Fast-growing travel franchise benefits from association with Expedia, the most recognized brand in travel
Expedia® Inc. is one of the largest travel companies in the world, reporting $53 billion in gross bookings in 2014, and the travel giant’s name recognition has helped propel Expedia CruiseShipCenters to become one of the largest sellers of cruises in North America.
We have been at the forefront of the meteoric rise of cruising in popular culture. According to Cruise Lines International Association, an organization that conducts continual analysis of the industry, 23 million people are expected to cruise in 2015. 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.
“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. “Also, Expedia has about 500,000 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.”
Expedia CruiseShipCenters has a proven business model
Two decades of consistent growth attracted Expedia Inc. to invest in CruiseShipCenters travel franchise system. The travel giant knew that cruise vacations were more complex to book than travel products sold through their other online subsidiaries like Expedia.com, Hotwire, and Hotels.com. They also knew that cruisers felt more comfortable booking with a trusted professional; a cruise specialist who could help guide the way — according to CLIA, 70% of cruisers prefer to book their vacations with an agent. So in 2007, Expedia Inc. formed a partnership with CruiseShipCenters to tap into our network of brick-and-mortar locations and our Vacation Consultants who offer personal service to cruise customers.
“One of the reasons Expedia invested in us is the strength of our business model,” Matthew says. “I think our marketing and sales approach are our key pillars. All of our marketing materials go out through our travel franchise owners, but it’s developed by our corporate team and it’s of a higher quality than an individual agent could achieve on their own. It is very sophisticated, and it has a direct impact on driving sales to their businesses. We spend a lot of money on technology every year, and year after year we are told we have the best technology in the business. Our commitment to technology directly helps our travel franchise owners earn a higher-than-normal repeat customer rate.”
How the Expedia brand name helps the travel franchise rapidly grow across the country
As more and more people across every demographic take to cruising as their preferred way to vacation, Expedia CruiseShipCenters will continue to be a leader in a thriving, vibrant industry. According to CLIA, 65 new ships will set sail between 2015 and 2020, which demonstrates not only the continued growth of the industry, but cruise lines’ commitment to that growth.
Because Expedia CruiseShipCenters is one of the top sellers of cruises worldwide, major cruise lines clamor to offer us competitive deals and promotions. The travel franchise then leverages those deals by creating marketing campaigns — some of which are largely underwritten by the cruise lines themselves. For instance, the brand is able to send out gorgeous fliers at little cost to targeted customers on behalf of its franchisees.
Expedia CruiseShipCenters have nearly 200 travel franchise locations open or under development in North America, and we are in the early stages of a push to open 1,000 locations over the next 10 years.
“Our vision is to be the largest cruise retail network in North America and a trusted brand in our communities,” Matthew says. “In the year 2020, I see 500 Expedia CruiseShipCenters, with 300 of those stores in the United States.”