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Travel Franchise Review: Q&A with Kyle Matheson of Expedia CruiseShipCenters

A growing industry, customer-centric culture, and big brand name led this hotel executive to trade land for sea.

A life-long traveler, Kyle Matheson, shares his experience taking over an existing franchise location and reveals what he believes is the key differentiator setting Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from competitors.

What were you doing before becoming an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner?

Kyle: Most recently I was the Director of Sales for the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver, BC, but I’ve always worked in tourism and hospitality. I started in the travel business as a tour guide for my dad’s corporate event company and transitioned into hotels in 2000 and I have spent the last 18 years in sales and marketing for hotels.

What led you to consider franchise ownership? In particular, why a travel franchise?

Kyle: There are a couple of things that led my wife, Tammy, and I to Expedia CruiseShipCenters. I could see the cruise market being an area for growth with every year at least 50,000 more people cruising through the port of Vancouver alone. We initially looked at a couple independent travel agencies, but once we attended Discovery Day for Expedia CruiseShipCenters we were sold. We realized that we could own our own travel agency that specializes in cruise, and get the technology, marketing, and the Expedia brand recognition, it was really a no-brainer for us to go with the travel franchise option.

Originally, we were looking to open a new Expedia franchise, but there weren’t any available in our area so we started looking at existing locations for sale and purchased one of the original 10 Centers ever built.

Why an Expedia CruiseShipCenters Franchise?

Kyle: The very first thing we noticed about Expedia CruiseShipCenters was the support. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has great technology, customer management systems, good marketing programs as well as a large corporate team that help us. On top of that, we are backed by Expedia, the largest brand in travel which allows us to offer the best deals and our Travel Consultants can earn higher levels of commission.

What do you believe sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from our competitors, including travel websites?

Kyle: It’s really about the service that we offer. Everybody says they have great service but what I like about Expedia CruiseShipCenters is that it’s backed up by the training. We’ve added 10 new Consultants in the past year and to be able to put them through a set of training that formalizes what they’re meant to do — how to take care of a guest, how to look for customers, how to qualify properly, how to match the customer to the right cruise line — all of that is really drilled home through the training and in the end is what benefits the client. It’s all about living the Promise that Expedia CruiseShipCenters puts forward.

How do you find your customers?

Kyle: I think when you buy a franchise you’ve got to jump in with both feet and really work the system. We participate in every one of the flyer mailings, email blasts and Facebook marketing initiatives. For our Center, the secret sauce for finding new customers and hosting an event in conjunction with the 7 core promotions Expedia CruiseShipCenters has each year. Sometimes we’ll hold the event here in the Center and other times at an offsite location like a golf course or a community venue. Partnering with a participating cruise line and holding an event around the promotion provides a reason for people to act on the marketing we’ve sent them and has been a real winner for us.

The other thing I’d say is when you buy a business you need to put work into it. I tell potential new franchise owners on the validation calls, you’ve got to keep recruiting and promoting top of mind and constantly network. I’ve had three leads just from standing in bank line-ups! If the opportunity comes up to have a meaningful conversation and I’ve got my branded Expedia CruiseShipCenters shirt on I jump on it.

What do you do to drive repeat business and Customers For Life?

Kyle:Kyle: I believe it’s important to build strong relationships with our customers to drive repeat business. I’m so lucky to have such a great team of Vacation Consultants who are passionate about travel and love helping customers book memorable vacations. If some issues come arise either before, during or after our customers trip, we can work together and keep their business because we have a good relationship. Creating a deep customer connection allows us to follow up after their vacation and ask if they enjoyed that 75th birthday trip or that 15th wedding anniversary cruise was and if they would like to plan their next vacation.

What aspects of this business do you enjoy the most?

Kyle: For me, it’s the people. I don’t think people get into the hospitality business if they don’t enjoy being part of a team and bringing people together. We get to deal with clients when they are at their happiest. They’re dreaming about their next vacation or their bucket list trip or a special occasion, and that’s just fun to talk about and be in the office for.

Another thing that I didn’t expect is the great community of Franchise Partners. Quite a few of them have taken the time to have a coffee or a meal with me to let me pick their brain and help me get up to speed and improve my business. I’ve found the entire Expedia CruiseShipCenters community has been super helpful and open.

How would you describe the culture at your center?

Kyle and his team celebrating 1million in sales

Kyle: We celebrate birthdays with wine and cheese at our Center! It really has a family feel, which is something that I like and have tried to foster after working in my own dad’s business. This business is very personal to me. My wife and I have made the investment to do this and we involve our 9-year-old daughter as much as we can. I feel like the people in the office really care about each other and their shared success. The previous owners built a Center where people wanted to be and enjoy each other’s company and I’ve worked hard to continue that so that everyone feels that same level of trust. Some of the Consultants even go on vacation together which I think that says a lot about how well they get along.

