CLIA Revamps Membership With New Tiers, More Perks for Individual Agents

By Susan Young

It’s been nearly 40 years since the founding of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) yet its membership model – despite some tweaking over the years – still harkens back to an earlier era of trade sales.

Today, that changes. The world’s largest cruise trade association is launching a newly redesigned travel agency and agent membership program. Agents and agencies can register starting today, with membership for the new program effective Jan. 1, 2015.

CLIA hopes its new membership program will attract more individual agents, improve support from hosts, franchises and consortia and drive more cruise sales. // Photo by Susan J. Young

CLIA hopes its new membership program will attract more individual agents, improve support from hosts, franchises and consortia and drive more cruise sales. // Photo by Susan J. Young

To create the new program, CLIA tapped into focus group research, cruise line feedback and travel agent ideas and suggestions.

Acknowledging it’s CLIA’s biggest change ever on the membership side, Christine Duffy, CLIA’s president and CEO, said “the previous membership model was launched 40 years ago, done at a time when agents were all still in storefronts. It was all about being a CLIA agency.”

So what’s new? CLIA is debuting new Silver, Gold and Diamond membership levels and a much stronger, more cohesive focus on attracting more individual travel agents with perks and benefits just for them. The new model also recognizes that many more agents work at home or are affiliated with host agencies or franchise/consortia groups. “What we see is creating a value proposition and membership model for the individual agent who isn’t in a storefront,” Duffy said.

It’s also the first time host or franchise groups or consortia can become full-fledged CLIA members. “We couldn’t be any happier about the new CLIA membership program,” said Michelle Fee, CEO, Cruise Planners. Her organization has now joined CLIA as a Premium Diamond Member: “The new program speaks to the changing dynamics of the cruise industry and reinforces CLIA’s commitment to travel partners.”

Stronger Focus on Individual Agents

For 2015, Silver level membership for an individual travel agent starts at $49-$99; the price agents now pay under the existing 2014 program is $119. All agents applying for individual membership still must work for an agency that’s a CLIA member.

One new requirement is that individual agents must earn a minimum of $5,000 total cruise commission in a year (verified by the agency or host group). “Putting in the minimum sales requirement assures we are serving professional agents,” said Duffy.

The best perks? Individual agents who join CLIA will get their own membership number; previously, they used the agency’s number, but now they’ll log in with their own number to and have a more personalized online experience.

More than 25 cruise lines will also provide what Duffy calls “exciting special offers” for the individual agents. Some of those offers are also enhanced for those agents affiliated with consortia or host groups.

The package of perks for all agent members is valued at an estimated $5,000; it will include bonus incentive commission for individual agents (paid to the agency to be distributed to the specific agent); reduced rate cruises for agent personal travel; priority FAM trip invitations; onboard credits for agents and their clients; and points towards CLIA accreditation.

Under the new set-up, cruise lines will track all individual agent members; they’ll know which agents are performing well in selling their products and whom to reward with added perks. Many will have “cruise expert finders” that will allow consumers to see a list of CLIA member agents on their websites.

CLIA will also list agents in its own Cruise Agent Finder on There will be extra benefits or incentives for those who are certified or who achieve different levels of CLIA certification.

While the normal training requirement has been “waived” for 2015 membership, agents must take one annual CLIA designated course and a “state of the industry” type exam for renewing their membership, starting with the 2016 membership year.

CLIA cruise lines offering exclusive agent member incentives include AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, Azamara Club Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Hurtigruten, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Pearl Seas Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea Cruises, Tauck River Cruising, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Windstar Cruises.

Duffy stressed that in the past individual agents joined CLIA primarily because they were pursuing CLIA training accreditation. While that’s still an important part of CLIA’s support for the trade, “now, we think that CLIA individual agent membership isn’t just for those who want to enroll in certification,” she said. “It’s for anyone actively selling cruises.”

Agents who join as individual CLIA members will also receive advocacy and insight reports from CLIA’s legislative efforts in Washington D.C.; preferential pricing for CLIA products; and preferential registration for ship inspections. And, members may register for CLIA’s extensive training programs and its annual cruise3sixty conference.

Brian O’Connor, chairman of CLIA’s trade relations committee, as well as vice president of North America sales for Princess Cruises and Cunard Line said both CLIA and the supplier executives on the trade relations committee truly value and champion the important role of travel professionals: “It is for that reason that we have collaborated to redefine and enhance the value proposition of what it means for a travel advisor to be a member of CLIA. It’s exciting to see so many rich and even exclusive benefits to reward and encourage agents through their CLIA membership.”

Duffy said the perks the cruise lines are offering to individual agents basically pays for the Silver level membership fee of $49 by the time the agent sells a second cruise.

“Individual agent bonus commission will be going directly to the agent as opposed to the agency,” Duffy stresses, calling that one of the “rich benefits that the cruise lines are providing in support of agents.”

Travel Agency Membership Changes

CLIA has also redesigned its travel agency membership by adding levels based on the agency’s number of agents and creating a premium category for larger agencies as well as hosts, franchises and consortia.

Silver level agency membership is for small to mid-sized agencies with one to 24 agents. A new Gold membership tier is for larger agencies with 25 to 99 agents. New Diamond membership is for very large agencies with 100+ agents as well as for the consortia and host groups.

