The cruise agency franchise model prevalent in the US is set to take the UK by storm, according to Tony Childs, managing director of Cruise Holidays UK.

“You can see it in the US, and that’s where the market is going here. It’s moving more towards franchises, the homeworker model, the remote worker,” Childs told Travel Weekly.

With 54 franchisees and growing, Cruise Holidays UK is on its way to establishing itself as the country’s largest cruise franchiser.

The company began life as Global Cruising in 2004, and in early 2011, it teamed up with North American cruise travel giant Cruise Holidays to become its master franchiser in the UK.

The company celebrated its first year in business under its new brand name in September, which coincided with the launch of its first retail store in Hunstanton in Norfolk in August, as well as its 50th franchisee.

Since then, the company has brought another four franchisees on board, and has plans for a further 10 retail stores to open this year. It also hopes to have its first concession trading in the first quarter of the year, which is set to be in a non-travel shop.

Until now, most franchise owners have chosen to be based at home, said Childs, but this is changing, and the new stores herald further expansion for Cruise Holidays UK.

“Together, we have developed what we believe will be the most successful model for increasing cruise sales through a franchise network,” Childs has said of the partnership.

Over the past year, Cruise Holidays UK said it has been pursuing an “aggressive franchise recruitment campaign” by giving its careers’ website a makeover and now providing a complete “virtual tour” experience for anyone considering starting a cruise business.

For Childs, the best franchisees don’t have to come from a travel background, and those from outside the industry add great value by providing a different viewpoint on challenges, such as how to have decent margins despite commission cuts.

“Our franchisees are generally not from travel, but they bring a huge amount of skill to the table,” he said. “With commissions being cut, we have to look at ways of increasing our margins either through product differentiation or reducing costs, but we’ve got a huge amount of value from having people from different environments, not just travel.”

On commission cuts, Childs said: “The cruise lines are now taking charge of their own destiny, so we have to build a model that’s flexible enough to accommodate these changes.”

Everyone who wants to become a Cruise Holidays UK franchisee has to undergo a selection process to make sure they’re up to running their own business.

One of the key qualities Childs looks for in prospective franchisees is a “passion for cruise”.

“They have to have a real desire to want to do it,” he said. “We can teach them all the other stuff but we can’t teach desire and passion.

“That for me is fundamental, so if they have that, we can teach them everything else. We are careful in the selection process to ensure the people understand that it’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme,” he added.

Once the candidate decides to go ahead with the franchise, and is selected, they receive a package that includes their own website, email system, phone and laptop, together with training and ongoing support.

The franchisee pays a fee and a percentage of their commission to Cruise Holidays UK, which goes towards the tools and support they receive.

Looking to the future, Childs said the company will continue to expand. “We are looking to work with some key partners,” he said. “The ultimate position in the mid-term is to take it into Europe, but we won’t do it until the time is right.”