Over the last year, Ensemble Travel Group has dramatically changed the way it does business. While its aim of increasing revenue for its agent members remains the same, the network hopes that by designing and offering unique products exclusive to its members, customers looking for an interesting vacation will have no choice but to turn to an Ensemble agent to book it.
It seems the effort has been working. Though total Ensemble member locations are down, productivity is up.
"We had our best sales year last year," says Jack Mannix, president and CEO of Ensemble, adding that he's not concerned with the drop in locations. "We're not interested in someone just to add numbers," he says.
Ensemble executives attribute the lesser numbers to more rigorous agency criteria and the revved up sales to the network offering more consumer-coveted products. "The more unique and exclusive the product, the harder it is to price shop," says Mannix, and so the organization is focusing on offering more exotic programs, most notably through its "On Location" program. Ensemble's new marketing materials feature agency info
The On Location Program
On Location is Ensemble's network of more than 50 experts located in various destinations around the world. Some of these suppliers are more service-oriented. Most recently, the organization added Associated Foreign Exchange, a payment services company; My Pocket MD, a digital medical records company; TFL Tours, a tour operator specializing in custom tours of Elba and Corsica; and Arabian Adventures, a destination and leisure management company specializing in customized tours to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
"On Location is another opportunity for the retailer to say, 'Let me string these things together to make it more unique for you,'" Mannix says. "It's an indirect form of selling up."
"On Location is about the way I like to travel," says Suzanne Hall, senior director of marketing and development for land products at Ensemble. "I like to learn about things off the beaten path. It creates a more authentic experience and more importantly, it crosses all incomes."
Hall says she will continue to broaden On Location's specialty suppliers, like the aforementioned Associated Foreign Exchange and My Pocket MD, and admits that she still has some location holes to fill, but assures that she's working on it.
Customized Web Sites
Another way the organization is drawing consumers to its members is through customizable web sites and brochures. Ensemble hosts roughly 400 web sites that can be customized for any agency or a home-based agent, as well as numerous magazine-caliber brochures that feature an agency or agent's contact information, plus a welcome letter that can feature the agent's signature.
Such offerings not only help agents stay in constant contact with their clients, but they also encourage members to forge relationships with suppliers.
And that's really one of the benefits of membership, Mannix says. In joining Ensemble, agents are pushed to meet targets, purely borne out of a passion for selling travel, as Ensemble doesn't take a cut of what its agencies earn.
"We want our agents to be valuable to our suppliers and
consumers," Mannix professes. "It really is about personal