For membership renewal, a Silver agency will pay $339 in 2015, the same price it paid this year under the old program. For new agencies joining CLIA, the Silver level fee for 2015 is also $339 but they actually will save $80, as CLIA is doing away with the $80 application fee charged under the existing program.

Membership fees will rise for the premium level agencies are considerably higher. A Gold agency now will pay an annual membership fee of $3,000, and a Diamond tier agency or consortia/host/franchise group will pay $5,000 annually.

Duffy stressed that given that strong initial response from Diamond-level members, it’s clear these groups will promote individual CLIA membership to their agents. That’s a type of support CLIA hasn’t had in the past.

She believes that by moving from an agency model to an agent and agency model, CLIA could attract upwards of some 50,000 individual agents, simply based on the numbers of those affiliated with consortia, host agencies or franchise groups that have already said they’d become premium level agencies.

While CLIA has enjoyed a large number of agency members, around 13,000 globally, Duffy said the number of agents who are direct CLIA members within that has been relatively small, perhaps around 2,000 or so, again mostly because they were seeking CLIA certification.

Among those who have already signed on for Diamond level membership are: AVOYA Travel, Cruise Planners, CruiseOne, Cruises Inc., Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Montrose Travel, Nexion, Signature Travel Network, Travel Leaders Group, Travel Planners International, Uniglobe, and Virtuoso. “This membership really reflects what agents want and will help us to mold our agents into strong cruise sellers,” believes Fee, who says she’s also happy to encourage all her franchise agents to join CLIA.

Similarly, John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group, expressed his support, noting that his group’s agents now may take advantage of CLIA’s many sales and marketing tools, cruise line benefits and education: “I’m personally encouraging our 35,000-plus travel agents to join forces with us in supporting the new CLIA membership structure.”

From one cruise line’s perspective, Andy Stuart, executive vice president sales and passenger services with Norwegian Cruise Line, described the new membership program as “a win-win for everyone in the cruise industry.”

He said the agent benefits – from CLIA management training to incentives for themselves and their clients – are outstanding and “a major outcome will be a healthy distribution channel for cruise sales.”

More to Come

Over the next several years, CLIA will move into additional phases of the program. There will be redesigned CLIA courses and more online CLIA training.

Moving forward, agents also will get something they’ve been clamoring for — credit for training that they might receive through their host agency, consortium or franchise group, or, alternatively, through individual cruise line product training.

In the past, agents who took a Norwegian Cruise Line or CruiseOne course, for example, didn’t get CLIA credit. “Therefore, they didn’t see a benefit,” Duffy said. That change is on the horizon.

Duffy told Travel Agent that some of the training enhancements will be introduced at CLIA’s annual cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale, April 22-26, 2015. CLIA also plans to introduce new technology tools for its agent and agency members in 2016.

The entire effort, said Duffy, is to help agents do their job better and support them to the fullest as they sell cruise vacations. “We’ve heard loud and clear from agents and the agency community that technology tools make it easier for them to find things about the cruise lines without having to go to multiple sites,” she said. “We do have a resource directory now, but we’ll have a new CLIA Resource Center that’s much easier to use.” It will be a one-stop place for all member line information, ship profiles, cruise line profiles, photos and more.

With more technology investments, CLIA hopes to move the needle in terms of the numbers of consumers who take a cruise. “We still have a lot of great opportunity with those who have not cruised before, so we think the more tools and more training [that CLIA can create or integrate for agents], the more lift everyone will have,” said Duffy.

Duffy also pointed to hiring earlier this year of Dwain Wall, a former CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. executive; he’s now CLIA’s senior vice president of agency and trade relations and was actively involved in the new membership program development, as were other CLIA staffers.

In addition, sizable input for the new membership program was provided by CLIA’s Travel Agent Advisory Board and its trade relations committee. CLIA also tapped focus group research and individual agent feedback.

The association also brought in Mark Conroy, former president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, as a consultant during the membership design project. The goal was to ensure the organization was looking at all angles. “He has a broad and deep relationship with many agencies,” stressed Duffy.

While acknowledging it’s a significant investment, Duffy said the new membership program changes are “totally supported by the CLIA board” and that the organization believes it will gain higher membership volume. Over time, she believes it will pay off with more cruise sales and, hopefully a stronger market penetration for cruising as a vacation choice.

“CLIA’s new travel agent membership program is the best I’ve ever seen,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president, sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International. “It offers agents more training and rewards and reflects the value that the cruise industry places on them.” Freed said her line is 100 percent behind the new program and “I hope every agent who is serious about their business and their future takes advantage of this opportunity.”

CLIA’s membership model was tweaked over the years, but with the rise of consortia, hosts and franchise groups, plus the diversification of the agent “workplace” to include agents working from home offices, it definitely needed more significant changes, Duffy said, adding: “We think it’s time.”

The new CLIA membership model is only for North American travel agents and agencies. Duffy said the Australia/New Zealand, Asia, United Kingdom and Ireland business models for agencies are, in and of themselves, quite different than the North American agency model. So, CLIA will continue to work with CLIA groups in those global regions as to what might be applicable and best practices, but it’s also sensitive to the culture as well as legal and regulatory requirements and modeling.

