International travel is starting up again after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns and people are spending more on travel than ever before. That means it’s the perfect time to invest in a luxury travel franchise, says the CEO of Sheenco Travel.
Genevieve Sheehan, who founded Sheenco Travel back in 2012, is currently looking for professionals across the United States to open a home-based travel franchise that focuses on bespoke luxury vacations in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
One of the biggest advantages to joining Sheenco, Sheehan explained, is that franchisees only need to customize and sell the trips. Sheenco’s team in Ireland takes care of everything after that, including the tour bookings, the logistics and any issues that may pop up while the guests are traveling. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone who wants to get into the travel industry, but doesn’t know where to start,” Sheehan said during a recent interview from Sheenco’s Irish offices in County Cork. “We will be providing in depth and ongoing training and support and the booking of the trips is already taken care of.”
In 2012, Sheehan, along with a friend and former colleague from the industry, set up an Irish company called Shamrock Vacations. Shamrock operated as an inbound tour operator providing luxury travel opportunities to Ireland. By 2015, they were being asked to arrange combined trips to Ireland and Scotland, as well as to other parts of the UK. The little tour operator was getting a lot of repeat business and decided to expand. First, though, they needed a name change. As the shamrock is a national symbol of Ireland, the company could not trademark that, so they rebranded to Sheenco Travel in 2016, a name that is now federally trademarked in the USA, Canada, Australia and of course Ireland. In 2019, Sheehan bought out her co-founder and is now the sole owner of the company. Deciding that franchising was the best option for expansion, Sheehan set up two US corporations headquartered in Plano, Texas. Sheenco Travel Inc. operates as an outbound tour operator and Sheenco Travel Franchise Inc. is the Franchisor. Meanwhile the Irish company has transitioned into a destination management operation, meaning once the trip is sold by the franchisee, the team in Ireland manage everything after that. Eventually, Sheenco does want to expand its destination offerings, but it will likely do that at a relatively slow pace. This is because the company puts a strong emphasis on customer service and wants to retain its current 4.9-star ranking on Google and Trustpilot, so their focus right now is finding and supporting passionate individuals who are keen to start their own travel business via franchising. Eventual product expansion will likely be via acquisitions of other destination management companies who specialize in a given region, utilizing their unique systems and processes to ensure the Sheenco standards are maintained throughout all operations. While Sheenco currently provides a niche product by only offering luxury travel opportunities to Ireland and the UK, these happen to be extremely popular products with US residents, as there is a strong connection with those specific countries for many Americans. “It means you can become a specialist for those countries instead of trying to sell everywhere in the world, as so many travel agents do,” Sheehan noted.
Sheehan said there are three main things she looks for in a potential franchisee. They have to be passionate about traveling, they have to be passionate about providing stellar customer service and they should have a strong connection to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and/or England.
With so many people in the USA being able to trace their genealogy back to these countries, it should be easy to find franchisees with that unique Celtic connection. “Obviously, the more passionate you are about something, the easier it is to sell it and create a business around that product,” the CEO explained.
While Sheenco is brand new to franchising, they are off to a running start. Already a member of the International Franchising Association, they are poised to start signing up franchisees from across the USA. Once franchisees do sign up, they can look forward to robust training that includes online manuals and videos. The destination management team in Ireland will also be there to provide input on the various products Sheenco sells to help train the franchisees, who will be known as Luxury Travel Specialists. Sheenco also has its own customized software to help put together the luxury tour bookings for guests. While the majority of the training will be online, there will also be “familiarization trips” on an annual basis where franchisees will actually be able to visit the destinations they are selling and go through the same type of pampering their customers will enjoy. “The best way to know a product is to experience it,” Sheehan noted.
Hoping to scale quickly, Sheehan wants to have 20 franchisees within three years and 50 within five years as they also expand their list of destinations. To keep their franchisees motivated during this whirlwind expansion, Sheehan plans to have business development managers work directly with the franchisees. She also aims to foster a sense of community within the business through online communication platforms where franchisees will be able to share their wins, along with regular in-person networking events Getting a home-based franchise off the ground, especially during that first year when you’re just getting your footing, can be a bit lonely, Sheehan noted. That’s why Sheenco really wants to let their franchisees know they’re part of a family. “We’re very keen to build up that sense of community,” she said. With pandemic travel restrictions lifting and the luxury travel industry roaring back to life, now is an ideal time to make a Celtic connection and join the Sheenco Travel franchise community. The familiarization trips alone make it sound like an amazing opportunity. For more information visit Opportunities | Sheenco Travel