In 2016, CruiseOne franchisees were notified they could rebrand their agencies to "Dream Vacations." Five years later, senior editor Jamie Biesiada spoke with Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., about the brand's origination, how it's actually helped franchisees increase cruise sales and how he expects it to help as agencies recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Q: What motivated you to introduce the brand?
A: The franchisees. They kept saying, "We want a name that speaks to more than just cruise." It makes sense. CruiseOne certainly was the flagship brand of our franchise company. They have been in business for several decades. It has cruise in the name.
You had agents going into the grocery store -- they're doing business with their neighbors, their friends and their community -- and [a client would say], "Oh, I just got back from Sandals," or "I just got back from a tour." The same story happened with multiple people, multiple times. "I'll call you next year when I'm booking my cruise."
Ultimately, we wanted a name that could speak to more than just cruise and speak about the experiences we sell. Of course, Dream Vacations is the perfect naming convention for that.
Q: What has the response been like?
A: The response has been overwhelming. I would say 80% of our franchise system markets themselves as Dream Vacations. CruiseOne is still a brand, and we still have people that only identify as CruiseOne, but it doesn't mean they only sell cruises.
As a matter of fact, when we launched the brand, for those agencies that transitioned over to Dream Vacations, they saw their cruise business grow exponentially. The reason is because customers wouldn't be in the market for a cruise. So they would call a travel agent and just have a conversation about planning their next vacation. In that conversation, now they're speaking to a cruise expert who would say, "Well, have you thought of a cruise?"
Fast-forward to where we are today, I think it really is great that we have a more generic brand name that helps to market all the products that we sell.
Q: You've been putting an emphasis on land vacations, too, in recent years, correct?
A: That's really the other piece of it. Our land business has grown significantly. And of course, with Dream Vacations, it's just opened up. More expert agents, more travel professionals, are more likely to be interested in joining our franchise system because we have a more generic name.
Q: For the agencies still using the CruiseOne moniker, what's their reasoning?
A: It is a legacy name. Some have been with us for almost 30 years, and that's just part of their business. But we've had people who have been here for the same length of time say, "Yeah, let's do it."
Q: Of your new franchisees, how many of them choose Dream Vacations?
A: 100%. I think there have been one or two in the last couple of years that chose CruiseOne, and that was because they had cruising in their [earlier] naming conventions.
Q: I would imagine having a more neutral brand like Dream Vacations will be helpful in terms of recovery from the pandemic. Is that the case?
A: Without a doubt. First of all, everybody wants to jump out of Zoom and go to the Caribbean and Europe and discover the world, whether that be by a cruise vacation or a land-based vacation, both of which are amazing. But for sure, people, when they call, maybe their initial inquiry [will focus on a land-based vacation]. But then, when they have this conversation, the agent will be like, "Well, did you hear that cruising is returning? This is what it looks like."
We actually launched a travel safety verified training program for all our franchisees. We built it within the company. It's a three-phased approach to add more credibility to each of our franchisees when they're having those conversations with consumers about the safety of travel, because now more than ever that's the important piece. As part of rebuild and recovery, that is going to be key for bringing in new people and getting back people that have cruised before.