The organization is, however, looking at a more global level of training for 2016, which will include more online training and new courses, such as one on the groups market. “There is a lot more opportunity for agents to be selling groups on cruises, affinity groups or corporate incentive groups,” Duffy said.

Agents can find out more information about the new 2015 CLIA agency and agent membership program at

Original article found on

Franchise Players: How a Newspaper Editor Developed an Entrepreneurial Mindset Through Franchising

Chris Meyer knows the newspaper industry: he has nearly 30 years of experience in it, most recently as a deputy editor at the Orange Country Register. But as the newspaper business became plagued with layoffs, buyouts and bankruptcies, Meyer decided it was time to get out.

Meyer went on to buy an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise. Here’s what this former editor has learned over the last two years in the franchise industry.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 4.25.11 PM

Name: Chris Meyer

Franchise owned: Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Laguna Hills, California

How long have you owned the franchise?

I bought the franchise in June 2011 and opened on January 2, 2012.

Why franchising?

I was looking for a new opportunity as prospects diminished in the newspaper industry, where I had spent nearly 30 years. I was first attracted to the business concept marrying the power of a big online travel agency with personal service in a storefront. The franchise concept made sense for such a format, and I did not want to reinvent the wheel. So, I took the leap as an entrepreneur, knowing that I had a proven system but also a certain amount of freedom to adapt it to my specific market.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was deputy editor for local and business news for the Orange County Register, one of the largest newspapers in the United States. The newspaper industry was experiencing significant declining revenue and for several years we had been navigating bankruptcy and managing successive rounds of layoffs and buyouts.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

The business concept appealed to me. I was looking for a new opportunity. I had not even considered franchising or the travel business, even though I have a serious case of wanderlust.

I learned about Expedia CruiseShipCenters through a targeted ad on my LinkedIn profile. Here was a company that was developing diverse niches based on travelers’ changing preferences, an internet company that was building a bricks-and-mortar presence to serve a market segment. That was the kind of forward-looking company with which I wanted to affiliate. The fact that it was a franchise was incidental at first, and I began to see it as an advantage as I learned more. The fact that it was in travel was a bonus.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

The total estimated initial investment ranges between $79,500 and $149,500. This includes the following:

  • Initial franchise fee
  • On-site training
  • Premises lease security deposit
  • Utilities and telephone deposit
  • Leasehold improvements
  • Signage (interior and exterior)
  • Computers and software
  • Office furniture, equipment and office supplies
  • Telephone equipment
  • Insurance
  • Professional fees
  • Business license and/or permits
  • Additional funds/ working capital for the first three months

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

I had recently finished an executive MBA program with UC Irvine, and leaned heavily on relevant coursework. I also sought the counsel of friends who were longtime entrepreneurs. Additionally, I interviewed many existing franchise partners within the Expedia CruiseShipCenters system to learn about their experiences.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

The biggest one was developing the entrepreneurial mindset. It took me a long time to get comfortable outside of a paycheck-every-other Friday job. I also was surprised at the time commitment necessary. I thought we had long hours in the news business, but this also requires a huge time commitment.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

Check your gut. Franchising gives you a system and support, but at the end of the day it’s up to you. You have to have a competitive mindset and an attitude that failure is not an option. The people you attract will make the difference. Focus on building a team of smart, driven people who can play well together. And devote lots of time to recruiting and developing your people.

What’s next for you and your business?

I want to continue the fast growth we have had for our first two and a half years. Recruitment and development of people will be the key. When I reach a certain cash flow position, I will consider how to expand.

Original article found on

Running a cruise-centered travel agency floats his boat

Entrepreneur opens a branch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in the Clear Lake area


Riyaz Momin owner of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a travel agency franchise specializing in cruise vacations opened the office about a month ago in Webster. Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Webster. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Webster is the first retail store of Expedia Cruise ships in Texas according to Momin. // Photo: Marie D. De Jesus, Houston Chronicle

By Sandra Bretting

As a young pilot studying at the Bombay Flying Club in the mid-1990s, Riyaz Momin loved nothing more than to embark on new journeys.

Although he ultimately passed on the dream of becoming a commercial pilot, he said, he never lost his love for travel. In February, Momin opened a Clear Lake-area branch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a travel agency that books cruises and more with a staff of eight consultants.

“The best thing about booking a cruise or trip through a travel agent is that we know what specials are coming up six months from now,” said Momin, 38. “We can tell you what cruise ships will be offering next season and the season after that.”

While his office also offers air and land trips, Momin said most of his business involves cruising.

In the Houston area, tourists can board cruises at either Galveston or the Bayport Cruise Terminal.

Cruise companies began coming to Galveston in 1974. Today that port’s home to Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

“The Port of Galveston was the second fastest-growing cruise port in the United States in 2012,” said Virginia Sheridan, a spokesperson for an industry trade group called the Cruise Lines International Association.

Overall, 181 cruises will depart from the port this year, using four different ships.

Meanwhile, the Port of Houston opened Bayport Cruise Terminal in 2007. Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line inked deals last year to begin sailing from there.