 

How has the Expedia CruiseShipCenters corporate support team helped you launch and grow your business since you started?

Kyle: Since I joined the Expedia family I’m felt consistent support from the corporate team from the very beginning. I felt like the corporate head office truly wanted to get to know me and understand what I was looking for in a franchise. My Franchise Performance Coach is awesome at helping me grow my business in the right direction. She’s encouraging, but also knows I like numbers and benchmarks so she gives me all the information I need. She’s also great at providing the check for blind spots and is always encouraging me to recruit. The proof is in the pudding: halfway through this year we were already over half of our growth and it is from the new Consultants we added last year who are now starting to hit their stride. Without her support and encouragement, we wouldn’t have been as successful.

Where do you see your business in 5 or 10 years? How do you see your lifestyle changing as a result of your business growth?

Kyle: Even though we’re an established Center, I’m still in growth mode. When I look at the high performers in the Expedia CruiseShipCenters system they have more Consultants. We have 32 Consultants right now and I’d like to get to 50, while still maintaining our great Center culture. I see us growing over the next 5 years with Tammy ideally joining the business in the next year or two.
In terms of lifestyle changes, I truly have more flexibility now. Working in hotels, especially at the leadership/executive level, it was hard to get away and have family time. The biggest change in my life since buying my Expedia franchise is I have been to every single one of my daughter’s dance recitals and school assemblies because I’m my own boss.

Kyle and his wife Tammy – Korto hike

 

 

Learn More

For more in-depth details on how you can be your own boss and open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters retail travel franchise, fill out the form below.

Inspiring our Franchisees to be Top Performers

Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ Franchise Owner Recognition Program

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters we play hard and work hard too. Being a part of the exciting and constantly evolving travel industry means that our franchise owners get to reap the rewards of the industry while working diligently with their Centers to achieve and exceed the goals they have set each year with the support of their dedicated Franchise Performance Coach . We are dedicated to helping each one of our more than 255+ franchise locations accomplish these goals and push beyond them in all facets of their business from the recruitment of Vacation Consultants and in turn their Center sales performance. We believe that all that hard work and dedication deserves to be recognized and have a specific program designed to reward our top performing franchise owners, the Presidents Circle.

The Presidents Circle Recognition Program

Our robust recognition program, consists of four achievement levels beginning with Silver, Gold, Platinum, and the peak, Diamond. Each level encompasses performance thresholds for franchise owners to strive towards each year. All franchise owners who achieve our Diamond level status are invited to attend a complimentary cruise for two hosted by our President, Matthew Eichhorst, along with other Executive Team members as a celebration of their success and achievement.

This year, a record of 31 Expedia CruiseShipCenters locations achieved Diamond level of our President Circle – the highest honor for those who achieve $7.5 Million single location booked sales. This past July, Diamond level franchise owners set sail onboard the luxurious Cunard Line’s, Queen Victoria, and enjoyed a 9-day Baltic Sea cruise visiting history rich ports of call including, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Visby, Hamburg and St. Petersburg. The Diamond cruise is not only a reward for outstanding performance but also an opportunity for franchise owners to network with fellow top achievers and find further inspiration for continued success in the years ahead.

Join Forces with a Top Performing Brand

Being part of a $95 billion global travel company, Expedia franchise owners not only benefit from many travel perks but also the significant support in place helping them accomplish their business goals and our Presidents Circle provides a great opportunity for that dedication to be honored. Each of our franchise owners work closely with their devoted Franchise Performance Coach as their committed business advisor ensuring they’re on track to achieve their goals. Qualifying for any of the four levels of our Presidents Circle is a great accomplishment and we strongly believe our franchise owners success is our success.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters is proud to be a leading retail travel agency franchise in North America and we are constantly striving to be better. At this year’s World’s Leading Cruise Lines Excellence Awards we were honored to receive three prestigious awards, Princess Cruises – Presidents Award, Carnival Cruise Lines – Retail Partner of the Year and Holland America Line – Franchise Agency Network Award. As an industry leader, we’re committed to building strong relationships with our franchise owners, travel industry partners and customers as displayed by these recent awards.

Koreen McNutt – Senior Director, Global Cruise Supply Commercial Strategy and Services

Learn More

Expedia CruiseShipCenters continues to search for new franchise owners across North America. Are you interested in business ownership? If you’re ready to learn more about owning your own Expedia CruiseShipCenters complete the form below to receive our franchise brochure or review the essentials about our travel agency franchise opportunity here.

