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Friday Q&A: How a Travel Agency Markets to the Military by Hiring Veterans

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At Dream Vacations, military veteran franchisees make up more than 30% of the company, an impressive statistic for a travel agency that sells everything from Shanghai vacation tours to Caribbean cruises. Dream Vacations makes it easy for veterans to begin a franchise selling vacation packages: they offer 20% discounts for vets to open a franchise, additional discounts for hiring other vets, and they even let vets who move run their franchises remotely. As a result, the company – which was once called CruiseOne – is now ranked among the best for veterans by a number of publications, from Forbes to Military Times.

We spoke with Dream Vacations Senior Vice President Debbie Fiorino about her strategies, and about why veterans are so crucial to the company.

Tell us about Dream Vacations and its experience with franchising.

The franchise has more than 1,000 franchise owners and a headquarters team [in Fort Lauderdale, Florida] of nearly 100 who support them. Historically, our network grows by 10% each year. We believe it is important to increase our network size in moderation so we can continue providing our franchise owners with the best support staff ratio in the industry. We believe that the success of our franchisees is our only business.

How do vets play a role in your business, and why?

Military veterans face many challenges when transitioning back to civilian life. Recruiting those retiring from the military and giving them a viable career option is one way we give back to those who have served our country.

Dream Vacations has been an active member of VetFran [a network of the International Franchise Association aimed at bringing franchise opportunities to vets] since 2009, and in 2017 received the highest 5-star ranking from the organization. In fact, the Military Times ranked us the #1 franchise for veterans, across all industries, three years in a row, and Forbes has also ranked us as one of the best franchise for veterans. Other publications that include us on their “Best for Vets” lists [sometimes under the CruiseOne name] include G.I. Jobs, U.S. Veterans Magazine, and Entrepreneur.

What marketing strategies do you all use to reach out to veterans?

We actively seek military veteran candidates through our targeted advertising and public relations campaigns. One way we do so is through our annual “Operation Vetrepreneur” contest which awards five deserving military veterans with a free franchise valued at $12,700. We also recognize military spouses and their sacrifices, often career-related, by providing incentives to franchise owners who hire active duty spouses. Military families move often and owning a franchise or becoming an associate is ideal for spouses because they can stay employed wherever their moves take them.

In addition, we leverage our military franchise ownership by asking them for testimonials we can use in our marketing materials. Another way we market is by participating in veteran conferences and speaking on panels about franchise ownership and veterans. Our membership with VetFran has provided many of these opportunities and has introduced many veterans to our organization. We have also seen a large number of [mentions of our business in] military publications such as Military Times, U.S. Veterans Magazine, Military Spouse, and the military portal Virtual Job Scout. With these media outlets, while they may not have the largest circulations, we are getting in front of our target audience.

What are some of the things you to do bring in vets and make sure they are a good fit for the company?

All military veterans who join Dream Vacations receive continued support. Additional veteran incentives include the ability to move residences and stay in business [remotely], LeisureCare Travel Insurance discounts for veterans, travel discounts for military customers and access to veteran networking groups.

Military veterans have proven to be among our most successful franchise owners and are natural leaders within our organization. There are so many shared traits and skill sets that cross over from the military into franchising. This includes displaying strong leadership, working in systems, creating and implementing plans, thriving in a “family” atmosphere and more. In addition, after being away from home for extended periods of time, many veterans seek a career opportunity that gives them the flexibility to maximize family time and set their own hours.

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