Cruise Franchising Enters Rich New Waters

The industry has been growing at an average rate of more than 8 percent since 1980. An estimated 84 million passengers have set sail on a cruise of two days or more in the past 25 years. Of that 84 million, 64 percent took to open waters in the past 10 years, and 33 percent during the last five, according to research by the Carlson Travel Network.

Anyway you look at it, the potential in the cruise marketplace is enormous. Studies indicate that taking a cruise is a dream of 50 percent of all adults-particularly in the baby-boomer category. With only a small percentage of the U.S. population ever having been on a there's a lot of untapped potential.

From SeaMaster Cruises to Cruise Planners to Cruise Holidays, franchise opportunities abound for potential franchisees who want to help travelers set sail. Most of these franchises offer the time-tested support, and experience to help franchisees build and manage a successful cruise business.

"When we founded SeaMaster Cruises in 2004, our goal was to attract savvy business men and women who wanted the freedom to run their own exciting, home-based businesses," says Mark Schiffner, general manager at SeaMaster Cruises. As part of the Carlson Travel Franchise Group, which includes three agency franchised brands, franchisees working from home can tap into the parent company's resources, suppliers, technology, and marketing power.

If you're considering a future with a you'd be wise to be well informed of the latest industry developments and its future prospects before wading in. That information is exactly what Minneapolis-based Cruise Holidays set out to find in its recently released "2006 Cruise Holidays Travel Trends Survey." Perhaps as expected, the Caribbean ranks tops for cruise destination, followed by Alaska-but other locales and trends are emerging. For example, travelers are seeking longer cruises and more exotic destinations.

"We're pleased that the results confirm the anecdotal good news we've been hearing from our franchisees over the past several months," says Peter Thomson, vice president and chief operating officer of Cruise Holidays. "While the Caribbean and Alaska continue to be favorite destinations, cruisers are looking for something new and different. They still want all that cruising has to offer, but are interested in exploring ports of call much further from home such as Europe, as well as emerging cruise destinations such as South America and Asia."

Additional findings from the Cruise Holidays survey include the following:

* Cruise Holidays stores are selling more 8- to 10-day cruises in 2006 (38 percent vs. 27 percent in 2005) and 11- to 14-day cruises (8 percent vs. 3 percent in 2005.

* The booking window for 92 percent of the respondents is four months or longer; it is six months or longer for 54 percent.

* Itinerary and cruise line-as opposed to price-remain the two most important deciding factors when customers book a cruise.

* Favorite European port: Rome, followed by Venice

* Favorite Caribbean island or port: St. Thomas

* Emerging destination: South America

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