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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 Review: Q&A with John McIntyre

How one man’s quest for a better quality of life led to a second career as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Owner

John-Mcintyre

John McIntyre with his wife, Rhonda Trundle

John McIntyre was looking to own a business with his wife after he decided to leave the energy industry. He found Expedia CruiseShipCenters to be a perfect opportunity to combine his love of travel with his unique business skill set. John is determined to grow his business at his own pace, as he is aware the life of a Franchise Owner is a long-term commitment. John is an admitted workaholic, however, working on the goal of running his own business has improved the quality of his life. His Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise location in Calgary, Canada, is a viable, profitable business.

This is his story.

What were you doing before becoming an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Owner?

My career had been in a leadership position in the energy industry here in Calgary. I had my own consulting business. However, like many people, my career had stalled. I learned about Expedia CruiseShipCenters through the Canadian Franchise Association and in my own online research. I had been looking at completely different businesses other than travel, but when an opportunity fell through, Expedia CruiseShipCenters was next on my list.

What made you want to open one?

I really liked the business model. I liked the senior leadership team; when we met them, I was quite impressed. Also, I think they have a great brand. The systems and technologies that support the franchisees are strong. My wife and I had never been on a cruise before, and so we thought if we are going to invest all of this money into a business, we need to experience it as consumers. When we got off the boat, we signed the contract. The cruise was the icing on the cake, and we knew this business would add quality to our lives.

John-Mcintyre-2

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

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 in the energy industry 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.

As far as staff goes, we have a great group of consultants, all of whom have a giving spirit.

What customers does Expedia CruiseShipCenters draw?

The customers are what I like to call experiential travelers. They want to experience new cultures, get to know the history of a different place, eat the food, and drink the beverages. They don’t want a vacation so much as they want a cultural experience.

How do you recruit travel consultants to support the growth of your business?

We use a number of mechanisms to attract the right people. We advertise locally in our newspapers, and we also print fliers. We look for friends of consultants. We get the word out that recruitment is an evergreen process. We also recruit via our website, as well as host Discovery Nights at our office.

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

Investing in your sales team and your workforce. I spend a lot of time training them not only on the aspects of the job, but also building their interpersonal skills. Their main job is to find out what the customers want.

Finding the right talent is a constant challenge. I want positive people who have a passion for travel. I want team players who have an entrepreneurial spirit. I always ask potential consultants to give me an example of when and how they were a team player. I look for people who have an ability to engage with people — people who are “people’s people,” so to speak. Finding the right people and establishing expectations is always a challenge.

What does a typical day look like in the business?

A typical day for me begins at 7 a.m. I come in to the office, and I take a look at my e-mails, of which there is usually a significant amount. I have meetings and conversations with consultants, suppliers and other Franchise Owners. What I don’t do is sell travel. Any business that I develop, I pass on to my consultants. I focus the majority of my time on how I can drive more business to my office.

What were your goals for your business and how it would affect your life?

Our goals were to prove to ourselves that we could start our own business and make it financially viable. We have done that. We are turning a profit, and I see this as a long-term investment that needs to be grown. Another goal of ours was to travel and see parts of the world we once only dreamed about. We have done that, too.

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

I’m an admitted workaholic, so I don’t look outside too much for fun. We love to travel by ourselves or with our friends. We do a fair bit with our church, which makes me happy. We also camp occasionally in the Rocky Mountains, which is a great way to relax. Calgary has a great theatre scene, and so we go see shows a fair amount.

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

I would if that person is a people person who has a passion for travel. The corporate team helps in terms of national promoting and marketing. They continually develop and invest in our technology. They also have provided us with learning and training programs, and they believe in our ability to be successful.

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.

How Do Travel Franchise Sales Compare to Each Other?

In a competitive industry, Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise is a top seller of cruise travel

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has enjoyed average sales growth of 20% a year for more than two decades.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters has enjoyed average sales growth of 20% a year for more than two decades.

According to Cruise Lines International Association, 23 million people plan to cruise in 2015. In such a competitive market, travel franchise businesses are competing for customers. While many travel franchise businesses offer similar, work-from-home business models, Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® is winning market share by doing things differently.

