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CruiseOne/Dream Vacations Franchise - Interview with Debbie Fiorino, SVP

Debbie Fiorino serves as Senior Vice President of Dream Vacations. She is responsible for continuing to grow the company’s franchisee base and travel sales while providing exceptional support for these franchise owners. With more than 25 years of experience in business and leadership, Debbie offers expansive knowledge in driving strategy and plans for growth and success. Since joining the company in 2002, she has served as Benefits Manager, Director of Total Rewards & Corporate HR, and Senior Vice President of Human Resources. She previously served at companies including KaBloom, Bertucci’s Corporation (NE Restaurant Company) and Medical Diagnostics, Inc. Debbie holds a BS from the University of Massachusetts/Boston.

FranchiseExpo:  What is the Dream Vacations franchise opportunity all about?
Debbie Fiorino:  We believe the success of our franchisees is our only business. At Dream Vacations we are committed to providing our franchise owners with the tools they need to be successful business owners – this includes personalized support, best-in-class technology, innovative marketing, continuous training and so much more. Dream Vacations makes dreams come true — we make business dreams become a reality for our franchisees and our franchisees make dream vacations become a reality for their clients. 

FE: Who is your ideal candidate for a Dream Vacations franchise?
DF:  To own a business, especially home-based, you have to be passionate about what you do. Our ideal candidate is somebody who is passionate about the travel industry, has integrity, is eager to learn, energetic and a real people-person. 

Our franchise owners come from all different backgrounds and in fact, many have no previous travel industry experience. The one similarity among them is that they all have a passion for travel and helping others. 

FE: What type of training and support do you offer Dream Vacations franchisees? 
DF: Our franchisees’ success is our only success, so it is important that they are educated on how to effectively run their business, current events, business development skills and more. Our support begins before a contract is signed and continues through to secession. 

All prospects are assigned to a Franchise Development Specialist who walks them through the franchise buying process, making sure the prospect understands the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and is confident in their decision to open a franchise. Upon signing a contract, new franchisees can immediately enroll in our Franchise Accelerated Success Training program, which is known as FAST TRACK, which covers items that can be accomplished before official training and which will be expanded upon during the week-long training. FAST TRACK continues for 180-days after training ends and includes one-on-one coaching as well as 50 free and low-cost ways to kick-start your business.

New franchisees are always excited to start their business so it is of utmost importance that they go through training immediately. Because of this, we host a new training class monthly. The benefits are they can start running their business right away and experience a smaller class size, resulting in meaningful relationships with our headquarters team. At new franchise training, they learn hard and soft business skills, meet industry executives and learn about the different cruise and land products they will be selling, learn how to use our innovative technology and marketing programs, attend a vendor trade show, tour a cruise ship and much more. 

The education continues beyond the first week. At Dream Vacations we believe in continuous education both in-person an online. We host five regional trainings around the country and an award-winning National Conference aboard a cruise ship where our franchisees network with each other, learn about what’s new in the industry and receive company updates. In addition, we hold. We also have an esteemed online learning management system with more than 500 courses called The Learning Center, which is available on multiple platforms and on-demand so our franchisees can take training on their own time via their mobile phones and tablets. Weekly webinars are also hosted with special guests from cruise lines, industry organizations and more. 

Our support extends beyond training. Every franchise owner is assigned a regional Business Development Manager who assists with providing localized marketing support. We also offer a Support Services team available six days a week with extended hours deep into the evening, and technical support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Dream Vacations franchisee? 
DF: As a Dream Vacations franchise owner, you have a business name that reflects what you sell – all types of vacation experiences. This is extremely beneficial as you market yourself in your local community. 

Dream Vacations is fully invested in the success of our franchisees. We fully fund more than $1 million a year in lead generation and $600,000 in exclusive promotions available only to our franchisees. In addition, we are continually re-investing in our company – whether it’s expanding our team, enhancing our technology or offering new programs to assist our franchisees in being successful.

Another advantage to joining Dream Vacations is knowing that you are in the World Travel Holdings family of brands. World Travel Holdings is the world’s largest retailer of cruise vacations and is a powerhouse in the travel industry. This means we have incredible buying power with cruise lines and are able to negotiate exclusive deals. 

FE: Are you a member of any associations?
DF: To be a leader, it is important to be involved in industry organizations so we can have a pulse on current trends and innovations. We are active in both franchising and travel associations including:
  • International Franchise Association

o   VetFran

o   DiversityFran

  • Cruise Lines International Association
  • American Society of Travel Agents
FE: Tell us a little about the Dream Vacations Market?
DF: Dream Vacations is a travel franchise, not a cruise franchise. We sell all types of vacations experiences including cruises, resorts, tours and more. The travel industry is growing. In 2016 alone there are 27 new cruise ships being built. 

FE: How successful is your company today and what are your future growth plans?
DF: Dream Vacations continues to experience growth. In 2015, we hit the 1,000th franchise milestone. We believe it is important not to grow too quickly so we can maintain our high support staff to franchisee ratio. We grow at about 10 percent year over year. 

We are committed to having a franchise network that is “Rich in Diversity” and we hope to increase the number of military veteran franchise owners. Right now, 30 percent of our network are military veterans. 

FE: What are your franchisees saying about the business?
DF: Our franchisees appreciate the support we provide and that we gave them an option to brand themselves as Dream Vacations. 

“Switching to Dream Vacations was the best business decision I ever made, I have been receiving so many calls since I started posting about our transition. I knew this was going to happen, people needed to know I could help them with more than cruises and now they do. I love the support I received from Headquarters and the seamless transition going live!”  - Monica Calenda, Franchise Owner since 2014, Larkspur, CO

FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a franchise?
DF: First, you should conduct a self-analysis and determine what industry would be the best fit for you. Once you decide, make sure you do your research and are not “sold” the opportunity. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Carefully read the Franchise Disclosure Document and consult with an attorney and accountant. Don’t forget to speak with your family about your new journey and that you have their support. 

As you go through the Discovery Process, speak with the franchisor’s leadership team and visit the corporate headquarters. A franchise is like a family and it is important that you get along. Call existing franchisees about their experiences, as well as those who have left and ask why.

Remember, owning your own business is a marathon, not a sprint, and that owning a home-based travel franchise is not a get rich quick opportunity.

FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Dream Vacations would be a great opportunity for someone?
DF:  Everybody loves to travel – whether it’s where they have been or where they want to go. The travel industry is exciting and constantly evolving. 

Dream Vacations is a fantastic opportunity because it is low-cost (less than $10,000), home-based (no need to worry about leasing office space or overhead) and there is no inventory. Also, by being affiliated with Dream Vacations you have access to the highest commission rates in the industry, so there is tremendous potential.

Becoming a Dream Vacations franchise owner also is a great way to travel the world, at a discount by taking advantage of travel agent pricing and familiarization trips. 

Joe DePinto of 7-Eleven

Joe DePinto is president and CEO of 7-Eleven, Inc., the premier company in convenience retailing. Globally, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 61,000 7 Eleven stores, including more than 10,900 stores in North America.