Riyaz Momin, who owns a branch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, says: “The best thing about partnering with a big brand like Expedia is the amount of technology you get.”

Princess began using one ship at the port in November, with a second set to come this November. Norwegian Cruise Lines will begin sailing from there with one ship in October.

According to cruise line association, some three-fourths of all cruises are booked through a travel agent. Expedia, the online travel site that also owns and, has about 170 franchised locations like Momin’s around the country.

“The best thing about partnering with a big brand like Expedia is the amount of technology you get,” Momin said. “Our office is virtually paperless because everything is done online.”

Momin said a $29,000 franchise fee bought him access to the technology and training at Expedia CruiseShipCenters’s corporate office in Vancouver, British Columbia. He credits his consultants, some of whom have 20 years of travel experience, with knowing the ins and outs of the travel

“These days there are so many families that want to travel together, but they have kids of different ages,” Momin said. “That’s especially where we can help, because we find out how many teens are going to be on a boat, for instance, or whether there are things for a toddler to do.”

For now, Momin hopes to add more consultants and embark on a few more trips himself this year. Given the choice, where would he go for a dream destination? “Antarctica,” Momin said. “I’d like to see places full of natural beauty before they’re all gone.”

Original article found on

Cruise agency franchiser sees growth potential in South Florida

The cruise industry packs a big economic punch in South Florida, home to two of the world’s busiest cruise ports — PortMiami (No. 1) and Port Everglades (No. 3). And the second-busiest seaport, Port Canaveral, is just a few hours away by car.


Cruising is also the fastest-growing category in the leisure travel market, with plenty of untapped potential in the United States. Only about 20 percent of the population has ever cruised, industry specialists say.

As such, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando are seen as prime development markets for cruise agency franchisers, such as Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a Vancouver-based outfit that’s aiming to grow its U.S. footprint.

The Sun Sentinel talked recently with Geraldine Ree, Expedia CruiseShip’s senior vice president sales and marketing, about its business model and growth plans. The company’s annual conference ran Nov. 9-16 at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina and at sea aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas.

Interview responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Tell us about Expedia CruiseShipCenters?

A: We began in Canada 26 years ago as CruiseShipCenters and became part of online travel agency Expedia Group in 2007. Today, Expedia CruiseShipCenters books one in every four cruises sold in Canada, and in 2012 did $535 million in sales. Our goal is to have similar market share in the U.S. We made a big push here in 2010 and sold our first U.S. retail franchise in Weston that year, which is operated by Mary Beth Casey.

Q: How many franchises are there?

A: We have 180 in North America, including 43 in the U.S. In Florida we have 10 franchises (six retail and four home-based), including locations in Plantation and Orlando. A Fort Lauderdale franchise is opening soon.

Q: Why Fort Lauderdale for the conference?

A: We’ve held it either in Fort Lauderdale or Miami in the last five years. It’s important for franchisees from other regions to learn about the Florida cruise experience … the hotels, port facilities, shopping, etc. Fort Lauderdale, for example, is an amazing pre-cruise destination.

Q: Tell us about the conference?

A: There are more than 500 participants, with 96 percent of franchisees attending. For them, it’s an opportunity to hear from top cruise line executives, network with peers, share best practices and learn new sales methodology. We talk about our vision, five-year plan and our brand and about growing our presence.

Q: Why is the main conference on a ship?

A: It takes us to our roots and gives franchise partners the opportunity to see the product they’re selling. Not only are new ships debuting, but cruise lines are investing millions to upgrade and refurbish ships, so it’s always important to stay updated.

Q: Why specialize in brick and mortar outlets?

A: Historically, it’s been our core model and works best for us. The physical location is more for the benefit of the inside and outside sales consultants who use it as their home base.

Q: How much is the retail franchise investment?

A: The franchise fee is $29,000, but total start-up costs is about $100,000.

Q: What’s your goal for the U.S.?

A: As navigators of spectacular vacation experiences, we want to have strong presence in the 10 major cruise states. Florida, Texas and California, for example, present growth opportunities for us.

Original article found on

A Cut Above the Rest: Five Ways to Differentiate Your Franchise

Matthew Eichhorst

Matthew Eichhorst

Creating a brand promise, streamlining the sales process and developing industry leading technology are all unique ways a franchise can stand out from the crowd.

By Matthew Eichhorst

Successful franchise brands begin with a unique vision and follow a plan to achieve it. Offering a distinctive service or product is one way to separate your franchise from the rest, but what other initiatives can you consider to rise above other businesses in the same category? Below are five ways to leverage what makes your franchise business unique.

1. Maximize your brand.

Being able to clearly articulate how a brand defines itself is crucial for any company that wants to stand out in the crowded franchise space. Creating a “brand manifesto” from the bottom up is one way to accomplish this goal. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has developed what we call our brand promise. Within this promise there are six supporting statements that succinctly communicate all that we stand for. This promise has helped our 180 franchise partners and 4,000 vacation consultants understand their common purpose as “Navigators of spectacular vacation experiences.”

To develop our promise we partnered with a strategic branding company to get an outside perspective on what makes our company unique. The branding company advises that brands need to refine their strategic positioning platforms to better attract target customers and drive optimal organizational behavior.

