An Interview With Howard Tanenbaum, Expedia CruiseShipCenters



Howard Tanenbaum
Expedia CruiseShip Centers

By Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC

What makes Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® unique among Host Agencies?

We provide travel agents and traditional brick and mortar agencies a path to additional profitability, growth, income and success. We do this by combining the extraordinary awareness and power of the Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® brand with the agent’s valuable and good name in their communities and with their clients.

Tell us about the Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® network and how your location and affiliated agents fit into the picture?

Expedia Inc., the largest online travel company in the world, purchased CruiseShipCenters International to help travelers navigate the complex world of cruises and other vacations through the expertise of a specialist. Together, Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® has grown to a network of over 4000 vacation consultants and 180+ franchise locations across North America.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters, OVC is an independently owned franchise based in Plantation, FL. Our strategy is to provide an All-Inclusive, world-class Host Agency Program that caters to agents with annual sales of $100K to 1 million dollars. We currently host more than 200 Independent Contractor, home-based travel agents from all over the USA. We call them Mobile Agents since they are able to operate from anywhere, at any time.

You point out that your franchise location is 100% Host Agency. What’s the benefit in that?

We have a singular mission: We exist to help our affiliates achieve their travel business ambitions. There are no competing priorities. Everything we do is designed to help them prosper.

What do you see as the big challenges in today’s market for home based agents and traditional neighborhood travel agencies? And, how can you help answer them?

Most agents are great at and enjoy planning and selling travel. They tend to need our help in the other areas of the business, for example:

* Branding. Most agents are not affiliated with a well-known Consumer Brand and that’s certainly one area where we excel. Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® is in fact a world class brand.

* Marketing. Marketing is all about timely consumer communications and consistent execution. We do more than make it easy for our affiliates, we actually do it for them. Agent marketing efforts are part of our 7SEAS Club® and proprietary business system called CruiseDesk®. We’re communicating relevant and often times exclusive offers every week on behalf of every one of our affiliates.

* Planning. Many agents have a difficult time with strategic planning, sales planning, business planning and such. This creates anxiety on several levels and manifests as an unclear and uncertain future. Our affiliates have the advantage of Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® experience, research, strength, insights and market position. This allows them to focus on doing their business here and now. They are confident that we are looking toward and positioning them for continued success in the future.

* Increased Competition.Travel Agents and agencies have not been the sole source for vacations purchases for some time. Travel websites, Direct Supplier Sales, even some Host Agencies compete with them. Our 100% Host Model allows us to concentrate all our efforts on our affiliated agents and their success.

* Decreasing Commissions. It’s harder than ever to achieve top-tier commissions with preferred suppliers. $100K in sales used to make you a “player”; not so today. However, our agents benefit from over half a billion dollars a year in aggregated sales. This means that they get to earn top-tier commissions right away.

* Technology. Technology changes so fast and it’s also expensive. Our agents enjoy the benefit of world-class technology which is both powerful and easy to use. And best of all, all they need is an Internet connection to make it work. Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® provides great business to business technology and cutting-edge personalized web sites for each agent.

* Community.Working from home or in a small agency environment makes some people feel isolated. They want a sense of community and belonging without giving up their freedom and flexibility. Becoming part of our Independent Contractor program allows for complete flexibility and the ability to connect with our office, the corporate office and fellow agents through meetings, seminars, webinars and phone calls. Agents should not have to choose between flexibility and support; they can have both with our program.

You mentioned an All-Inclusive Program. What is actually included?

* A world class Brand. Expedia Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®
* Hard hitting and award winning marketing (every week of the year)
* Top Tier Commissions
* Industry Leading Preferred Suppliers (Cruise, Land + Expedia Air, Hotel and Car)
* Errors and Omissions Insurance
* Expedia® Exclusive Staterooms (2000+ Guaranteed group departures with exclusive pricing and amenities)
* CruiseDesk® technology which includes online booking tools, CRM, Commission Tracking, Training and more
* Personalized web sites with consumer booking engines for cruises and Expedia Air – Hotel and Car (all commissions go back to the agent)
* World-Class, toll free and online agent support
* Exclusive Training and Professional Development opportunities
* Fam trips and reduced rate travel opportunities

You offer an incredibly rich program, it must be quite expensive?

Actually, it’s more affordable than ever. Right now, we’re offering a one-time enrollment opportunity that costs just $299. After that it’s only $29 a month.

How can agents learn more about Expedia CruiseShipCenters, OVC?

Agents can give us a call, send an Email, visit our mini web site at www.homebasedtravelexperts.com or attend one of our live webinar sessions.

Our phone number is 888 601 7447. My email is htanenbaum@cruiseshipcenters.com

The Webinar schedule is located at: http://www.joinecsc.com/ovc/contact

Joanie – Thanks for giving us the chance to discuss our program. We really appreciate your support and look forward to hearing from your agents soon.