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Interview with Dan Hicks, Director of Franchise Development for Cruise Planners/American Express

With a family of over 800 franchise owners, the Cruise Planners/American Express franchise is one of the largest privately-owned, nationally recognized, and continually awarded travel franchises in the country. With no inventory to buy, no employees, no retail space, no construction, no mandatory monthly fees,and no travel experience required, Cruise Planners/American Express' home-based business model offers would-be entrepreneurs a low-investment, low- risk opportunity that can yield high returns.

Franchise Help spoke with Dan Hicks, Director of Franchise Development for Cruise Planners/American Express, to get a window into what his 17 years of experience in franchise development have taught him about the Cruise Planners franchise opportunity.

Franchise Help (FH): What sets Cruise Planners/American Express apart from other travel-related franchises?

Dan Hicks,
Director of Franchise Development for Cruise Planners/American Express

Dan Hicks, Director of Franchise Development for Cruise Planners/American Express

Dan Hicks (DH): Among many attributes, our partnership with American Express opens up a tremendous amount of additional revenue streams, with access to additional ship board amenities for clients, blocked group space, pay with points programs, etc. We were the first in the industry to introduce mobile technology so you can actually run your business from the palm of your hand. We are the most awarded home-based travel franchise in the country, most recently named Entrepreneur magazine's #1 in the category for the ninth year in a row and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Home Based Partner of the Year for the fifth consecutive year, just to name a few.

FH: Can you tell us about the business model for a Cruise Planners franchise? How do your franchisees make money?

DH: Our franchise owners are commissioned on full-service travel, not just cruises. We offer the highest commissions in the industry on cruise travel, land resorts, hotels, travel insurance, car rentals, shore excursions, special services, and much more.

FH: What is the current state of the cruise vacation niche within the larger travel category?

DH: The Cruise Line International Association's data shows that there has never been a decline in cruise travel. No matter what the state of the world is, people will always find time to vacation. Through the Iranian war in the 80’s to the fuel crisis, mortgage fallout, and record unemployment today, the cruise industry has seen double-digit growth year over year.

FH: Can you describe the primary target customer for Cruise Planners? How are your franchisees reaching out to this target customer?

DH: Our franchise owners reach their customers through various tools supplied by the home office. Some of the most popular are our free direct mail programs, weekly email flyers and postcards, CP Pod (Cruise Planners Print on Demand), and other opted-in formats.

FH: What are some common characteristics of your top performing franchises?

DH: Outgoing, personable, and driven are all characteristics we like to see. We love to see our franchise owners get really involved in their local communities, like joining the neighborhood BNI groups, local Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary Clubs. We always tell our owners, you can’t sit home and wait for your phone to ring!

FH: What can you tell us about the estimated initial investment, royalty fees, and profit potential for a Cruise Planners/American Express franchise?

DH: The franchise fee is $9,995, which includes training, airfare for one coach ticket to Ft. Lauderdale, hotel room, meals, ship inspections, insurance, and software. We do offer a discount package of $2,645 for military veterans, police officers, firefighters, and emergency responders.Our royalty is 3% of gross commissionable sales but that actually goes down as your volume goes up. Regarding income, we do not disclose potential earnings but we encourage candidates to contact our franchise owners directly.

FH: What are your growth plans for Cruise Planners/American Express? Which geographic markets are you targeting for expansion?

DH: We are expanding nationwide at a very rapid pace. With our franchise model being so inexpensive and the travel industry seeing double digit growth the last 30 years, we are a very attractive model to people who are wanting a change in their career, approaching retirement, or someone who just wants to be part of this exciting business.

FH: Is there anything else you wish to share about Cruise Planners/American Express?

DH: You can learn more about Cruise Planners/American Express by liking our Facebook fan page at, you’ll be able to read our blogs, learn about franchising and the travel industry, read testimonials from our franchise owners, win cool stuff during some contests, and much more!

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