This year, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, kick-started its 25th anniversary celebration at its annual conference, which was themed The Greatest Show, a play off of the popular movie The Greatest Showman, but with the brand’s signature Cruisitude® carried throughout.
In front of 600 travel advisors and hundreds of travel partners, Cruise Planners founder and CEO, Michelle Fee highlighted how the company got started well before being a home-based travel agent was en vogue and even celebrated one of the agents who was the first-ever Cruise Planners travel agent nearly 25 years ago. It’s clear that Cruise Planners has a leg over the competition on a variety of points, and the driving visionary behind it all is Fee.
“Our difference is we don’t wait for opportunity, we create it,” Fee said, donning a “CP Green” dress. “It is never enough for Cruise Planners. Our 25th anniversary lets us reflect on where we came from, but more importantly, celebrate the passionate, dedicated group of travel advisors that make up the Cruise Planners family who are truly the heart of what makes Cruise Planners the greatest show in travel.”
The “Never Enough” Mantra was echoed throughout the Convention as the company stressed its dedication to continued innovation of the tools needed to drive travel advisor success which are working, as evident by the following sales growth numbers for 2018 over 2017:
- Total sales growth for 2018 over 2017: 20%
- River cruise sales growth: 55%
- Luxury travel sales growth: 19%
- Land travel sales growth: 21%
Cruise Planners is already seeing a strong growth of 28% in total sales for 2019 departures versus same time last year. Travel partners praised Cruise Planners throughout the convention, citing this sales growth coupled with the commitment of Cruise Planners travel advisors and executive team for their eagerness to continue growing their partnerships.
The company even proudly played a new custom anthem with lyrics such as; “We are proud to be different. We are proud to be green. We are CP.”
For 25 years, Cruise Planners has been leading the pack in marketing, technology and training in the travel industry. Launches and advancements announced at the convention by Fee, Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner and Brian Shultz, CIO include:
- More Automation for its Network of Travel Advisors:
- Triggered Emails: Consistent refresh of Triggered Emails, a proactive series of automatic emails, which allow agents to stay in contact with their clients after booking and is completely automated for them with additional Post-Voyage offers sent through automated Triggered Emails reminding clients of exclusive past-guest, limited-time offers they can take advantage of.
- Hot Lists: A list of hot sales opportunities which identifies clients who have milestone birthdays, anniversaries, clients who haven’t make a booking in the last 12 months and clients who have an open onboard future cruise deposit, will now be automated.
- CP Marketing Hub: A better way to track and set goals through an enhanced CP Marketing Hub – all things marketing. With data being a bigger trend and Cruise Planners leading the way in leveraging consumer data to track and market to their clients, it’s now even easier for advisors to measure their goals and increase sales.
- Mobile App Enhancements – Cruise Planners continues to be the only home-based travel franchise to offer multiple mobile apps, both of which have been updated to improve usability.
- CP Mobile allows consumers to manage their trips while traveling, book future trips and connect with their travel advisor.
- CP Maxx, a mobile app for Cruise Planners travel advisors, will be relaunching in early 2019 to help them manage their business from the palm of their hand.
- New Websites for Travel Advisors: New travel agent sites with options for customization for land or luxury specialty – two areas that the brand continues to grow in.
- New, Stunning Consumer Websites – These mobile-responsive websites are in the design phase and will be launched in 2019. These new consumer sites will give agents the ability to have up to three different types of consumer-facing sites – Contemporary, Luxury and Land focused sites – to satisfy all client types and agent niches.
- Driving Leads to Advisors at No Cost – Cruise Planners will be refreshing their corporate web site with enhanced smart forms and data capture with the goal of driving more leads directly to their agents. Agents immediately receive an email notification and the client information is automatically added to the travel advisor’s a client database.
- Alexa Skills Now with Alexa Show Capabilities – After being the first in the industry to launch two Alexa skills last year, Cruise Planners continues to innovate with the visual version of the popular voice-activated technology, Alexa Show. This makes it even easier for agents to manage their business with an enhanced virtual personal assistant.
- Flight Tools Built in to CP Maxx – Cruise Planners agents can easily manage and maintain their full-service status through Cruise Planners’ partnerships with GMT, a top-rated air consolidator. The “Find a Flight” tool allows agents to easily compare rates for all classes of service and agents can mark up the rates when there is a substantial pricing advantage – another way to earn increased commissions for CP Advisors. Another integration for flights is the Flight Look-Up Tool, allowing agents to easily look up and log flight details for clients who may have purchased their own flights – a big time-saving for Cruise Planners agents.
- Group Price Advantage – This new feature within CP Maxx quickly alerts agents during the cruise search to identify a sailing where CP has a Home Office Group Price Advantage. They can easily compare current published rates for specific categories with Home Office Groups Rates. They can also perform a search to only see sailings where there is a Group Pricing Advantage.
