Cruise Planners - American Express Travel, a major home-based travel agent franchise network in the cruise industry, reports that CEO Michelle Fee, CFO Tom Kruszewski and Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Vicky Garcia together purchased the company from Palm Beach Capital, a private equity investment firm. Palm Beach Capital had been the majority owner of Cruise Planners since 2005. The transaction price for the deal, which closed on Dec. 31, was not disclosed.
Fee, who has owned the company since she co-founded it 19 years ago, welcomed the new partnership and the strength the team gives to the company. “Cruise Planners has come a long way since its inception and much of our success comes as a result of the dedication and innovation of Tom and Vicky. We believe in this industry, its potential for growth and together this partnership will strengthen the company’s efforts to support our incredible agents.”
Cruise Planners was created by Fee along with industry veterans Lynn Korn and Marvin Davis in 1994. Just prior to the retirement of Korn and Davis in 2007, their shares in the company were purchased by Palm Beach Capital. Fee continued to grow the business, signing on Garcia in 2004 and Kruszewski in 2008 to round out the executive team. Under their management, Cruise Planners has earned top sales awards from all of the major cruise lines and increased the number of franchisees to more than 800 with an impressive growth in 2012.
Under the new ownership, Fee will remain CEO and Kruszewski as CFO. Garcia will take on the new title of COO, overseeing the overall strategic and operational responsibility for all business development and marketing programs including the formation of third party partnerships that have become an extension of the company’s in-house offerings for agents.
“Cruise Planners is known in the industry for its family-business approach to servicing agents as well as clients, so it’s always felt like my family,” said Garcia. “Now we really are one big family and we will continue to focus our attention on our agents. We don’t sell travel, they do and we’re here to give them the tools and the resources to be the most successful travel advisors in the business.”
The new partners report they have set the stage for a robust 2013 with a number of technological advancements being launched this year including a consumer smartphone app, additions to the agents’ websites called MyTrips, a client portal where anyone authorized can login to view upcoming trips and share them with friends and family via social media, Client Snapshots, which allows agents to see an intelligent view of their clients’ buying and travel patterns, as well as a Cruise Fare Reduction tool that allows agents to easily see if a cruise fare has dropped since booking.
“This investment illustrates the dedication our executive team has in the success of the Home Office associates as well as our franchisees,” continued Fee. “This partnership was the logical next step for the company." Cruise Planners is a American Express Travel Services Representative.