In addition, by developing a refreshed brand promise based on research outcomes and supporting it with compelling internal and external communications, it is possible to enhance a brand’s strong positioning in the marketplace. In addition to the external point of view, it is also important to gather input from internal stakeholders about how a brand should be positioned. Everyone in a franchise organization needs to be marching to the same beat, and building your brand manifesto together is an important first step in achieving that unity.

2. Systemize your sales process.

One of the biggest benefits of joining a franchise is the opportunity to leverage the proven systems that have been developed and perfected by the franchisor. Systemizing the sales process for a high demand product will help any franchise succeed. For example, Expedia CruiseShipCenters created an internal online system that eliminates the need for additional software to leverage the growing demand for cruise vacations and in turn, has achieved greater sales. When a cruise line has a special promotion to roll out, we have an established system in place for communicating it to our vacation consultants, marketing it to our customers and booking it through our proprietary CruiseDesk software.

3. Help franchisees become sales leaders.

We place a big emphasis on helping our franchise partners become exceptional sales leaders. To make this happen, we created a comprehensive program called The Navigators Approach to help our franchisees train their vacation consultants to sell travel the brand’s way.

“The Navigators Approach training has been extraordinarily useful,” said Matt Velure, Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisee in Eugene, Ore. “You can’t put a dollar value on the benefit that we’re getting from the tool. It goes beyond sales numbers and leads. It’s truly making people better at building their business.”

It is also crucial for the franchise development department to know which qualities to look for in a potential franchisee. Identifying a particular skill set − such as people who are excellent nurturers, trainers and motivators who will drive results − will help a brand succeed.

4. Recruit individuals who are passionate about your product and your brand.

People who are ambassadors for your brand and the product you sell will help bring your franchise to life. Those who love what they do, also love to talk about what they do and that excitement is infectious. Our franchise partners and sales consultants not only want to build a successful business, they also want to enjoy the rewards of travel – both planning it for others, and experiencing it for themselves. “About 15 years ago a close friend and mentor told me ‘if you truly want to be successful, you have to believe in what you are doing and who you are doing it for.’ If you have those chapters set, the book writes itself,” said Tracey Codd-Lorenz, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Cruise sales manager in Port Charlotte, Fla.

5. Evolve with your industry and its technology.

It’s hard to imagine, but 30 years ago computers were a household rarity. Today, mobile technology platforms like tablets and smartphones are essential to our everyday communication.

Given the incredible pace at which technology advances, companies need to recognize the importance of keeping up with current trends and having a very strong online presence to provide as many ways for customers to connect with them as possible. The internal technology system we use to communicate, report, market and sell includes a button in the platform called “Feedback.” We often receive 200 to 300 pieces of feedback from the distribution channel in a single day, and all of that is tracked and monitored by our support team. In 2012, we incorporated about 800 of those suggestions from the field into improving the system. Our technology is continuously influenced by the distribution channel. Not every email that comes in gets met with ‘Hey that’s a great idea!,’ but every person in the organization has a voice. The reason for this is not just feel-good propaganda. Their feedback helps us make the system better and more effective for all.

Sometimes, success cannot solely be measured on sales, but on investments made for the future. It is imperative to be constantly looking at how a business can advance itself in the marketplace and continue to grow. Initiatives like creating a brand promise, streamlining the sales process and developing industry leading technology are all unique ways a franchise can stand out from the crowd.

Vacation-planning franchise, Expedia cruises into Alberta


With a desire to help people in their community find the right vacations, local entrepreneurs and new franchisees Vicky Barzey, Marty Fulkerth and Jed Snatic have opened an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in Chestermere, Alta.

Barzey has 12 years’ experience as an Expedia CruiseShipCenters travel consultant and has now returned to the company to become a franchisee with the help of her brother, Fulkerth, and friend, Snatic, who both love travel. Barzey leads the team with her in-depth knowledge of the travel industry. When she worked for Sears Travel, for example, she was ranked number one in sales in Western Canada.

“I look forward to working with the community,” she says. “The Internet can become overwhelming when trying to plan a vacation. With so many options available, customers really want to speak to an expert. Our travel consultants can explain the differences among ships and cruise lines to help our customers find the vacation that’s perfect for them.”

Expedia is the largest online travel company in the world and its CruiseShipCenters brand comprises 180 franchises. Customers can choose from numerous travel options over land, sea and air, including customized trips and coach and rail tours.

In addition to the research and booking features available on their website, Barzey and her team will offer personal travel consultations in person, through e-mail or over the phone, so customers can book when, where and how they choose.

Original article found on

Featured: Four boomers on why they chose second careers as entrepreneurs


Sandra McLeod, 58, and Ian McLeod, 66
Owners and managers of Expedia CruiseShipCenters
Etobicoke, Ont.
Opened new franchise location in 2007; 15 independent consultants; $2-million annual revenue

Life before:

Ian and Sandra McLeod both worked as accountants for 30 years. Ms. McLeod worked for several firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and, finally, Grant Thornton, where she found herself out of a job at the age of 52 when her focus of practice area was eliminated.

