Cruise Planners/American Express, the nation’s largest home-based travel agent franchise network in the cruise industry, welcomed more than 300 franchise owners to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., November 17-22, 2009, for the company’s 12th annual convention. Top executives from the company and major cruise lines were on hand to celebrate 2009’s successes and promote new tools and strategies designed to help agents prosper in 2010.

“We’re so proud of the dedication, tenacity and intelligence Cruise Planners agents have displayed in perhaps the most challenging business environment we have ever faced,” said Cruise Planners CEO and Co-Founder Michelle Fee. “Though revenue was generally flat this year compared to last, cabin count was up which means our agents kept on selling. We know that we can't do business the same way as in the past, and the convention was the perfect opportunity to encourage all of our agents to embrace a ‘do and dare’ sales mentality.”

Franchise owners were introduced to several new advanced tools at the convention including a new and improved, fully-integrated CPCentral, an enhanced version of the Cruise Planners University educational platform, the Sketch client segmentation tool, and the Home Office Onboard Program Sales (H.O.O.P.S.) lead generation tool.

· CPCentral will integrate ClientCentral and AgentCentral, allowing agents to research, book, market and mange all in one place
· Cruise Planners University (CPU) is the industry’s first online training program that integrates and tracks Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) certifications and select cruise line and tour company universities with Cruise Planners’ core training modules; collectively over 40 training modules per track, with the ultimate goal for each Cruise Planner to achieve the highest level within the program, a Certified Cruise Planners Expert (CCPE)
· Sketch is a tool that will allow agents to target their marketing efforts by better identifying who their clients are and their actual buying habits in order to market directly to them
· H.O.O.P.S. program provides Cruise Planners agents with the tools to encourage onboard bookings before sailing, plus immediately touch cruisers when they return and encourage commitment to close the sale. “These are the HOTTEST leads out there,” said Terri Burke, senior vice president, relationship marketing.

Cruise Planners executives also highlighted how existing sales tools have helped agents during the past year, especially by allowing them to increase their closing ratios. The American Express Pay with Points program kicked off in January 2009 and in less than a year, proved to be a valuable sales tool. With 46 billion points used each year, totaling $460 million dollars, two-thirds are used for travel. Without redeeming points, ticket prices are generally 11 percent higher for consumers. The Cruise Planners Home Office team encouraged agents to take advantage of this program as it can be used to attract new customers, give Cruise Planners a competitive advantage, and most importantly, a higher closing ratio.

Throughout the convention, Cruise Planners agents were recognized for their outstanding performances and the top sellers for each cruise line are as follows: GianCarlo Bruno and Nancy Bogert - Royal Caribbean International, Merci Cantwell and Nancy Bogert - Celebrity Cruises, Bob Zweig and Nancy Bogert - Holland America, Nancy Bogert and Lydia Pearson – Carnival Cruise Lines, Nancy Bogert and Dorothy Flannery - Princess Cruises and GianCarlo Bruno and Linda Ford – Norwegian Cruise Line.