Meet some of our Newest Franchise Owners

Join forces with Expedia the most recognized brand in travel

Are you considering a career change? Imagine owning your own Expedia CruiseShipCenters retail travel agency franchise and serving your community as navigators of spectacular vacation experiences! The cruise industry is booming with 27.2 million people expected to set sail in 2018 according to Cruise Lines International Association, we continue to grow our brand and are seeking new franchise owners across North America. You might be surprised to learn that previous travel experience isn’t a requirement for our exciting opportunity – in fact, our franchise owners come from a variety of backgrounds but share the common trait of strong leadership skills and a passion to recruit and train a team.

Last year we welcomed 24 new friendly faces to the Expedia family. Meet a few of our newest franchise owners who have recently opened their doors.

Clay Platt – Chula Vista, CA

Franchise owner, Clay Platt, has always had a love for travel from a young age. Before he married his wife of 25 years he completed his pilot license and enjoyed flying to Baja California for fun, his interest in travelling continued throughout his career as a long-distance driving instructor for semi-trailer truck drivers. When he discovered the Expedia franchise opportunity he knew it would combine his passions of recruiting and training a team and travelling. Clay’s positive attitude and presence in his local community has made his Expedia CruiseShipCenters a great addition to the community in Chula Vista, CA.

Paul Coplan – Glenview, Il

Franchise owner, Paul Coplan, is a long-standing resident of the Northern Chicago area. Before owning his own Expedia franchise, he was the sole proprietor at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange as well as a managing partner of Triangle Trading LLC for 27 years. He was ready for a career change and his experience in mentoring and leading teams made him a perfect fit for the Expedia CruisShipCenters franchise opportunity. Paul and his wife have three children and they love traveling in their spare time.

Brenda and Eric Skogen – Castle Rock, CO

Franchise owners, Brenda and Eric Skogen, opened their Center in December 2017 in Castle Rock, Colorado. Brenda came into the business with some previous travel experience with certification as a Travel Counselor and as a Global Travel Professional and has been in the Corporate Travel Management industry for over 20 years. Eric has more than 15 years of progressive IT education was the IT Director for Briotix – a company specializing in workforce performance solutions. Both Benda and Eric’s shared experience supporting and managing large groups of people has given them the ability to recruit and lead a strong team of Vacation Consultants. When Brenda heard of the Expedia Franchise opportunity she knew it was something she wanted to pursue. In their free time, Brenda and Eric enjoy boating and spending time with their three kids, three dogs, and two chinchillas.

Lisa Maxwell and Al Acorn – Bowmanville, ON

Franchise owners, Lisa and Al, have been married for 11 years and opened their Center in Bowmanville, Ontario in September 2017. Prior to franchise ownership, both Lisa and Al worked at Ontario Power Generation, Lisa for 28 years working her way up the ranks to become the Maintenance Specialist and Al for 33 years as a Senior Advisor. After Lisa’s retirement she became a Vacation Consultant at a nearby Expedia CruiseShipCenters and was inspired to build equity in her own Center. Lisa and Al’s experience training and managing teams has given them a great foundation to opening their own Expedia franchise and recruiting a team of their own Vacation Consultants.

When you join forces with Expedia CruiseShipCenters no previous travel experience is required. We set our franchise owners up for success, providing the tools and training necessary to hit the ground running from day one. We continue to search for passionate leaders across North America who are eager to open their own business and join the most recognized brand in travel.

Learn More

Are you ready to be your own boss? To learn more about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters opportunity, complete the form below and receive our Franchise Information Report, which includes more detail on our proven system and how you can bring our retail travel agency to your community.

You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our retail travel agency franchise opportunity here

Meet the Franchise Services Start-up Team

Dedicated Resources Guiding You Through Opening Your Center

At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we take great pride in providing new franchise owners with the tools and guidance to set them up for success. From the moment you sign your Franchise agreement and join the Expedia family our Startup Team of Franchising Managers and Franchise Service members help guide you through the process to launch your Center. The first step is beginning our startup process where our dedicated Franchise Services team will support you through your physical location selection, Center design and construction planning, licensing, and getting set-up with all suppliers to hit the ground running.

Meet Alicia Reilly – Franchise Services Manager

Alicia is an experienced Expedian having worn a variety of hats within Expedia CruiseShipCenters over the past 10 years she knows the business inside and out. Alicia’s background in project management and hospitality has excelled her in the role as Franchise Services Manager. She works closely with each new franchise owner guiding them through every step of the startup process. She works closely with the Franchise Service Coordinator throughout location set-up and compliance with the franchise agreement seeing them through to the milestone of officially opening their doors for business! Get to know Alicia better in this Q&A!

What advice would you give franchise owners?
Trust the system and believe in yourself! This can be an overwhelming endeavor but with our tools and support you will find the process is efficient and focused on getting your doors open as quickly as possible.