Mr. McLeod worked for different companies during his career, too, including Continental Bank and Investors Group. After serving as CEO at a credit union that merged with another credit union, he took early retirement at age 60.

What she did:

When her position was eliminated at Grant Thornton, Ms. McLeod looked at a number of different options. Eventually she started looking into different franchise opportunities.

“We developed a list of certain characteristics of must-have, nice-to-have and good-to-have,” Ms. McLeod says. Through that process, CruiseShipCenters came up as the franchise that would be the best fit for Ms. McLeod. The couple did their due diligence, spoke with franchisees and attended corporate meetings, and concluded the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise had a good corporate structure and strong support system.

“It boiled down to does this feel right and is the financial stability of the company there and do we think we can make money,” says Ms. McLeod. “We decided to jump in with both feet and here we are.”

They carefully chose a high-traffic location in Etobicoke and Ms. McLeod immersed herself in learning about the business. “It was a huge learning curve,” she says. “We had travelled but we had never sold travel or been in the travel business.”

Why she took the leap:

After working in the corporate world for 30 years and “having the rug pulled underneath” her when her practice area was eliminated at her last job, Ms. McLeod says she didn’t want to be in that position again.

“I was at a point where I wanted to be controlling my own future,” she says. “I wanted to have more control over what I was doing.”

She says the flexibility of running her own business also appealed to her, even though she was concerned about the risk involved.

“You sign the cheque and then you go ‘holy cow, what did I do? What have I just gotten myself into?’”

On her success:

Ms. McLeod says she had a clear plan on where she wanted to be in their first year of business.

“We far exceeded that plan and we’ve continued to exceed it. We’ve been growing every year by 20 to 30 per cent,” she says.

Biggest challenge:

Making sure they have a life beyond the office is a continuing challenge, according to Ms. McLeod.

“Keeping a lifestyle balance is challenging, because we’re here six days a week and so it’s challenging to run your business and also have a life outside of work,” she says.

While they started off working seven days a week, arriving early in the morning and working until late at night, Ms. McLeod says she and her husband have scaled back their hours.

“You don’t want to be there 24 hours a day – you could be, but we don’t want to be.”

Greatest reward:

Ms. McLeod says her greatest sense of satisfaction comes from clients who go on vacation and have a fabulous time, returning home full of excitement.

She recalls the first time one of her clients gave her a big hug and brought her a bottle of wine after coming home from a great vacation she had arranged. “I didn’t get that when I was doing tax planning,” she says with a laugh.

Words of wisdom for aspiring boomerpreneurs:

Ms. McLeod puts it succinctly: “Never lose sight of your dreams, because if you can dream it you can do it.” She also advises fellow aspiring boomerpreneurs to “find something you love to do because it won’t be work.”

This is an except from the original article found here.

Leader in Travel Industry Recognized as a 2013 Top Franchise System

Franchise Business Review Honors Expedia CruiseShipCenters for Excellence

March 28, 2013 // // Vancouver, British Columbia – Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® – part of Expedia® Inc, the largest online travel company in the world, recently ranked No. 38 in Franchise Business Review’s 2013 Top Franchise Systems with 100-249 units.

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Every year, Franchise Business Review conducts thousands of independent surveys of franchisees, across hundreds of today’s leading franchise brands. The award recognizes Expedia CruiseShipCenters as one of the Top 50 franchise companies with the highest level of overall franchisee satisfaction.

“We are honored to receive this award, which wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of our Franchise Partners,” said Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “It is important for franchise systems to survey their franchise owners to truly get a sense of their satisfaction. The feedback that we receive is essential to the continuous improvement of our system and ultimately, the growth of our company.”

Franchise Business Review surveys over 150,000 franchisees from more than 700 leading franchise brands across North America. This year’s participants included a wide array of companies from many different industries, ranging in size from small franchise systems with just a dozen franchisees, to large international brands with thousands of locations around the world.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ Franchise Partners and Vacation Consultants can leverage Expedia’s $34 Billion in buying power for flights, hotels, vacation packages and more.

About Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Expedia CruiseShipCenters provides exceptional value and expert advice for travelers booking cruises and vacations through its network of more than 170 franchise locations. As part of Expedia Group, the largest online travel company in the world, the company’s 4,000 Vacation Consultants have been navigating spectacular vacation experiences for customers across North America for more than 25 years. Named a fast-growing franchise by MSN Money, Expedia CruiseShipCenters offers flexible, rewarding business opportunities for Consultants and Franchise Owners with a passion for travel.

Expedia is either a registered trademark or trademark of Expedia Group in the U.S. and/or other countries. Other logos or product and company names mentioned herein may be the property of their respective owners. © 2013 Expedia Group. All rights reserved. CST # 2029030-50 and CST # 20893-43

SOURCE Expedia CruiseShipCenters

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Your Month-to-Month Guide to Great Sales

A soup-to-nuts primer on when to snag the best deals on a variety of products.

By Geoff Williams


Image source:

Image source:

Shoppers who don’t realize what’s in store for them in 2013 are understandably in a post-holiday funk right now. The tantalizing, tempting sales start in late November just in time for Thanksgiving. Then come the bargains on Thanksgiving Day itself, Black Friday, and several weeks of ads promising great deals on everything you could possibly want to buy, eventually washed down by post-Christmas sales. Then the opportune shopping season is over—no more big markdowns, no more incredible savings—at least until the same time next year.

