When Ariel Chavez was a student living in Bolivia, he dreamed of moving to Japan, where his father frequently traveled for business. Little did he know that life circumstances would ultimately bring him to the United States, where he became an American citizen, a civil engineer, and a successful Cruise Planners franchise owner.
In 2002, Chavez had been helping a couple translate real estate documents from Spanish to English when he mentioned his interest in civil engineering. When he was later accepted into a civil engineering program at an Alabama university, the couple invited him to stay at their home in Mobile, Alabama, during his education. Today, Chavez still lives in Alabama but has long since traded his civil engineering career for Cruise Planners ownership.
“My original plan was to start an engineering company,” he said. “While doing online research, I read about people working remotely while traveling and thought, yes, maybe I could do that! Then I came across an article about one of the fastest-growing franchises involving traveling. That’s when I found Cruise Planners.”
Chavez had been considering a two-year sabbatical before starting a civil engineering business but decided to combine his desire for a rewarding career with his love of travel and buy a Cruise Planners franchise instead. Today, his company, New Frontier, books over $1 million annually in travel and is a top producer in Cruise Planners’ Millionaire’s Club. New Frontier specializes in luxury river cruises. According to Travel Weekly, demand for river cruising is expected to grow by 12 percent by 2028, outpacing the demand for ocean cruising. Chavez predicts 2023 will be his best year since hitting record sales in 2019.
Cruise Planners is a home-based travel business that offers cruises, guided land tours, and all-inclusive resort vacations to customers throughout the United States. Its nationwide network of more than 2,500 travel agents enjoy open territories and can sell travel to anyone in the United States. Agents don’t need to open a brick-and-mortar office. They can work from home—or anywhere.
While his success as a travel agent didn’t come overnight, Chavez credits the Cruise Planners corporate team and franchise system for providing the training, marketing support, and proven steps that helped him steadily grow his clientele.
“It took about 18 months to two years to ramp up,” Chavez said. “But now my business is thriving and growing—mostly through word of mouth. I also use the systems Cruise Planners puts in place, like social media, marketing, and sales—to promote my business. They do a great job.”
A Day in the Life of a Cruise Planners Franchise Owner
Today, Chavez spends his days talking to clients, researching travel itineraries, and networking in his community. His New Frontier team consists of two travel agents and an administrative assistant who work together to field calls and emails, secure client travel plans, address client needs, and discuss business strategies. As a successful business owner and father raising a four-year-old foster son with his husband, Chavez enjoys a healthy mix of personal and professional commitments. He loves the flexibility of being his own boss and working from home—or anywhere he likes. Chavez and his husband enjoy engaging with his community and volunteering for causes that align with their goals and interests.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping children. I was invited to be part of a board of directors for a nonprofit that helps children in foster care. And the interesting thing is that even though I do it because it’s something I enjoy and like, I still get business from some of the people I meet through this initiative,” he said. “The typical question you always get in a new group is, ‘What do you do?’ When I tell them I own and operate a Cruise Planners travel business, a common response is, ‘I’m planning on traveling next year. Can you help me, or do you have some suggestions?’”
Finding His Cruise Planners Franchise Niche
While Chavez had traveled extensively before becoming a Cruise Planners agent, he had never boarded a cruise ship or used a travel agent to book a vacation. As a Cruise Planners travel agent, he was invited to go on a familiarization trip where he immersed himself in the river cruise experience and found his niche. River cruises involve smaller ships and itineraries that allow passengers to learn about each destination’s history, culture, cuisine, and community.
“It’s completely different than ocean cruising. You have the option or the capability to experience the heart of the city, especially in Europe,” Chavez said. “I have two (river cruise) clients who just returned from Egypt. I’ve had some clients take river cruises in South America, and now it’s also becoming more popular here in the United States.”
Chavez’s first river cruise traveled from Paris to Normandy, where he and his husband learned about Normandy beaches and enjoyed historical tours.
“When I came back, I was telling people about my river cruise experience, and I realized I’m passionate about this! I feel comfortable enthusiastically talking about it and encouraging others to experience river cruising. And that’s where it all started,” he said.
Chavez is planning an exciting new endeavor for 2024. He’s offering his more adventurous clients an expedition to Antarctica and the South Pole.
“It’s on my bucket list, so I’m excited to make it happen,” he said.
Advice for Prospective Cruise Planners Travel Agents
Anyone can succeed in the travel business if they’re willing to work hard to serve their clients. But before they embark on a new career, Chavez encourages candidates to speak with other Cruise Planners franchise owners and ask many questions about their experiences.
New Cruise Planners’ agents attend a 6-day in-person training, STAR Academy, at corporate headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale. There, they get matched with a personal business development coach who provides ongoing, one-on-one coaching at no extra cost. After initial training and goal setting, agents get access to Cruisitude Academy, an online learning platform that includes hundreds of training videos and learning experiences.
Chavez explained that Cruise Planners franchisees can start working part-time until they build up a book of business or jump in full-time to ramp up more quickly. Agents get paid after their clients complete their vacations, so new business owners should know and plan for that.
“I have seen a few people who buy a franchise; a few months later, they are top producers. They’re very inspiring and incredible,” Chavez said. “It took me a little more time to build my business. Now I’m thankful to also be a top producer!”
Ready to Start a Career as a Cruise Planners Franchise Owner?
Cruise Planners agents not only enjoy travel perks, but they enjoy the company they work for, too. A recent Franchise Business Review Franchise Satisfaction Report shows that:
- 92% of the franchisees “agree” or “strongly agree” that senior management effectively drives the brand forward.
- 93%of franchisees enjoy being part of the Cruise Planners franchise.
- 96%of franchisees are likely to recommend the franchise to others—13% higher than our overall industry benchmark.
The company also won eight Franchise Business Review awards in 2023, including Top Franchise for Women, Top Franchise for Veterans, and Top Low-Cost Franchise.
You don’t need to be an experienced traveler to be a successful Cruise Planners franchise owner, but you need to have a passion for helping clients with travel and designing dream vacations. With a low barrier to entry and no brick-and-mortar office requirement, Cruise Planners is one of the most affordable franchises available. You can work full time or keep your day job and work part-time while ramping up your business.
Cruise Planners supports its independent agents with a personalized website, email and social media campaigns, and direct mail support—so agents can spend less time setting up their businesses and more time building them.
Minimum Cash Required: $10,995
Total Startup Investment: $2,295 to $23,465
Royalty: 1-3% of gross commissionable sales
Cruise Planners offers franchise discounts for the military, first responders, existing travel professionals, and others. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and think you’d enjoy helping vacationers navigate post-pandemic travel, Cruise Planners could be the right fit for you.
For more information about franchising with Cruise Planners, call (888) 582-2150 or visit cruiseplannersfranchise.com.