|Ensemble Travel Group Co-Presidents Lindsay Pearlman and Libbie Rice|
Ensemble Travel Group just hosted its 2015 International Conference October 25 through 28 at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate.
Speaking before an audience of more than 900 members, suppliers, and guests, Ensemble Co-Presidents Lindsay Pearlman and Libbie Rice detailed new initiatives in air, cruise, technology, marketing and business development.
Aviate Air Ticketing Platform
During their keynote speech Rice and Pearlman discussed plans to launch Aviate, a new agency air ticketing platform.
According to Ensemble Director of Global Service Delivery Walter Florussen, Aviate allows Exnemble members to remain in control of the PNR and access private fares, as well as earn higher commissions.
Additionally, the product sports a user-friendly interface, as well as support for both GDS and non-GDS users. Agents can house their own air agreements as well as Ensemble's in an approach designed to create a one-stop shop. The program also offers maximized commission levels on published fares, as well as access to more net fares. To save time, agents create a PNR and ticket through a simplified four-click process, and reporting capabilities can detail the booking history of the agency, user, GDS and IATA.
MyTripRoute Itinerary Builder
At the conference the organization also launched MyTripRoute, a new online itinerary builder that allows members to manage and send proposals, itineraries and travel alerts to their clients in print and digital format.
The new tool, which was developed in partnership with Umapped, includes live connections to the Sabre GDS and ClientBase. Other GDS providers can also be imported. Additionally, Ensemble's cruise and hotel amenities come pre-loaded for members, along with many of the organization’s preferred partners like ShoreTrips, Classic Vacations, Globus, Travel2, Alpine Adventures, and Big Five Tours & Expeditions. MyTripRoute combines all the components from multiple sources into one comprehensive document, allowing agents to quickly create itineraries with the Trip Publisher functionality.
Developed to be mobile-responsive, the tool is accessible online, as an app and as an emailed PDF. once travelers download the itinerary app, they don't have to be online to access it or receive real-time updates and notifications. The app also allows travelers to share their experiences via email, Facebook and Twitter.
The platform also allows agents to send commissionable products like shore excursions in real time, a feature aimed at enabling upselling and driving additional revenue.
Finally, a partnership with Umapped and Travel42 allows members to embed destination guide content into their itineraries, in addition to details about Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection properties.
New Guaranteed Hosted Cruise Departure Program
Ensemble also introduced a new set of updates to its Ensemble Travel Group Cruise program, such as a Guaranteed Hosted Cruise Departure Program as part of the organization's hosted cruise portfolio. Members can book their clients on approximately 20 confirmed hosted cruises in Europe, with departures beginning spring 2016. Preferred partners participating in the pilot are Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, and Silversea Cruises.
In addition to the guaranteed departures, these hosted sailings will feature an “Elite Excursion.” Working with Ensemble partners such as Made for Spain and Excursions LTD, these private excursions were created to deliver an exclusive experience that is off limits to most travelers. Six cities were selected for the new Elite Excursions in 2016: Barcelona, Belfast, Dubrovnik, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Valletta.
Examples of the Elite Excursions: In Barcelona, guests will enjoy a private paella dinner hosted by a celebrated chef, and then top the evening off with champagne in the bell tower of Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, the highest point in the Old City. In Belfast, they will experience a VIP tea and piano recital in the throne room of Hillsborough Castle, the official residence of the Royal Family in Northern Ireland. The Queen’s own bugler announces their arrival and a member of her staff will welcome the private group of travelers.
New Member Agencies and Preferred Partners
Ensemble also used the event as a chance to welcome its newest member agencies and preferred partners.
The organization added 37 new member agencies in the U.S., Canada and Australia / New Zealand, and announced the formation of the "Ensemble Affiliate Division," a new membership level for small, niche or mid-size travel agencies. The Ensemble Affiliate Division provides a non-shareholder option for travel agencies with access to all of the organization’s technology, marketing, and training programs. The cost is $199 annually and agencies have the ability to become shareholders as their business grows.