- CP Partner Resources with Vacation Wizard Technology – A new interactive supplier partner database. When you have close to 200 travel suppliers in your database, finding the right supplier for your customer can be difficult. The new Vacation Wizard, within CP Partner Resources, allows agents to easily find the right supplier based on certain criteria such as travel style, travel category, land or cruise or destination specific. The tool narrows down and shows the results and even allows for quick comparison on commission levels and other supplier information such as destinations that they provide in their portfolio.
- Focus on Additional Video Content: CP Video Network already offers 20 different modern, fresh videos focusing on popular destinations, travel styles such as family, solo travelers, adults-only travel, luxury, land and much more. Cruise Planners announced adding new customization as video marketing continues to be an impactful way for travel advisors to drive sales.
- Data-Driven Travel Insight to Drive Marketing: Through the brand’s “Travel Styles” advisors are able to find out more about what their customers’ desires are for upcoming travel and better market to them. By focusing on top-performing niches including foodies, millennials, adventure travelers and solo travelers, the brand will help agents close more sales.
“Our agents are the envy of the travel industry and we give them the tools they need to be the Greatest Show,” Garcia said. “After 25 years in business supporting travel advisors, we are always delivering the best tools designed for travel advisors to increase their sales and positively change the travel world.”
The group was among the first travel advisors to sail on the “edgiest” ship at sea, the Celebrity Edge, as travel advisors embarked on the ship’s inaugural sailing out of Port Everglades.
Cruise Planners franchise owner Charles Russell shares with Entrepreneur how the Cruise Planners playbook helped him double his business
Cruise Planners is a big supporter of the brave individuals who set out to protect our country, and this National Veterans Small Business Week, we celebrate and honor our veteran-owned franchise businesses. Military veterans have made fearless sacrifices and continually inspire Americans. We are immensely proud of the many veterans and military family members who are part of the Cruise Planners community.
The veterans in the Cruise Planners Family are determined and devoted individuals who have chosen to transition from their military service into entrepreneurship. Cruise Planners’ very own Charles “Russ” Russell, a retired Air Force nurse, shares with Entrepreneur Magazine readers how he built a successful business with Cruise Planners. Russ began his travel professional career in 2013 and quickly found his stride in the travel industry, doubling his business not once, but twice in 2014 and 2015. “We’re used to finding ways to work within the system,” he says. “And that’s all a franchise is: It’s a system.”
Cruise Planners knows the importance of veterans coming back home and adjusting to the civilian lifestyle, which is why Cruise Planners proudly offers retired or active military members and their immediate families the Armed Forces and First Responders Initiative Program to help them get started in the travel industry.
Michelle Fee, Cruise Planners CEO and founder also adds to Entrepreneur on how the Armed Forces and First Responders Initiative Program makes a difference on vet franchisees with the reductions and discounts. “It’s an incredible model,” says Fee. “People are making great money doing business out of the bedroom at home.”
Read the full story about Cruise Planners Agent, Charles Russell and CEO, Michelle Fee thoughts on Military veterans thriving as travel business owners on Entrepreneur Magazine.
Cruise Planners provides LGBTQ-focused marketing materials to help franchise owners and travelers provide inclusive marketing
Cruise Planners continues to be an energetic advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, with membership in both the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (GFLGLCC), and a seat on many cruise line and travel advisory boards as a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.
Cruise Planners Personal Connection to the LGBT community
In 2015, Cruise Planners COO and co-owner Vicky Garcia renewed her vows with her wife along with 100 other couples at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor Bureau’s “Love is Love” wedding ceremony celebrating legal gay marriage in Florida. At the event, Cruise Planners partnered with Celebrity Cruises to provide a honeymoon cruise giveaway for one lucky couple.
In 2018, Cruise Planners Home Office Team member Francisco and his husband Ben became the first same-sex couple to legally marry at sea when Celebrity Cruises chose them to hold their nuptials on board Celebrity Equinox, an exciting event celebrated throughout the cruise industry.
LGBTQ+ friendly marketing materials to help boost travel sales
Cruise Planners has a variety of marketing items available to help reach the LGBTQ+ market including:
- Customizable postcards
- Free downloadable personalized ads in every size for publication
- Free eCards with LGBTQ-focused imagery
- Inclusive imagery throughout CP materials, including wedding/honeymoons. We proudly incorporate bride/bride, groom/groom imagery and gender-neutral imagery so that marketing is relevant for all audiences
- LGBTQ Travel Style data capture for list segmentation
- And…an LGBTQ version of the Cruise Planners logo for agent use
Many Cruise Planners travel advisors and their clients support the LGBTQ+ community by attending pride events around the world, and with the understanding and agreement that LGBTQ+ travel is not just LGBTQ-specific events but rather personal exploration of global destinations as stated in Travel Age West: “Agents should be utilizing the globe and sending LGBTQ people everywhere — not boxing them in and treating them as if they are different than a straight couple. As I travel the globe with my husband, we travel to see the world, not to see other gay people.”
