In the past year have you noticed yourself dreaming more often of your next cruise vacation, or caught yourself in more discussions with others about exploring the world from the comfort of an exciting new cruise ship?
If you have, you may live in St. Johns, NF; Oakville, ON; Laval, QC; Fredericton, NB or one of several other Canadian cities where a new Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® franchise opened in the past year. I was fortunate enough to find my local Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner in Langley, BC retiring, and purchased that location which is just an 8 minute drive from home! In 2015, Expedia CruiseShipCenters saw 33 percent year-over-year distribution channel growth when it awarded a record 40 franchises across North America. Our company’s relentless focus on providing a proven system that delivers amazing potential for growth and profitability is the most common reason new franchise owners state when asked why they invested in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters business. It is certainly the reason I chose to leave my decade-long position on Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ talented corporate support team to become a franchisee myself this past May.
The demand for cruise vacations has exploded with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reporting that over 23 million people took a cruise last year alone. That’s a 68% increase from 10 years prior! All of that growth, however, has led to a multitude of new styles and sizes of ships, a plethora of itineraries and destinations, and a vast array of unique onboard experiences offered by each cruise line. The result? Today’s cruisers are overwhelmed with options which has led to increased consumer demand for expert professional travel services, which is really the heart of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters system.
My friend and fellow new franchisee Lorena Caggiano who owns the Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Laval, QC were discussing a common phenomenon where people begin to do some initial research online themselves and get excited about their vacation, but soon find that there are so many options it becomes hard to make a decision. Every day past customers come into my location in Langley, and I see how much they have relied on the expertise of our Cruise & Vacation Consultants. My team are so focused on building those relationships with their customers, that they quite often become friends with them. We know their names, their family members’ names, even the names of their pets! That’s the reason that 75% of all cruises are still booked through a travel agent according to CLIA.
At Expedia CruiseShipCenters, we’ve made booking customized cruise vacations around the world simple, fun and exciting through the well-trained and passionate Cruise & Vacation Consultants on our teams plus incredibly effective and powerful technology. I believe every cruiser wants to deal with a knowledgeable person when making this important buying decision. As consumers we all want to feel confident whether we’re booking our first cruise vacation or that next world cruise segment. It takes dedication and continuous practice for our Cruise & Vacation Consultants to fine tune their customer service skills, but Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ proprietary Navigators Approach sales training program provides an excellent foundation for them.
After working in Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ corporate support office in Vancouver, BC, most recently as the Director of Franchise Performance, I took the plunge back into entrepreneurship when I bought my own franchise. For me, purchasing an existing location made a lot of sense. Not only was the storefront, close to my home, it also offered immediate cash flow with an established book of business and loyal customers. A team of Cruise and Vacation Consultants was already in place for me to coach and mentor too – all I have to do now is continue to scale and grow the successful business that was already in place.
Through my experience working with existing franchisees across North America, it became clear to me that Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ focus and commitment to serving franchisees, combined with the significantly growing cruise industry, made for a sound and fulfilling business investment. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of mentoring other franchisees like myself and we’ve had many discussions about what factors have affected each franchise’s growth and the company’s achievements in Canada since we started in Vancouver 29 years ago. The following are the most common reasons we attribute to our success.
Cruise Industry Advancement:
The cruise industry has a robust impact on the global economy. As a whole, CLIA reports that the economic impact of the global cruise industry is an astounding $119.9 Billion with $5.78 billion invested in new ships during 2014 alone. That number jumped to $6.5 billion in 2015, and is only expected to grow again in 2016. Over 24 million people are expected to cruise this year. Bigger ships, new technology onboard and new destinations all over the globe are pushing the cruising industry into its most profitable years.
Franchise System Advancement:
There is no doubt in my mind that Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a franchisor that is keenly interested in creating success for its franchisees. They continue to hunt down every leading edge possible, every emerging trend on the horizon, to ensure the tools and programs available to franchise owners and Vacation Consultants are best in class. This also includes leveraging our partnership with our parent company and the #1 brand in travel – Expedia Group. Our company’s leadership team is very committed to leveraging the global power and technology of Expedia’s brands to benefit franchisees at the local level; to help us speak with our customers more often, more efficiently and ultimately more effectively.
More and more, multiple generations are planning vacations to spend time together as a family and cruises are an ideal choice offering something for everyone. Many Baby Boomers are now grandmas and grandpas or even great grandmas and great grandpas who have accrued wealth and are looking to take their families on spectacular vacations. Expedia CruiseShipCenters is now implementing promotions designed specifically to target this demographic trend. It’s a great example of how my franchisor is listening and responding to franchisee feedback.
There is a vast population of repeat ocean cruisers and as they age, they are continuing to seek out more cultural travel experiences. A river cruise is a great choice for this demographic even though it’s a significant purchase. This segment of cruising has become so popular in fact, that there will be 18 new river cruise ships debuting this year alone. River cruises are designed to provide the utmost comfort for guests, and a cultural experience that’s truly second to none.
People are growing accustomed to the world being more convenient than ever, and vacations have become almost a ‘need’ versus a ‘want’. When you combine this with Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ effective local marketing that helps us brand our communities so well even those have yet to take a cruise seek us out! As a full service travel agency, we see a lot of travelers coming in and requesting all-inclusive packages from Expedia CruiseShipCenters too. Janice Kelly, a multi-unit franchisee who opened her second franchise in Mount Pearl, NF in 2015, said that she is noticing the amount of people requesting all-inclusive beach vacations has increased as well in both her locations. With 65 new cruise ships setting sail in the next five years, there’s a good chance, one day they too will become cruisers!
All companies can get involved in their local communities, it’s a matter of putting time and effort into making it happen. Expedia CruiseShipCenters puts such an emphasis on this, whether that means becoming a member of the local chamber of commerce or connecting your Expedia CruiseShipCenters with a local charity. Owen Hargreaves, who opened his franchise in Oakville, ON in May of last year, has said that getting involved with both the local Humane Society and Lighthouse Foundation was one of the best business decisions he’s made. Sponsoring events and donating items to raffle for a good cause not only made him and his team feel great, it also placed his business in front of thousands of new customers and helped him expand his presence in his market area.
The travel industry in Canada is booming and cruisers especially are looking for help and guidance in planning their vacations. As someone who has worked in this industry since 1995, and at Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ headquarters for the past 10 years, I can confidently say that I agree with the well-known truism, timing is everything.
There has never been a better time to invest in an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise.