more fun to talk to people about travel than it is to talk to them about health insurance.

What customers does Expedia CruiseShipCenters draw?

Chris: One of the reasons we chose this location is we knew we would attract a lot of customers organically. Just now today, a young couple walked in, and we were fielding their questions and providing them with information on how we can improve their vacations. We get all kinds of people of all ages as customers, which is another reason we chose the Northern Kentucky location.

Larry: One of the benefits of franchising with Expedia CruiseShipCenters is that the corporate marketing team is really on top of things. As franchisees, we contribute to a marketing fund, which we are able to customize to attract our local demographics. It’s far more sophisticated than I had imagined, and the fliers and mailers we have access to are of a very professional quality. Being that the Expedia brand is so big, they have a great relationship with the U.S. Postal Service, so for example, with our last mailer, we were able to get our message to 7,000 people in our area.

How do you recruit Vacation Consultants to support the growth of your business?

Chris: We do use traditional outlets for recruitment. We’ve also had several of our customers become our consultants. We’re in the process of onboarding a retired school principal, which is great because she has the time and resources to make for a successful consultant. That’s a big thing: typically, consultants are women between 40-60 years old, who are passionate about travel and don’t have to rely on us to make ends meet.

Larry: We’re building our team. We have about 15 Vacation Consultants at the moment, and we are trying to get to 18-20 consultants by the end of the year. Of course, our consultants have different levels of engagement, but over the long term we want to have a team of about 30 consultants who are very engaged with this business.

What are the key activities that drive results for an owner, and what are the biggest challenges?

Larry: The most important role that I have to fulfill in this business is to ensure that I support my consultants. I not only have to make sure they are properly trained, but I have to support their personal goals. As a former sales director, I recognize that each consultant is here for a different reason. In a normal work environment, people are working for a paycheck. We’re different because we don’t pay our consultants until after our customers return from their vacations. It’s also important to ensure that a new consultant makes a sale in their first 30-60 days. I make sure to build a pipeline of leads for new consultants to work so that they aren’t starting from scratch. The more success they have, the more they are going to be involved. Their success is our success, and that is very important to remember.

What does a typical day look like in the business?

Larry: There isn’t a typical day. Today I was planning on spending most of my time onboarding a new consultant. However, a client walked in, and he was in our store for three hours. As an owner, you have to be flexible. The one thing that I do on a daily basis is check in with my core group of consultants. They are my first priority, but I am always working my own book of business to keep things going.

What are your goals for your business and how it will affect your life?

Larry: My goal for the first year was to meet or exceed the benchmarks set by the corporate office. We’re on pace to do both, and we will have a strong first year in business. Our franchise performance coach visited our location yesterday, which is the great thing about the level of support that Expedia CruiseShipCenters provides for its franchisees. Our coach keeps us on track to hit our sales goals and helps us to grow the business. We speak to him at least once a month, and he visits with us every six months or so. We need someone who can be in advisory role, who can see our business outside of the day-to-day perspective. Expedia CruiseShipCenters is genuinely interested in our success.

My five-year plan is to grow our travel franchise to the point where I have to hire a bookkeeper. In five years, I want to be at the point where I can work 30 hours a week and travel more. One of the things that the corporate team really stresses is that you want to build a business that has equity. This means that as an owner you can’t be the top producer. So our entire focus is in developing and growing our team of consultants. We want to be 75 years old and have a thriving business that I can hang my hat on.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Chris: Travel! That’s why we’re in this business.

Larry: I like to play golf in the summer and like to play basketball in the winter. I love to watch the Reds, and we’re also Bengal season ticket holders. Of course, we love to travel. We just got off a cruise where we went to five ports out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. We hope to travel more going forward and hopefully lead some group tours.

Would you recommend Expedia CruiseShipCenters to a veteran thinking about starting a business and if so, why?

Larry: Veterans typically come out of the military with a deep passion for service to their country and a commitment to excellence. An Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owner will use these characteristics to build a successful business that services the local cruising community, helping them to plan the vacations of their dreams.

Learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters

For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our opportunity overview pages.