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Company's annual convention unveils new technology and highlights the power of the brand

Launching the Cruisitude™ Revolution at this year's sold-out annual convention, Cruise Planners - American Express Travel, the nation's largest home-based travel agent franchise network in the cruise industry, welcomed nearly 500 agents to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida with a day full of important announcements and industry news. The first day of the convention predicted a positive and profitable year ahead, as well as new technology and marketing tools for agents.

Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners - American Express Travel, opened the first day's session with an introduction that focused on the power of the Cruise Planners brand and illustrated how agents can leverage the brand to increase visibility and sales. According to Fee, 2012 was a successful year for the company and its travel advisors. With agents embracing the recently launched "CP Vacations," a completely packaged vacations program that provides agents with access to more than 300 packages, including cruises plus pre and/or post stays, excursions and more.

"What sets Cruise Planners apart is our recognizable and trustworthy name and that is what has allowed us to continuously grow year after year," said Fee. "2012 has been a great year for us with our agents doubling their sales of land tours, the launch of our successful destination weddings program and the unveiling of our award-winning newly enhanced website. And now, as we look forward to next year, we see great things with new ships coming online, customers eager to travel and all of our new programs to make selling even easier for our advisors."

As a company that prides itself on being an industry leader in technology, some of the day's biggest announcements came from Cruise Planners - American Express Travel's Vice President of Technology Brian Shultz, who announced a consumer smartphone app that will be available for iOS and Android in January. With the unveiling of the app, the company has launched an online naming contest for it. Shultz also announced new features to their websites, including MyTrips, a client portal where anyone authorized can login to view upcoming trips and share them with friends and family via social media. Users can also directly purchase shore excursions that are fully commissionable to the agent. Shultz continued by introducing Client Snapshots, which allows agents to see an intelligent view of their clients' buying and travel patterns as well as the highly-anticipated Cruise Fare Reduction tool that allows agents to easily see if a cruise fare has dropped since booking, making the advisor a money-saving hero to their customers.

Much of the developments announced during the first day of the convention stemmed from regional meetings conducted throughout the country hosted by Fee and Vicky Garcia, executive vice president of sales and marketing. These regional meetings gave the executives a better understanding of advisors' needs and allowed the Home Office team to develop many of the initiatives, new technologies and programs.

The social media scene was another highlight of the day with the convention going completely online, featuring moment-to-moment news and live polling as well as commentary and interaction on Facebook and Twitter being broadcast throughout the day.

In her opening day speech, Garcia reinforced the importance of using social media to stay current and engage with clients. She also announced the company's new social media platform, CPSocialsm. As an addition to the Facebook Business Fan Page launched last year, CPSocialsm will now allow HO to post content on behalf of travel advisors weekly. The social media platform will provide a user-friendly dashboard for managing Facebook pages with suggested content and a calendar setting so posts can be scheduled to coincide with promotions and other news. The new platform will also incorporate Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr to the dashboard system in the first quarter of 2013, a benchmark that sets Cruise Planners - American Express Travel apart in the industry. Additionally, the company will be launching a directory listing service to ensure agents are listed accurately and on the top of search engine results within their local markets.

A new car wrap program was also well-received by attendees. The program will be launched with a nationwide partner and give all Cruise Planners advisors access to pre-negotiated rates and the company's graphic designs.

The last and final big takeaway from the day was an update on CPCares, the company's corporate social responsibility program. Benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) this year, the company is on course to raise $150,000 through events, auctions and selling the Cruise Planners' signature "bling" clothing and accessories. As part of the CPCares presentation, the company named guest speaker CJ George, cancer survivor and LLS Boy of the Year, as the official Cruisitude Youth Ambassador.

Cruise Planners - American Express's annual convention runs through Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. To be part of the conversation during convention, follow @CPMichelle, @VickyGarcia621 and @Cruisitude on Twitter and use the hashtag #CPConvention or connect with Cruise Planners - American Express Travel on Facebook.

About Cruise Planners - American Express Travel

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Services Representative, is the largest home-based travel agent network in the cruise industry with more than 800 franchise owners across the country that independently book cruises and associated travel. Named No.1 Cruise Tour / Travel Agency by Entrepreneur magazine for the past nine years, Cruise Planners positions franchise owners for success by providing them with innovative marketing, booking and lead-generating tools as well as professional development and hands-on training with the industry's top executives. Headquartered in Coral Springs, Fla., Cruise Planners has achieved top producer status with every major cruise line. Accolades include winning a record nine Magellan Awards from Travel Weekly in 2012, Special Needs Group Accessible Travel Advocate Power Partners™ for 2012, American Express Travel Representative Excellence Award for 7 years in a row (2004 - 2011), Agency of the Year from American Express (2010), Royal Caribbean International Home-Based Partner of the Year (2007 - 2012), Norwegian Cruise Line Franchise Agency of the Year (2012) and Home-Based Agency of the Year (2010), Southeast Region Travel Agent Partner of the Year from Celebrity Cruises (2010), Globe Award from American Express Vacations (2008 - 2012), Globus Family of Brands Premier Agency Partner (2009- 2012), Platinum Circle Member with Viking River Cruises (2009-2012), and Regent Seven Seas Cruises Top Producer.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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