Yet that isn’t really the case. It’s well-established that throughout the year, there are ideal times to buy particular items. With the Super Bowl around the corner, you’ll soon see a slew of ads swearing that prices on big-screen TVs have never been better, which may be the case, at least until the next Black Friday rolls around. But it’s far from only televisions you can save on in 2013, and arguably the deals throughout the year are much more important than the deals to be had in December. As Sheri Bridges, faculty director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., observes, “The holidays are about wants. The rest of the year is about needs.”

Here’s what you need to know about what to buy each month:

January. In addition to TVs, this month is also known for “white sales,” mainly on bed linens and towels. This concept is credited to John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia merchant who opened his store in 1877 and in January 1878, held America’s first white sale, which references white sheets (although it refers to much more), an idea he apparently borrowed from a Parisian department store. It’s an American tradition to this day.

January and February are also the best months to book a cruise, says Geraldine Ree, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Expedia CruiseShipCenters. She says travelers start thinking about vacation plans after the holidays, and “to take advantage of this demand, cruise lines work with travel agency partners to put out their best booking incentives of the year during this time.”

You can often save 20 percent, but the big value is in bonus offers: “You’ll find free stateroom category upgrades, savings on airfare, prepaid gratuities, and onboard cash credits of up to $400 from some lines. Reduced deposits are also common, so you’ll be able to secure your booking with just half of what would normally be required.”

Another reason cruise discounts are offered during these months is that the industry likes to plan ahead and book as many cabins as it can for the entire year. In turn, “You may find cheaper, last-minute pricing at the end of the year when cruise lines are trying to hit their annual targets, but stateroom selection is likely to be sparse,” Ree says, “and you’ll end up paying more than you save on the cruise fare for an expensive last-minute flight to get there.”

February. Late January and February are the best times to take care of your carpet cleaning, says Bill Zinke, vice president of marketing for Chem-Dry, a franchised carpet and upholstery cleaning service headquartered in Nashville. He says this is the slowest period of the year for the industry, enabling consumers to find discounts of up to 20 percent.

Thanks to Presidents’ Day sales, February is also a good time to buy a mattress. Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO of Therapedic International, a mattress manufacturer based in Princeton, N.J., says many industry insiders insist that mattresses start going on sale over Presidents’ Day weekend because George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were lousy sleepers. “The truth is that we don’t really know how they slept, and [we] never will,” says Borreggine, who thinks the sales probably began because of the three-day weekend, which is why mattress sales also pop up on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Discounts over Presidents’ Day weekend are frequently 10 to 25 percent, partly because retailers are trying to unload older models to make room for new ones.

March. Clothing experts say this is the time to find discounted winter coats and winter sporting goods, like snowboards and ski gear, since the season is winding down. Luggage is often said to be on sale, as many spring breaks take place in March.

Although computer sales are often dictated by the hot new item on the market, Josh Smith, editor at, a mobile computing news and reviews site, says March is a good time to buy a laptop. “New models will be arriving and pushing older models to clearance shelves,” he says.

April. Hit the stores for snowblowers and furnaces in April. This is also the month to buy a swimming pool, says Willan Johnson, CEO of VivoPools, a national swimming pool and spa maintenance franchise. Johnson says April is the sweet spot in the year when consumers are thinking about pool season but the demand isn’t quite there yet, so you can often save as much as 20 percent. Many contractors are also less costly during this month and more readily available to install a pool.

May. Refrigerators often go on sale in May, as new models begin appearing in stores in the summer, which makes retailers anxious to clean out older models.

June. This can be a good time to find deals on gym memberships, as health clubs must compete with the warm weather and work harder to entice people to exercise inside. You’ll also find deals on dishes, with wedding season drawing closer and retailers competing for shoppers hunting for wedding gifts. Typical savings: 25 to 50 percent.

July. Home-decor prices dip during this month, for the same reason dishes do. Think table linens, cutlery, picture frames, sofa pillows, candlesticks—often at savings of 20 to 50 percent. Like January, July is a good month to buy furniture, with new trends finding their way to the showroom floor in the near future.

August. Although it’s hard to tell what’s hype and what’s actually a sale, this is the month to buy school supplies. With the summer almost over, August is also a good time to purchase swimsuits and outdoor grills for next season.

September. If you’re planning to get hardwood floors or your cabinets refinished, consider doing it now. Adam Kirschman, director of marketing for N-Hance Wood Renewal, a franchised business based out of Logan, Utah, which offers refinishing services for wood surfaces like hardwood floors, says the industry offers sales during September primarily because it’s a slow month, with families ending their summer activities and ramping up for school and the holidays. The industry also promotes the fact that since it’s a quieter time of year in most households, it won’t matter as much if the kitchen is out of commission while it’s being remodeled. Expect to save 15 to 25 percent if you’re booking a project in the early fall.

September and October are also the months when most major appliances sell at steeper discounts than usual, barring refrigerators (see May). Retailers are debuting their latest models and gearing up for the holidays, so if you’re looking for a sale on an oven, washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher, this is historically the right time to buy.

