Local travel agents are cruising toward a bright future.
Expedia CruiseShip-Centers’ Las Vegas location opened the day before Thanksgiving at 1930 Village Center Circle. Owners Dan and Brenna Maurer have been cruising for more than 10 years.
“We love to travel and love to meet with other travelers,” Brenna Maurer said.
Business at their travel agency is going well despite the short time it’s been open, the couple said. They employ 13 travel consultants with experience in navigating cruises.
If the Maurers’ first agency is successful, they have plans for two more in the Las Vegas area.
According to the couple, two-thirds of all cruises are booked through travel agents.
Since opening, the agency franchise has served more than 20 people, with customers finding the shop via its website, print ads and local networking. The agency takes walk-ins or appointments. So far, cruises have made up 60 percent of the business, and land trips have taken 40 percent.
“A lot of the younger folks haven’t converted to cruises yet,” Dan Maurer said.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association, an estimated 17.2 million people cruised on member cruise lines in 2012. Of the total, 68 percent were North Americans. This year, a projected 17.6 million people will cruise on member lines, with 67 percent of the total hailing from North America.
At Paradise Travel, 8516 W. Lake Mead Blvd., a large, bright yellow sign hangs outside with the words “Cruise Sale” printed in bold red letters.
Frank and Ellen Nardiello have owned the travel agency since 1993 and offer help to those interested in land or sea.
“I find that a lot of people are coming back to local agents. They strayed for a while and went to the online agencies and did a lot of research on their own but ran into a problem or something happened while they were traveling and they had no one to turn to,” Ellen Nardiello said.
Brenna Maurer said, “We think the travel agent demand is growing every day, because there’s so much information on the Internet.”
At a recent trade show, she said, she spoke to a woman who told her she wanted to go on a cruise but was having trouble navigating the plethora of information online. She didn’t understand all of the options because there were too many.
“That’s really a benefit of the cruise consultant,” Dan Maurer said.
At Paradise Travel, customers come in after they’ve done research online. The Nardiellos help find the best value and lend their expertise.
“We’ve been busy,” Ellen Nardiello said.
The Nardiellos’ shop is near Sun City Summerlin, and they get a lot of business from the retirement community.
“Retirees have money and time. People are still going on vacation,” Ellen Nardiello said.
Cruise sales are the majority of Paradise Travel’s business.
“Even with the bad publicity some of the cruise lines have gotten for certain incidents, it’s really only turned away those who have never cruised,” Ellen Nardiello said.
Most of the recent bad publicity has involved Carnival Cruise Lines. In February, for example, guests aboard its Triumph ship were subjected to days of horror after an on-ship fire led to chaos.
Other cruise lines are busy building up fleets. According to the trade association, by the end of this year, 167 ships will have been built since 2000. Thirteen ships with 16,702 beds will be built next year, representing a capital investment of $3.3 billion.
“I don’t think they would be investing that much money if the cruise lines themselves didn’t see their business growing. I don’t see it declining anytime soon,” Ellen Nardiello said.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.