Travel agency franchisors optimistic about their business model: Travel Weekly

SHOWCASE FRANCHISES ARE STRONG

While the number of door-to-door agents has proliferated in recent years, franchisors of more traditional models – Expedia Cruises, Travel Leaders Network, American Express and BCD among them – are equally optimistic about their business.

Although they have some aspects in common with home models, purchase costs and ongoing overhead are not among them.

And most physical franchise agencies are leisure/business hybrids, with one notable exception: Expedia Cruises.

Since the start of the pandemic, Expedia Cruises has added more than 20 franchisees, along with the number of agents required to operate those locations, according to President Matthew Eichhorst; in total, there are more than 5,000 Expedia Cruises agents.

Eichhorst is a strong proponent of brand consistency that results from both openness and the strength of the Expedia brand (Expedia Group is #1 on Travel Weekly’s 2021 Power List). By the very definition of an “independent” contractor, a host agency cannot impose brand compliance on an IC, he pointed out. The consistency of the Expedia Cruises brand, combined with behind-the-scenes technology, is what makes Expedia Cruises successful, he said.

Shawn Friesen purchased his first Expedia Cruises franchise in 2007, opening it in Ontario. And according to Eichhorst, it was Expedia’s name that called him.

“If you were buying a pizza franchise, you would want Domino’s, not Bob’s Pizza,” he said. “I knew the technology was best in class. He had the best chance of success.

Friesen’s sixth franchise location will open Jan. 1, and he has plans for four more storefronts beyond that.

“We really believe in the model, that’s for sure,” he said.

Travel Leaders Network also offers franchise opportunities, but the opportunity is a “conversion franchise,” meaning only existing agencies are considered, said President Roger Block. There are no in-home options and there are requirements based on the size of the agency and other factors (for example, that the agency has both an ARC appointment and a GDS ).

Travel Leaders franchisees tend to be like BCD affiliates and American Express Travel franchisees, in that they focus on both business and leisure travel, Block said. Many of the services provided by franchisors tend to be business travel oriented.

“You’re really talking about a select group of agencies who can afford monthly fees, but who can also take advantage of the services we offer,” Block said.

Willie R. Golden