Fee named EY Entrepreneur of the Year® 2016 National Finalist in the Real Estate, Hospitality and Construction Category
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – November 30, 2016 – Ernst & Young named Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year® 2016 National Finalist in the Real Estate, Hospitality and Construction category. After co-founding Cruise Planners more than 22 years ago, Fee has built Cruise Planners into the nation’s leading home-based travel agency focused on training, technology and marketing.
Fee was one of only a few women honored at the national level, which recognizes entrepreneurs from around the nation who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. This year, J.W. “Bill” Marriott of Marriott International, was named EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year National Overall Award winner.
“Being a finalist on the national stage for the Entrepreneur of the Year – and in the same category as hotel pioneer Bill Marriott Jr. – is quite an honor,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. “After attending the Strategic Growth Forum, I am invigorated to share all that I learned with our franchise owners and inspire them to continue building their businesses.”
Fee uses a hands-on approach as a franchisor and her management style has paid off. She is accessible to franchise owners, travel industry partners and the growing Home Office Team. She is a true visionary who combines natural leadership skills with a competitive spirit, pushing her to continually innovate, while maintaining a personal commitment to make the world a better place. Through the company’s CP Cares philanthropic initiative, Cruise Planners has raised and donated more than $1 million to charities during the past few years. Fee was even honored as Woman of the Year for the South Florida chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because of her commitment to helping the community while positively impacting people’s lives.
“As salespeople, our travel agents need to focus on building relationships, and are constantly learning about the industry all while seeing the world,” Fee said. “We are always pushing the envelope and are motivated by our travel agents to design marketing and technology programs to help them prioritize growing their business instead of getting bogged down with back-end office work that comes with running a small business.”
By emphasizing constant innovation and creating the best technology tools in the home-based travel industry, Cruise Planners has cemented its role as the top home-based business. Fee, who started her career as a travel agent, knows what it takes to be successful and always draws on that foundation when creating programs to make it easier for travel agents to sell travel.
“Our Cruise Planners travel agents have robust websites, interactive mobile apps, both digital and print marketing campaigns and strategic promotions to really help them stand out from the competition,” Fee said. “Our legacy is being the best in the industry and I am honored that EY has recognized that effort.”
Now in its 30th year, EY has honored entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, spirit of innovation and discipline have propelled their companies’ success, invigorated their industries and benefited their communities. In June, Fee, represented her home state of Florida and won the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award in Hospitality and Leisure.
About Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative
Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is the nation’s largest home-based travel agent franchise network in the travel industry. Cruise Planners operates a network of more than 1,400 franchise owners who independently book amazing vacation and travel experiences for their clients. The Florida-based Home Office Team positions franchise owners for success by providing innovative marketing, booking and lead-generating tools, as well as professional development and hands-on training with the industry’s top executives. The company continues to be lauded and has been named the No.1 Cruise Tour / Travel Agency by Entrepreneur magazine for 13 consecutive years. Cruise Planners was recently featured in Entrepreneur as one of the top 30 franchise innovators in technology, has been consistently named as one of the Top Women-Owned Businesses by the South Florida Business Journal, is listed on the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing private companies in Americaand was recognized as one of the “Top Workplaces” by The Sun Sentinel.
Headquartered in Coral Springs, Fla. with more than 22 years of experience, Cruise Planners has achieved top producer status with every major cruise line. Accolades include numerous Magellan Awards from Travel Weekly for the past seven years, American Express Travel Representative Excellence Award for 11 consecutive years (2004 – 2014), American Express Agency of the Year (2010), Royal Caribbean International President’s Award for Overall Achievement (2012 and 2014), Royal Caribbean International Home-Based Partner of the Year (2007 – 2013), Norwegian Cruise Line Franchise Agency of the Year (2011-2015), Celebrity Cruises Field Sales Account of the Year (2015), Celebrity Cruises Home-Based Account of the Year (2013-2014) and Celebrity Cruises Southeast Region Travel Agent Partner of the Year (2010), American Express Vacations Best of the Best Globe Award (2008 – 2015), Globus Family of Brands Premier Agency Partner (2009- 2014), Platinum Member of the 500 Club for Sales Excellence (2014), Platinum Circle Member with Viking River Cruises (2009-2012), Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection Top Producer (2008-2014) and Regent Seven Seas Cruises Top Producer. Cruise Planners is one of the Top 50 franchises for Veterans according to GI magazine, the Top Franchise Brand for Veterans according to Franchise Business Review, has been named one of the Top 25 franchises for African-Americans by Black Enterprise magazine and is a member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. For more information, visit www.cruiseplanners.com.
Stay in Touch: Media can stay up-to-date with Cruise Planners by visiting our media room, following us on Twitter @Cruisitude or on Facebook. For additional information or to make reservations, vacationers should locate a travel advisor near them. For those interested in becoming a franchise owner, please visit our franchise site.
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Caitlin Gardner, Director of Public Relations
Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative
Marketing your Travel Agency to your Target Audience
When starting a travel agency, getting and retaining travel clients and making travel bookings takes work. The more effort you put into marketing your travel agency to your target audience, the higher the success rate and profit margins will be.
Everyone around the world was most likely watching the Olympics in Rio. Now it isn’t always easy to travel to faraway places to solicit new travel business; however, think about how many great opportunities you have if you do. Any large gathering (yes, even the political arena!) is fair game for small business travel agency owners.
As a travel agent, did you ever consider traveling to destinations with largest gatherings in order to find new travel clients?
Keeping Your Travel Agency Profitable
- Convention Halls/Trade Shows. It may be restricted, but the lounges, pools and bars aren’t.
- State/County Fairgrounds? Business cards and flyers go a long way at this type of place. Even a cheap coupon or small gift (pencils) can promote your business.
- Gift bags at movie premiere sites
- Churches – their events draw a lot of people for dances, casino nights, speaking events, etc.,
- Clubs – Elks, Knights of Columbus, Ladies Auxiliaries, Bowling Leagues, Sports Games?
How to Find Travel Agent Clients
Just a few of many places you could go to increase your travel agency’s visibility and clientele with smart marketing approaches.
Are you in touch with the numbers? What demographic audience holds your highest potential?
Are you being open to all audiences? Remember, Bride & Grooms go on Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. Families take a yearly vacation. Baby Boomers are retired and can go as often and to as many various trips as they can budget for.
Has your travel agency ever raffled a trip? Every single person that signs up to win that trip is a potential client.
Have you partnered with a gym? What about the fall festivals all over the country already setting up for Oktoberfest’s and Halloween …and you know the Holidays are right behind that!
Get a jump NOW on the many opportunities that can assist you in marketing your travel agency business. Schools do candy drives; perhaps they would be interested in letting the kids sell tickets for trips!
Vow to talk to three people every day about your business and what you do.
Get away from your computer and find out where your ideal client hangs out and go visit them…they have a lot of friends.
Stay present on your social media’s contacts and mentions, but don’t be a slave to that arena that could stall your business with redundancy.
Don’t forget, referrals are direct compliments to the success of your travel business…make sure the clients you have, come back for more and bring their friends.
Cruising in Green this Week for St. Patrick’s Day Cruise!!! All Aboard!
Season Greetings and Happy Holidays to all our friends, franchise owners, business
partners, affiliates, staff and our many cruisers near and far. May this season embrace
peace to all around the world. If you travel, please do so safely. If you stay home by the
fireside, enjoy your family, friends and loved ones
May the 2016 New Year show Promise, Peace and Prosperity for all!