Cruise Planners agents also have access to booking Atlantis Events, RSVP Vacations, Olivia travel and Brand G tours for LGBTQ groups. Also, Cruise Planners packaged vacation providers such as Classic Vacations, Pleasant Holidays and Delta Vacations sell LGBTQ+ friendly properties for travel agents to sell for individuals and groups.
Talk with one of our Franchise Development Managers about turning your passion for travel into a career by owning Cruise Planners home-based travel franchise.
From video marketing to automatic technology programs and creative marketing campaigns, Cruise Planners shines again
With nine Travel Weekly 2018 Magellan Awards to add to its awards shelf, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, continues to pave the way for franchise companies as a MarTech powerhouse. These awards represent the combined efforts of Cruise Planners’ internal Marketing, Technology, Business Development and Training Teams who work with Cruise Planners’ nationwide network of travel advisors to develop the tools travel advisors need to be competitive in the travel industry.
“We see our different departments as one cohesive Home Office Team and their strengths in collaboration and development lead us to be ahead of the curve in MarTech and the recipient of nine prestigious Magellan awards,” said Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners. “We continue to thrive and be inspired because of our incredible travel advisors who hit the ground running with every new tool we give them.”
Cruise Planners MarTech Magellan Awards:
- Gold Awards:
- Marketing Campaigns:
- Pack Your Bags, the World is Yours – Direct mail and digital campaign highlighting cruise and land vacations in bucket-list destinations around the world
- Reflect & Renew, Direct Mail – Luxury travel campaign featuring Cruise Planners’ top high-end land-based vacations
- What Does Travel Mean to You? – Cruise Planners Summer 2017 Travel Planner magazine focusing on travel experiences with exclusive offers, editorial, interviews with industry executives and more
- Client Newsletter: Cruise Planners weekly Travel Deals email newsletter featuring cruise and land travel offers
- Website Marketing: CP Video Network powered by Trifecta in partnership with Cruise Planners hosted on travel advisors’ websites with customizable end tags filmed unique to each travel advisor
- Travel Agent Innovation: Two Alexa Skills for Cruise Planners travel advisors and consumers
- Marketing Campaigns:
- Silver Awards:
- Marketing Campaign:
- Where Will Travel Take You? – Destination-focused campaign featuring offers to coincide with Cruise Line Industry Association’s Plan a Cruise Month
- Flavors of the World – Foodie-themed cruise multimedia campaign featuring culinary experiences and shipboard recipes to inspire travelers to “get whisked away” and take advantage of “mouthwatering offers.”
- Travel Agent Innovation: CP Maxx booking and management system for travel advisors integrated with major cruise lines and tour operators
- Marketing Campaign:
What is MarTech?
MarTech – the intersection of marketing and technology – is the blending of two essential business tools to grow Cruise Planners travel advisors’ sales by making marketing efforts more effective using time-saving, intuitive technology while increasing the level of customer service and human connection travel advisors are able to provide. Cruise Planners has recently won multiple awards for its MarTech initiatives including the CLIA’s Innovator of the Year Hall of Fame Award and the International Franchise Association’s FranTech Award for Innovation.
How does MarTech benefit travel advisors?
Cruise Planners uses technology to make travel advisors’ marketing efforts more targeted and therefore more effective. When sending a direct mail piece, such as the winning “Reflect & Renew” luxury land travel piece, Cruise Planners travel advisors log into CP Maxx, a proprietary booking and management system, through which they can view their segmented lists of luxury clients as determined by CP Insights. CP Insights is designed to choose the right clients for each marketing piece based on previous purchases coupled with psychographic and demographic details allowing each campaign to reach clients with relevant, customized travel offers. All of Cruise Planners tools integrate seamlessly, making their combined usage simple and quick for the travel advisor.
“Cruise Planners is always moving forward with new tools such as voice-activated Alexa skills but also stays committed to what we know works such as beautiful direct mail pieces sent to our agents’ clients’ mailboxes,” Garcia said. “Travel is a unique industry and each year brings with it new trends and challenges our travel advisors and Home Office Team take on as they lead the way in making customers’ travel desires an incredible reality.”
Cruise Planners travel advisors and Home Office Team will come together for its annual Convention November 26-29, 2018 in Hollywood, Fla. followed by an inaugural sailing on the new Celebrity Edge. where agents will receive the latest updates on and hands-on training with Cruise Planners MarTech advancements.