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. Why? There are a lot of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is our business model. Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisees sign up to become travel sales leaders, not travel agents.

Why our travel franchise model generates more revenue than our competition

It may be cheaper to buy a Cruise Planners or Cruise One franchise, our business model is designed to help our owners continuously scale their businesses. Our business model is similar to a real estate brokerage, where a broker assembles a team of real estate agents and gives them the resources they need to close deals. An Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner fills the role of the broker. At Cruise Planners, the franchisee is the agent — a talented one can do well, but agents only have so many hours in which they can sell. A broker, however, can always add capacity by bringing in more agents, who generate more sales.

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters mission statement is to “empower our franchisees with a proven system to grow a profitable and valuable business.” This is why our franchise owners operate out of brick-and mortar-retail locations rather than their homes. 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. Given that 70% of customers prefer to book their cruises with a travel agent, according to Cruise Lines International Association, it is of added importance that our customers can trust our brand because we are a visible part of their communities.

The benefit of owning a retail travel franchise

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.

While it’s true that home-based travel franchises have significantly lower investment requirements than the Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise, they don’t have what we have. Brick-and-mortar locations boasting the Expedia® brand, which is a symbol of credibility. In a business that’s built on trust, a retail storefront helps you earn it faster than businesses run out of the most professional home offices or meetings at the trendiest coffee shops.

Having a physical space also can be key to building equity in your business — it’s never too late to make plans to sell a business five, 10 or 15 years down the road. Home-based businesses, like many travel franchises, can be more difficult to sell without some tangible assets. Expedia CruiseShipCenters come with a commercial address, computers, desks, chairs — a visible manifestation of the value of the business.
You can also own multiple locations. Brenna and Dan Maurer own Expedia CruiseShipCenters locations in Summerlin and Henderson, Nevada. The couple plans to open another location in Seattle, Washington, in the near future.

“The Expedia CruiseShipCenters leadership team is very helpful, very knowledgeable, and very true to what their expectations are for us,” Brenna says. “They provide almost everything you need to succeed in this business, and I only say ‘almost’ because you have to take what they give you and work hard.”

Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is one of the largest sellers of cruise travel in North America. Our travel agency franchise is rapidly expanding, with nearly 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 growing quickly.

Vacation Consultant opportunity

If you are interested in a much lower-cost vacation franchise opportunity, investigate becoming one of our Vacation Consultants. For an investment of $299 per month, and then a monthly fee, you receive training and the technology to be a licensed Expedia CruiseShipCenters Vacation Consultant who can work part time or full time, from home or from one of our retail locations. Learn about that opportunity at www.joincsc.com.

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.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Review: Q&A with Brenna and Dan Maurer

How one couple strives to live the dream of an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise Review: Q&A with Kevin and Jennifer White

How a former teacher and a former sales executive fashioned a second career out of their desire to own their own business

Kevin and Jennifer White of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wanted a career that combined their passion for travel and their desire to run a business together. They discovered the opportunity by partnering with one of the world’s largest travel brands — Expedia — to open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel agency franchise. This is their story.

Expedia-franchise

Kevin White poses for a photo on the Great Wall of China.

What were you doing before becoming an Expedia CruiseShipCenters owner?

Jennifer: I taught special education in Broward County for 13 years before coming to this business. I took some years off to raise our kids. I received a master’s degree in education from Florida State University and came down here to teach. I have always loved travel, and truth be told, teaching has changed a lot and I wanted something different. As a special education teacher, the paperwork was ungodly.

Kevin: I worked for a charter airline called Miami Air. Our offices were across the street from the airport. I have been in sales most of my career. At Miami Air, I worked as director of marketing and sales and as an account executive. I did everything from supporting the sales staff to going out and knocking on doors for new business. I worked for all sorts of neat customers — NBA and MLB teams, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. To be clear, I wasn’t rubbing shoulders with celebrities, I was just arranging their travel! It was neat, but I was ready to get out of the corporate world.

I came across Expedia CruiseShipCenters and being that it was in the travel industry, I thought it would be something I would enjoy doing. I had always wanted to try something on my own. I didn’t want to get to retirement and say that I wished I had tried something when I was in my 30s or 40s, only to reach 70 years old without ever doing that. I also liked the franchise system because I wanted to have someone I could lean on and who could help with issues. Also, I liked that the business plan and marketing plan was in place, as well as Expedia being a well-known brand.