What is of your favorite vacation?
While on a multi-generation family trip to Amsterdam (which was also incredible) my husband and I got to leave the kids behind with my in-laws and we took the high-speed train to Paris for a few days. This has been on my bucket list since I was a little girl. A few of the highlights included drinking champagne while sitting on top the Eiffel tower overlooking the city at night, riding bikes along the river discovering the most beautiful parts of Paris and tasting the most amazing macarons along the way… I was in heaven.

Where is your next dream vacation?
Cambodia has been on my list for a long time now and is one of the few places my husband has not been to, he has travelled the world and is usually my tour guide on any vacation we take – it will be a new adventure to visit a country where we are both experiencing it for the first time.

Meet Lyzbeth Aranda – Franchise Services Coordinator

Lyzbeth’s passion for travel and tourism led her to accomplish a Bachelor of Arts in Tourism Business Administration in her hometown, Mexico City. After moving to Canada, she completed a Marketing Management certificate as well as a Business and Hospitality Management certificate. She worked at Air Canada Vacations as a Groups Coordinator and gained a solid background in communication and support. Lyzbeth’s role as Franchise Services Coordinator is managing all technical and supplier set up for all new franchise owners, relocations, and refranchising locations. Her positive attitude, previous work experience and fluency in three languages makes her a strong asset supporting the franchise startup process!

What advice would you give franchise owners?
My advice to new franchise owners is to keep your motivation and excitement level high while building your business, even if takes longer than expected, when you work hard for your dreams, at the end of the process, you will feel great satisfaction once you see the positive results.

What is of your favorite vacation?
I have been very fortunate to have great travel experiences to share, each place has its charm and travelling it has always helped me to discover new Cultures and gastronomy. One of my favorite trips so far was traveling to Europe with my mother, we visited some of the major cities such as London, Brussels, Rome, Florence, Venice and Paris, they have lots culture and architecture to offer and we really enjoyed all the incredible food!

Where is your next dream vacation?
My next dream vacation will be visiting Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, I haven’t visited Asia before, so I am sure it will be amazing discovering their ancient temples and to visit an elephant and tiger sanctuary; and I would love to go to Ko Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

The start-up process is an important step in the launch of your business as a new franchise owner. At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we are committed to setting you up for success from day one. Alicia and Lyzbeth are dedicated to helping open your doors four to six months after signing your Franchise Agreement.

Learn More

Are you ready to be your own boss and launch your own business? Learn more about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity and complete the form below to receive our franchise information brochure here.

2018 Expedia CruiseShipCenters Spring Anchor Meeting Recap

A highlight each year for Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ franchise owners and the Corporate team is the annual Spring Anchor Meeting. This week-long event is attended by all Expedia franchise owners and provides a great opportunity for franchise owners from all different states and provinces to network and further refine their skills alongside their peers, suppliers, and the Corporate Support team. The week consisted of informative meetings, inspiring presentations and educational workshops providing incredibly valuable learning and development opportunities for our franchise owners.

Setting Sail on the Newest, Most Innovative Ship

This years’ Anchor Meeting was much anticipated and kicked off in style beginning with a 3-night inaugural cruise on-board Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship,the Norwegian Bliss, its debut makes it the largest ship on the West Coast sailing from Seattle through the Inside Passage to Alaska. Attendees set sailed from Seattle, WA to Victoria, BC on-board the state of the art vessel where they enjoyed the impressive amenities including go-cart track, mini golf, laser tag, aqua park as well as fine dining and exclusive sessions with executives from Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Upon their return to the Port of Seattle, the summer homeport to the Norwegian Bliss, franchise owners and the corporate team launched into part two of Anchor week at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. More than 400 franchisees attended the Spring Anchor Meeting including 25 new franchise owners who joined our system last year. The action-packed week consisted of a variety of presentations from travel suppliers, industry bodies like Cruise Line International Association, as well as keynote presentations by the Expedia CruiseShipCenters Executive Team. Topics discussed included the future growth of the cruise industry and Expedia Group™ and Expedia CruiseShipCenters business updates. Franchise owners attended workshops and interactive group sessions, providing further skill development and knowledge to embark on another year of success.

Build and Establish Relationships

A great benefit to attending Anchor Meeting each year is meeting and reconnecting with the Corporate Team as well as fellow franchise owners, especially for our newest additions. You’ll get to spend some quality time with franchisees from all around North America and it’s a great opportunity for you to hear first-hand from those who have walked in your shoes and build your support network. Having a group of people that are in the same boat, or ship as you are an amazing resource as you build and grow your business.

With over 255 Expedia CruiseShipCenters retail travel agency locations across North America our franchise owners are our #1 customer. We are Stronger. Together and your success is our success and it’s important to us that we provide maximize value for our owners at events like our Anchor Meeting and encourage them to take time away from their Centers to refresh their skills and recharge.

Learn More

Are you ready for a career change and looking to own your own business? Continue exploring the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, complete the form below to receive our franchise information brochure. here.