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Ensemble Conference Report: Opening Session and New InitiativesNovember 1, 2013 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
Ensemble Travel Group reports it welcomed 46 new members to the agency owned group in the past year - 24 in the U.S. and 22 in Canada. - and celebrated its 45th anniversary as an organization, during its annual conference now underway at the Broadmoor, Colorado Springs. More than 800 Ensemble members, suppliers, and guests are attending the event, Ensemble said.
“It’s no longer enough to be a great travel agent in order to thrive in today’s highly competitive marketplace. You’ve got to succeed as a business professional, as well. And Ensemble is focused on delivering those tools that will allow you to do both,” said Ensemble Co-President Lindsay Pearlman in the opening session.
During the keynote speech, Pearlman and Ensemble Co-President Libbie Rice outlined a variety of initiatives they believe will deliver big gains for Ensemble’s membership and preferred partners.
One example cited by Ensemble is the “Next Generation” Extranet (internal portal) and ClientSite (consumer-facing website for members) that have been totally rebuilt with new platforms that significantly reduce the amount of time needed to locate information, book product, or update an agency’s website.
The “Next Generation” Extranet and “Next Generation” ClientSite technology projects, were both developed by Ensemble’s IT department.
“Rather than continue to tweak our existing platforms, we adopted a ‘leap-frog’ approach that effectively takes us to a whole new level in one fell swoop,” said Ensemble’s Marc Jacobsen, senior director, IT North America. “These technology tools help you – our members and partners – conduct your business efficiently, effectively, and as profitably as possible."
Pearlman and Rice also noted a variety of marketing initiatives that will help members achieve goals. In addition, Ensemble said it has stepped up its commitment to training and learning for frontline agents and owner/managers.
Ensemble also launched a new business video series, “Ignite Your Insight,” based on proprietary research conducted by ChangeLabs, in partnership with Ensemble. Exclusive to Ensemble, the video series will help members gain long-term points of differentiation in the competitive agency marketplace.
Accompanying the 12 videos is an extensive workbook that can be downloaded and followed during each study session.
“Not only can agency owners use these videos with their staff, our business development team will use them as teaching tools when working one-on-one with members. The research, exclusive to Ensemble, will be used as a foundation for many training and education sessions, both in the near future and long term,” added Ensemble’s Joe Jiffo, vice president, business development U.S.,
Ensemble also introduced 22 new supplier partners, along with a host of hotels and resorts, to the members.
Ensemble also announced initiatives in its marketing program, including it direct mail program that continues to expand. In 2013 Canada launched the new “Ultimate Family Vacations” mailer, which the U.S. will introduce next year to target the growing family market. Canada will also release a new “Extraordinary Vacations” mailer in 2014 to target the luxury, high-end clientele.
Also, Ensemble said it continues to add to its specialist programs, providing members the tools needed to develop unique areas of expertise. In addition to North American specialist programs focused on the South Pacific (Australia, Fiji, and Tahiti), this year Learning Journeys was officially rolled out to target the 25-and-under student population as well as to the self-described “life-long learners.”
The successful Destination Weddings & Honeymoons programs (“DestinationVows”) in the U.S. and Canada will now be rolled out to French-speakers in Quebec in 2014 (called “Destination Marriage”). This program will be added to Canada’s Bon Vivant culinary travel specialist program and Quebec’s new Martinique and Guadeloupe programs, Ensemble said.
Ensemble has also recasting of Ensemble Lifestyles, consumer publication, to increase its effectiveness as a results-driven sales tool for U.S. members when reaching their luxury clients. The new overall strategy and design features were introduced in the spring/summer issue.
Another change was the new timing for Ensemble Lifestyles magazine, the Vacation Therapy catalog, and the Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection book for U.S. members.
The messaging and design changes were also announced to the online magazines, such as the Ensemble E-zine and Ensemble Hosted Cruises E-Newsletters for both U.S. and Canadian members. The E-zine’s new e design for tablets and smartphones was also rolled out.
In Canada, the consumer magazine, Ensemble Vacations, has been upgraded. Goals for 2014 include expanding the accessibility of digital marketing services and allowing for greater distribution of editorial content., Ensemble said.
Ensemble will also release a survey of member agents.