When your business is travel, work and life are virtually inseparable. That’s just fine with Vicky Garcia. Garcia is the chief operating officer and coowner of Cruise Planners (www.cruiseplanners.com), a national travel agency brand that operates franchise partnerships. Since 2004, Garcia has devoted herself to all things travel to keep Cruise Planners on top of tourism trends, niche interests, and technology. Through her efforts and those of her savvy squad, the company and its stakeholders remain industry leaders, all thanks to a deep labor of love.
Based in Coral Springs, Florida, Cruise Planners describes itself as the country’s “largest home-based travel-advisor franchise network.” Similar to a fast-food restaurant, the company helps entrepreneurs launch their own travel agencies using its brand name, custom tools, and customer benefits. It’s a very different business model from other travel companies; Cruise Planners innovates while its 2,000-plus franchise owners focus on their pursuits, on their own terms.
“One hundred percent of the focus at our headquarters is to support our franchise owners and help them grow their businesses,” says Garcia. “We only make money if they sell travel. And we want to help them be successful business owners.” At the root of it all is passion, a trait Garcia shares with her team and partners. “The one common element of people who are successful with their Cruise Planners business is that they love to travel,” she says. “It’s not so much that they have business acumen or that they’re a great salesperson. It’s mainly that they have passion about travel, and that’s conveyed to whoever they’re talking to.” She speaks with a deep understanding of her company and the industry, all in a way that inspires new franchise partners and enlightens existing owners.
Garcia, 52, began her travel career very early on when she dropped out of high school and, at 19, began an 11-year tenure at Royal Caribbean International. There she rose through the ranks, which she calls her “college years” because of the tourism and management education she acquired there, followed by stints at othertravel- and business-related companies. In 2004, she joined Cruise Planners as director of groups, and quickly worked her way up to senior vice president of sales and marketing.