Thousands of cruises. Millions of passengers. Billions of dollars. So how do you get your piece of the cruise pie? In 2012, the cruise line industry generated more than $42 billion for the U.S. economy, according to Cruise Lines International Association. Becoming a home-based seller of cruise packages is a potentially profitable endeavor.
Develop a business model for your home-based cruise operations. Thousands of businesses sell cruises, from store-front travel agents to giant on-line travel sites like Orbitz and Travelocity. To compete with the clutter of cruise businesses on the market you will need to differentiate. This means finding a niche, allowing your marketing to target a specific demographic. You could specialize in Alaska's Inside Passage or Asia-Pacific islands. You could sell family reunion or honeymoon cruise packages.
Draw up a business plan. This is where most people's business aspirations fail because actually writing a business plan is a daunting prospect. But putting pen to paper and clarifying your business will help you stay the course when setting sail on your home-based cruise business. A business plan does not have to be 20 pages, defining every aspect of your business. But it should create goals, develop a marketing strategy, research competing companies and identify the financial feasibility of your business.
Educate yourself in the travel agent business. Numerous options are available for gaining a theoretical and practical background in running a travel agency, including training, work experience or independent research. Cruise Lines International Associations provide certifications -- through on-line and in-person seminars -- as an accredited cruise counselor. Working, perhaps as a secretary or intern, for a travel agency will give you experience. But conducting your own research -- books and websites -- is enough to get you started on your home-based business.
Join a travel hosting agency, especially one specializing in cruises, such as Cruises Inc. or Cruise One. Hosting agencies provide training, websites, access to leads, insurance (in some cases) and other business services in exchange for an enrollment fee and a percentage of the commissions you earn from sales. A hosting agency provides the quickest and easiest way to begin your home-based cruise agency.
Join travel agent associations like Cruise Line International Association and the National Association of Career Travel Agents. Being an association member will give you the credentials that clients look for when booking cruises, and a network of resources.
Sell cruises. This is the most important step for obvious reasons. But if you have successfully navigated the previous steps then you know who your customers are, and that is half the battle. Now target your marketing and advertising to potential customers. This may involve magazine and on-line advertising, cold-calling leads, networking and developing business relationships with other sellers or travel.
Build a brand. Branding is the process of creating an image that you want to portray to your customers. If you are specializing in Alaskan cruises for seniors you would want your brand to incorporate health and safety, social activities for seniors and leisurely shore excursions. Brands are created with your marketing materials: brochures, logos, website design and all written content.
Build a presence for your business on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Use these sites to build a community for your customers and to market your cruise packages and services.
Contact hotels near cruise terminals about providing discounted rooms for your clients.
Richard Ludwig has been a writer for over eight years and has had his work published in "Co-Ed Magazine," the "East Manatee County Observer" and the Disaster and Recovery e-magazine. He received journalism and sociology degrees from the University of South Florida.