How did you first learn about Expedia CruiseShipCenters?

Kevin: I had been interested in the franchise for a while. During the summer of 2013, I began doing some research. I had been with my previous company for 14 years and felt that it was time for a change. No job seemed exciting, which pushed me to research business opportunities. I stumbled across Expedia CruiseShipCenters through travel-related internet research. I was armed with a little bit of sales and marketing knowledge, and I have an MBA. I thought “maybe I could make this work with hard work, hope, and a prayer.”

What made you want to open one?

Expedia-franchise

Jennifer White soaks in the breathtaking view from an Alaska cruise.

Kevin: I think it was the support that we would receive from the people at the corporate office. Jennifer and I flew out to Vancouver to meet with them. They were genuine people who I thought would be there to support us.

What sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors?

Jennifer: The fact that we are not a dot-com. So many storefront travel agencies from when we were kids have gone away. Shopping for travel online isn’t very fun — it’s almost choice overload and option overload. A lot of people don’t have time to sift through it all, especially if they are looking for something that is tailored to them. Our customer service is a big advantage.

Tell me about your customers.

Kevin: They are generally families and retirees. Most single folks go to the web. Families are looking for more of a structured vacation — especially retirees. They like things that are planned for them, and they like knowing what they are going to do.

A lot of our customers like that when they are talking to somebody, they know who they are speaking with. Most travel agencies rely on call centers, and the person on the other end of the line won’t know your preferences or what you like to do. We are able to provide personal service, and we are already starting to get people coming back. The phone call I was just on before this interview was with a repeat customer, and I am working with her on a trip to Greece. It’s a relationship. She calls me to talk to me.

Jennifer: We call those customers for life. Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ training program has taught us how to implement a system that will create customers for life from the first time we reach out to a prospect to the time they get home from their trip and are ready to plan the next one.

How is the training?

Jennifer: It is amazing. You go through a week of training at the corporate office in Vancouver, which is a lot of information. It’s like, “open mouth, insert firehose.” However, both before and after, you get amazing support with calls and internet meetings. Also, the International Cruise Academy can take someone without prior knowledge all the way through the program and have them ready to start selling. It helps people get up to speed quickly.

Is it hard to get Vacation Consultants?

Jennifer: It depends. We have advertised and discovered that people who are looking for a job don’t work out well. We advertise on Craigslist and get a lot of inquiries, but we have to see how qualified they are. Word of mouth is some of the best marketing, and we have hired some people who love to travel. Simply being here is a big draw, and for us to get out in our community and talk about the opportunity is very powerful.

Kevin: The most challenging part is that our consultants are paid 100 percent on commission, and it takes a while to start making some money. The way it works is that they get paid once their customers start their trip. You are really looking for the right person who is looking to do that. The demographic we are looking for is mainly women between 40 and 55 — either empty nesters or moms whose kids are at school and are looking for something to do during the day. They love travel and love to talk about travel. When you post any type of ad, no matter how well you word it, you get some people who are looking for a job to pay the next month’s rent, and that’s the big challenge. Also, sales is not easy for some people. We have a great training program for our consultants, though, and we can train anyone who is willing to learn. Anyone who is willing to follow the system can do well. Someone not willing to use the system or learn from our sales training (or those who have a hard time talking to people) is going to struggle. The hardest part of the job for us in the first year has been recruitment and onboarding.

Tell me about your location.

Kevin: We’re on the north side of Fort Lauderdale in an area with a fair amount of retirees and families, which is one of the reasons we chose this location. We stayed away from more transient areas. We are in a strip mall, and we have some pretty strong stores neighboring us — Panera Bread and a FedEx Office. Our business is not based on walk-ins, but visibility helps. We do get people walking in after just discovering us.

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

Jennifer: It’s nice to make people happy. I like coming into something we own, and we can ask consultants to cover the office if we want to go have lunch with our kids. Then again, when the phone rings at 10 p.m., it is us answering and not our consultants.