October. It’s not that you can’t find deals during this month, but with Black Friday right around the corner, October may be the one month when sales won’t be plentiful. But if you must pull out your wallet and you didn’t get enough in August, back-to-school supplies are often on clearance, along with gardening tools.

November. Aside from jumping on Black Friday sales, two things you may want to do this month: buy an air-conditioner or book a wedding.

December. Pretty much everything is on sale, including things you don’t want or need, which might explain a few of the more bizarre gifts you’ve received over the years.

Corrected on 01/18/2013: A previous version of this story misstated the headquarters of Chem-Dry. The company is based in Nashville.

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Five Minutes with Matthew Eichhorst catches up with Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ president in Vancouver

By Amanda Stutt

Matthew Eichhorst, president, Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Matthew Eichhorst, president, Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Vancouver- based Expedia CruiseShipCenters recently celebrated its 25th anniversary onboard the Ruby Princess for the company’s annual national conference at Sea, attended by 600 travel agents. caught up with company president Matthew Eichhorst upon his return to Vancouver, as he discussed the challenges of the past year, predictions for the upcoming wave season, and the strengthened value of travel agents.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is based in Vancouver- was the company started here?

Head office is in Vancouver, and it was started out here 25 years ago- we just celebrated our 25th anniversary on the Ruby Princess-next year we’re on the Allure with Royal Caribbean. Our [company] founder was Michael Drever- he started the company as an agent. It became a franchise in its early days. He bought the assets-he was the only franchisee, and he grew it from the ground up. He took an idea and grew it to where we are now- quite a vision. We have almost 4,000 agents across North America over just about 160 locations.

How has the company changed over the years?

I purchased part of the organization about eight years ago and in the last ten years, we’ve grown about 10 times… by growing our distribution channel as well as by growing sales, both on an individual by agent basis, but also per location basis. We’ve quadrupled our number of agents, doubled our number of locations and grown our revenue by [around] ten times. It’s been quite a success for not only the franchisees, but also the agents themselves.

Are Expedia CruiseShipCenters primarily ‘bricks and mortar’, or are there home-based agents as well?

Primarily bricks and mortar. Out of all of our locations, they have agents that are certainly full time, but they work inside the center on a part time basis for the most part. There are varying degrees- and they are independent contractors.

Do you believe the bricks and mortar concept drives the company’s success?

Yeah, it’s been interesting, over the last ten years, as the internet has grown and become what it is today, I think people thought that travel would be going the way of the internet, and there would be no need for the agent, but what’s happened is, anyone who’s taking their few weeks of vacation a year with their family or loved ones, simply put a lot of merit on getting that vacation purchased right. Like a flight, or the right hotel. And the value of the agent, as the internet has grown and there’s so much information out there, has actually started to re-strengthen. There are lots of articles out there that show how the agent helps sift through the complexity of the leisure market, so [clients] know exactly what they’re getting. We’ve seen resurgence, in all of the research that we’ve done, that the value of the agent is actually strengthening. [For example], if you’re going to fly to Europe and spend a couple of weeks in the Baltic, there are a lot more questions than there are answers for the consumer, so they like to have people helping them.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters

600 agents onboard the Ruby Princess for Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ 25th anniversary national conference

What are some highlights from the 25th anniversary cruise?

We have our national conference every year, and we always do it on a ship. What was a little unique about this is that we were celebrating our 25 years, and our theme was ‘building excellence’. I think everyone would agree that the cruise industry, in 2012, had some challenges, not only economically, but also with some of the events that have gone on, so we really focussed on the year of progress, and where we looked at the year of 2012 as an investment year to really dig into some of our core programs. We launched two major initiatives on the ship; one was our ‘promise’, and that was about ‘who does Expedia CruiseShipCenters stand for, and what are we trying to be’? And it’s really about being navigators of spectacular vacation experiences. [It’s] not just about selling the cruise- it’s about selling the entire vacation experience. And we also launched a new training program for agents called ‘The Navigator’s Approach’. And that has five modules that help with sales training and sales effectiveness. It’s not only for people that are brand new, but for people who have been in the business awhile- some of our agents have been with us for 20 plus years- so it’s more of a skills development program. It was really well-received; we got a standing ovation at the end of the conference.

What do you see trending for the 2013 season?

I think it will be better than last year. Coming into wave season, the last couple of months have been quite positive. I don’t think we’ll see a year of even greater deals, because there’s still a lot of value in the pricing of the current marketplace, but you’ll see some additional value-adds, whether it be gratuities, or onboard credits or things like that to entice customers. River cruising is something that has been expanding almost 100 per cent per year for the past five years. This is because, I think people are looking for variety, and people who are long-term cruisers are looking to try something new. And I think people are starting to get a little more adventurous [and want] to get more into the countries, so the concept of a river cruise, where you spend a lot of your time in port, where you get to walk around and see a variety of cities, has really caught on. It’s like- how do you take the cruising market to the tour business? People rave about it. 70 per cent of river cruises in Europe are still down the Danube, but you’re starting to see new markets, like Portugal should be opening next year. And Africa was launched by AMA this year and Vietnam a few years ago, so you’re starting to see it grow into new markets.

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