Expedia CruiseShipCenters – part of Expedia, Inc., one of the largest travel companies in the world – ended 2015 on a high note with substantial growth into new U.S. markets in addition to being named a top franchise opportunity. In 2015, the retail travel company met 33 percent year-over-year distribution channel growth when it awarded a record 40 new travel agency franchises. The brand looks to propel growth plans even farther in 2016.
Expedia CruiseShipCenters recently made the move to a new Expedia Inc.-owned headquarters in Vancouver, nearly triple the size of the previous location, allowing the company to continue growing its network and its support team, which now includes more than 100 employees. Major cruise lines took note of Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ successful 2015 as well. Royal Caribbean International named the company its 2015 Canadian Partner of the Year and Norwegian Cruise Line recognized the brand as its Marketing Partner of the Year.
Building on the momentum of Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ record setting year, the brand is looking to award 45 new franchises in 2016. The leading travel company is seeking franchise partners in the metropolitan and surrounding areas of New York, with 35 franchise locations available, Orlando, with nine locations available, Los Angeles with 20 locations available, San Francisco with 14 locations available, Atlanta with 13 locations available, and Seattle with 15 locations available. Within easy driving distance of cruise departure ports, these cities have demographics that provide the ideal foundation for a new travel agency franchise. By 2020, Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, believes the company will tout 500 retail locations in total with 300 in the United States and 200 in Canada.
Propelling the exceptional growth of Expedia CruiseShipCenters is the overall growth of the cruise industry. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 24 million passengers are expected to cruise in 2016, a dramatic increase from 15 million just 10 years prior in 2006. CLIA notes member cruise lines are scheduled to debut 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships in 2016 alone for a total investment of more than $6.5 billion. In addition, travel agents are experiencing a higher demand for cruise travel, with eight out of 10 CLIA member travel agents expecting an increase in sales in 2016 over last year.
“In 2015 Expedia CruiseShipCenters grew in number of locations, but we also grew in our ability to navigate spectacular vacation experiences for even more customers,” said Eichhorst. “We introduced powerful new sales technology for our agents, which has increased cruise inquiries significantly, and we now have the ability to offer our customers reward points through the Expedia®+ program. The cruise industry is thriving and now generates a remarkable $119.9 billion – Expedia CruiseShipCenters is also trending upward and I look forward to seeing where our growth takes us in 2016.”
As a result of its ongoing success, the brand has earned a spot in Franchise Business Review’s Top 50 Franchise Opportunities in 2016 for large franchise brands, which is based entirely on franchisee satisfaction. The brand was also recently named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2015 Franchise 500®. With a current network of 219 independently owned franchise locations that support over 4,100 Vacation Consultants across North America, the brand will continue to flourish as a global leader in cruise and vacation sales.