Franchise conferences on cruise ships: The next big thing in franchising

Franchise conferences and events

Franchisors are taking their annual conferences and events to sea

Smart franchisors know that a collaborative and inclusive culture makes for a stronger and more productive franchise system. That’s why so many franchisors hold fun annual conferences and events that bring franchisees together in an enjoyable way. These events allow franchisees and corporate employees to meet face-to-face, get to know each other better, and share best practices. Essentially, a franchise system can turn itself into more of a franchise family by inviting everyone for a few days of fun, relaxation, and team building. 

Franchisors are starting to think outside of the box (or, in this instance, outside of the hotel’s conference room) and choosing unique venues for their annual conferences and events. Keith Lefkof, franchisee of Cruise Planners,, explains this shift. “Franchise conferences and events have traditionally been held at hotels and resorts in cities or travel destinations, but now franchisors are getting creative by offering more memorable experiences that franchisees will talk about for years to come,” he says. “It’s the next big thing in franchising.”

With a variety of meeting rooms and fun activities, cruise ships offer an ideal and unique venue for franchise conferences and events.

A diverse career in hospitality management, event planning, commercial real estate, and franchise consulting gave Lefkof a firsthand look at the trends in franchise conferences and corporate events. Lefkof’s background has led to his current passion as a cruise consultant and franchisee with Cruise Planners. Leveraging his experience, Lefkof is now seizing an opportunity to offer franchisors and corporations a new twist on traditional events.

Riding a different wave

Hosting an annual franchise conference on a cruise ship is an amazing way to make a lasting impression and build a strong franchise family foundation. Cruising offers a family-friendly environment, where you can bring franchisees, corporate teams, plus everyone’s families (including children if desired) together in one place, with lots of aged-based activities that you could never find at a typical resort or hotel. 

“Franchise conventions at sea help foster camaraderie and forge new relationships.”

Bo Franz 
Celebrity Cruises

Franchisors can save significant money and host far more impressive events on cruise ships than they could elsewhere. “It’s absolutely a no-brainer,” Lefkof continues. “With cruise ships, there’s access to entertainment, such as shows, live music, cooking demonstrations and so much more. You just can’t get all of that, plus meals, in one place anywhere else. We can reserve a section of the dining room for the entire franchise family.” 

Even though a three-to-seven-night getaway would be tempting for most people, franchisors still have to entice some franchisees to come to their events. There are always obstacles that get in the way, especially family obligations. A conference at sea offers a significant advantage because cruise ships are extremely family-friendly and offer built-in childcare. Most ships offer babysitting, camps, teen lounges and other activities to keep kids cared for and entertained throughout the day and even into the night. “With everything a cruise ship offers, taking time off from daily life becomes more convenient and adventurous at the same time,” he says. 

Lefkof’s team works diligently and collaborates with the franchisor’s team to create a completely tailored experience geared to their brand and group size, whether 50, 500 or 5,000 people. His highly-trained team brings an innovative, collaborative, process driven and tech savvy approach to planning a memorable event. 

More than shuffleboard

Many people are unaware of the diverse offerings of today’s cruises. These days, cruise ships are much more than slot machines and shuffleboard. They are loaded with activities and fun things to do. Some have extreme waterslides and rock-climbing walls, and most have activities such as beer or wine tasting, dancing, spa services, and endless possibilities for team building. “Then, of course, there are the excursions, which, depending on the ship and destination, can run the gamut, from ziplining in the rainforest to dog sledding on a glacier.” As part of Lefkof’s tailored service, he negotiates offshore excursion packages and beach privacy for the group. 

Healthy cruising 

For those worried about coronavirus and the Delta variant, Lefkof and his team have it covered. “Celebrity Cruises has partnered with medical and scientific advisors to guide us in the development of our protocols. Our guests’ health and safety remain our top priority. From bow to stern, we’re taking extraordinary measures to keep our guests healthy at sea,” he says. 

There’s a very high approval rating (90%) from all guests.

Bo Franz 
Celebrity Cruises

Sea the value

Another huge benefit of hosting a franchise conference on a cruise ship is the cost savings. “Franchisors can save at least 30% off their bottom line, which is a great value,” Lefkof says. “And the price can include meeting rooms, AV equipment, cocktail hour, team building, Wi-Fi and adult drinks, which are usually extras.”  

Cruise Planners offers a one-stop conference planning service for its clients. Their team works hand-in-hand with franchisors to meet their goals and objectives. They do all the heavy lifting by matching the right trip with the best deal with the ideal cruise itinerary. Lefkof recommends creating a 2-3 year convention schedule for better and consistent attendance year after year. “This way franchisees can plan ahead,” says Lefkof.  He also recommends booking well in advance, “in the neighborhood of 6 to 18 months ahead of the event because of high demand and to ensure the franchisor’s destination of choice.”  

Servicing clients since 1994, Cruise Planners is an award-winning company and is the largest home-based travel franchise company in the country. As a Cruise Planners franchise owner, Lefkof bridges the gap between franchisors’ re-emergence into the world of conventions and the many daily travel industry updates and protocols. 

Lefkof’s Cruise Planners business is a full-service travel agency. He works closely with all the major cruise lines that cater to meetings and groups such Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. He also works with five-star, all-inclusive resorts that host major meetings and conventions all over the world. As an added value, Cruise Planners is an official American Express Travel Representative which allows Lefkof to provide additional member benefits. 

For more information, visit or contact Keith Lefkof at 561-327-4494 or

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