Kevin: I think the main thing I enjoy is helping customers. It’s fun for people to go on vacation. We just had a couple that went on a cruise, and the gentleman proposed on the cruise. It was neat to know that I helped play a role in a proposal! I have another customer who is planning a proposal on his cruise, too.

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

Jennifer: Our favorites have been an Alaska cruise and a trip to Costa Rica. They each had their own charms. The scenery and the outdoor activities were amazing.

What are the key activities that drive results for an owner?

Kevin: Since we’re only about a year in, we’re not experts. However, I think I can say that the number one thing is recruitment. The more sales consultants we have, the better chance we have of reaching our sales goals. You don’t always know how people are going to do when you bring them onboard, so a constant focus on recruiting is key.

The next most important thing is marketing. We frequently go out into the community and attend networking events. As a new franchise owner, from a marketing standpoint, the name of the game is letting the community know that we are here. That loops back into recruitment. The more sales consultants we have, the more our name gets out there as they talk to people and do their own marketing. We look for consultants who are very active in a circle of influence, whether that is a tennis club, a country club or church.

One of the nice things is that it’s always easy to strike up a conversation at networking events. As soon as you tell people you are in the travel business, they’ll start asking questions. It’s easy to ask anyone you meet: “Where have you been? Where do you want to go next? Australia?” From there I can say, “Let me put you on our mailing list and send you interesting stuff about Australia!” That’s how we’re building our business.

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.

Franchise Business Review Names Travel Agency Franchise Best-in-Class

info-90percent-300x300Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise is named a top franchise opportunity based on franchisee satisfaction

Franchise Business Review, a leading publication devoted to analysis of franchise systems, recently named Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel agency franchise as a Best Opportunity for 2015, as well as a Franchisee Satisfaction Award Winner.

In order to determine which franchise system made the list of Top 50 Franchises in four categories based on the size of initial investment, the publication surveyed more than 26,000 franchise owners from over 350 franchise systems. The list measures which franchise systems are the best bets based on the level of satisfaction franchise owners feel about their businesses and how their businesses are performing.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters launched in 1987 and is one of the largest sellers of cruise travel in North America. Our travel agency franchise is rapidly expanding, with nearly 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 growing quickly.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners receive first-rate, ongoing support

One of the reasons that Franchise Business Review honored us with the distinction of being a Franchisee Satisfaction Award Winner is that our owners have turned their passion for travel into a career — they get to help their customers plan their dream vacations! In turn, our corporate team ensures that our Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owners get outstanding support every step of the way. 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.

“The training and support from corporate is simply amazing,” says Jennifer White, an Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel franchise owner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “You go through a week of training at the corporate office in Vancouver, which is a lot of information. It’s like, ‘open mouth, insert firehose.’ However, both before and after, you get amazing support with calls and internet meetings. The International Cruise Academy can take someone without prior knowledge all the way through the program and have them ready to start selling. It helps people get up to speed.”

Our travel franchise owners can grow their business as large as they like

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters mission statement is to empower our franchisees with a proven system to grow a profitable and valuable business. Everything we do or create for our franchise partners is in support of that mission. We’re constantly thinking of new and better ways to support the growth and scalability of our travel franchise locations, because the success of our owners drives the success of our brand.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 2.52.37 PMThe level of flexibility our model provides is another reason why our travel franchise owners are excited to set sail into their new careers, and part of why Franchise Business Review is so impressed with our business model.

Prospective franchise buyers get excited about that flexibility when they start researching our business opportunity. We set our franchise partners up with a system that’s designed for continuous, sustained growth. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, there is no limit to how large you can grow your sales team of vacation consultants who sell travel on your behalf, which means the growth potential of a single franchise location is substantial. If you want to take your business to the next level, you increase the size of your team and continue training, motivating, and coaching them to set and exceed their own personal sales goals.

“I definitely would recommend starting an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise,” says Joyce Ripka, a travel franchise owner in Quebec, Canada. “Especially if you are interested in getting into the travel business. As long as you are comfortable with the franchise system, and by that I mean that you have to use the Expedia programs and be willing to listen to the corporate team in Vancouver. Otherwise, you will not be getting the value out of the system.”

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.