Onsite: Details of New Expedia CruiseShipCenters Brand

LAS VEGAS--The new head of Expedia and Canada-based CruiseShipCenters International's joint venture talked to Travel Agent's Mark Rogers about the new brand, Expedia CruiseShipCenters. The partnership, announced earlier this week at the Home-Based Travel Agent Expo in Vegas, outlined plans for expansion into the United States, with the first co-branded Expedia CruiseShipCenters store opening at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, WA.

"We're just starting; this is our first foray into the U.S. market," said Michael Drever, president and CEO of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, noting that Canada accounts for 10 percent of the North American cruise market.

Figures like that point to substantial opportunities for growth as the company moves into the U.S. Expedia CruiseShipCenters currently has 1,600 independent contractors and a searchable online database of more than 10,000 cruise vacations. One hundred percent of the company's Canadian contractors opted in when they heard about the imminent change. "Our goal is to build our numbers to 15,000 independent contractors,' said Drever.

Last March, Expedia announced a strategic investment in CruiseShipCenters in a move to broaden its exposure to offline distribution channels. "Since Expedia first invested in CruiseShipCenters, we have recognized the benefit of leveraging the two brands to benefit our home based agents, our franchise partners and our consumers," said Drever.

This alliance enables home-based agents to leverage the Expedia brand and further serve travelers by accessing Expedia's non-cruise offerings. Agents should take note that the only connection between Expedia and Expedia CruiseShipCenters is ownership. All of the bookings are done through CruiseShipCenters.com and not through Expedia's site. A customer can't link to Expedia from the web site.

Drever shared an interesting anecdote about the power of the Expedia brand: "When I walked up to the Mandalay Bay registration desk for my hotel room and I pulled out my new Expedia CruiseShipCenters business card, I was upgraded to a suite. This hadn't happened in 20 years with CruiseShipCenters," he said.

Initially, additional franchise opportunities will be available in Washington and Oregon in the first quarter of 2008. Agents will be able to sign up as independent contractors by paying $299, with franchise opportunities costing $3,995. Home-based agents in the U.S. who sign up as independent contractors can begin selling Expedia CruiseShipCenters offerings in January. The new Expedia CruiseShipCenters logo and supporting materials will be available to new and existing franchisees and home-based agents in the first quarter of 2008.

Look for the new company to announce International Cruise Academy dates around the U.S. Visit www.cruiseshipcenters.com. (MR)

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