“We expect this new membership option to appeal to agencies currently not affiliated with a consortium to ‘test the waters’ or for those doing their ongoing due diligence of what’s available in the marketplace that might better suit their needs," said Don Kennedy, vice president, business development.
Earlier this summer, Jane Hershey and Ron Bentley came on board as business development directors, joining staff members Julia Block, Cheryl Babulal, Tricia Kentel, Arleen Rios, Danielle Dahdan, and Desirée Rolle in rounding out the team in the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to the Ensemble Affiliate Division, conference delegates learned of two new entry-level marketing plans for the U.S. and Canada that are designed to support the needs of this new membership level as well as other current members. The “Starter Turnkey Plan” for U.S. members bundles Ensemble publications, direct mail pieces, e-mail marketing, and ClientSites; and the “Print Trial Package” for members in Canada bundles the magazine, brochures and direct mail pieces.
New preferred partners span the land, cruise and air segments. This year the Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board, Un-Cruise Adventures and WestJet joined Ensemble. Earlier this year, Ensemble also added two new cruise line partners: Blount Small Ship Adventures and Fathom.
The organization also expanded its collection of tourism/destination and specialty partners during the first six months of 2015 with four new tourism board alliances, including Andalucia Tourismo (Andalucia region of Spain), Tourist Offices of Spain, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, and Promperu (Peru); and a new specialty partner, Resort for a Day (Caribbean and Mexico). In addition, four new Ensemble On Location partners were brought on earlier this year, including Amstar Destination Management Company (Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Hawaii, and Costa Rica), JTB/Luxury Escapes (Japan), Viajes EuroAmerica (Andalucía and Costa del Sol areas of Spain), and Viviani Destination Management (Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco).
In the hotel segment, the Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection added nearly 125 new properties in 2015, including the Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa in Siem Reap, Cambodia; Finca Cortesin Hotel Golf & Spa in Casares in Malaga, Spain; Hotel Hermitage, Monte Carlo in Monaco; Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, plus 11 other Shangri – La properties; The Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond in St. Michaels, MD; and Zoetry Villa Rolandi in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Ensemble 2016 Schedule of Events
As the conference closed Ensemble was looking ahead to 2016 with the announcement that business entrepreneur Robert Herjavec, best known for reality TV show "Shark Tank," will be the keynote speaker at the organization’s 2016 conference.
The annual Ensemble event will be held Wednesday, October 19, 2016, through Saturday night, October 23, 2016. Final details of the destination and property are being finalized and will be announced next week.
Other major Ensemble recognition and training events next year for U.S. members include:
Ensemble Top Producers Celebration: The 2016 Ensemble Top Producers Celebration will be held May 11-17 in Seville, Spain. The six-day program includes customized sight-seeing activities across the Andalucia province, including a private tour of Alcazar Palace, bull-fighting activity, exclusive Flamenco Show, reception at the Hotel Alfonso XIII, and numerous luncheons and dinners featuring regional cuisine. This annual event, which recognizes the organization’s top-producing members in Canada and the U.S., also includes business activities with Ensemble executives and supplier sponsors. Selection criteria are based on members’ 2015 sales performance with Ensemble Travel Group’s preferred partners.
Ensemble Executive Retreat: The annual Ensemble Executive Retreat for U.S. members will be held June 2-5, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio. The multi-day event is specially designed for Ensemble agency owner/managers to zero in on growing their business. The program also features several business meetings, one-on-one sessions with participating preferred partners, team-building activities, and a number of social events. Guest educators for the 2016 event will be announced later this fall.
Ensemble EXTRAORDINARY! and Owner Meeting: This series of one-day business and educational events for U.S. members begins with a business-focused session for agency owners/managers in the morning. The afternoon is designed for frontline agents to gain a greater knowledge of select extraordinary and experiential destinations and higher-margin products from a number of Ensemble’s niche and specialty partners. Four Ensemble EXTRAORDINARY! sessions will be held across the U.S. in February with a fifth event set for June in Chicago. The hotels and venues will be announced as soon as details are confirmed.