|Ensemble Travel Group Co-Presidents Libbie Rice and Lindsay Pearlman at opening of 2012 Conference.|
Product and destination knowledge far outweigh price as reasons why clients book their travel through an Ensemble Travel Group member rather than with a mega online travel agency or directly through the supplier, according to a new survey released during Ensemble's 2012 conference in Las Vegas this week.
The study analyzes trends and sales performance and projections of Ensemble's North American membership, including luxury travel. More than 800 members, suppliers, and guests attended the conference at the Red Rock Resort.
Complimentary amenities and special perks also ranked among the top drivers for doing business with an Ensemble agent, the study reports, but the importance of destination was seen as key, with nearly 50 percent of the respondents indicating it as the major factor in influencing their clients’ travel purchasing decisions in 2013.
In addition, Ensemble reports, respondents said quality of product (nearly 25 percent) and authentic experience (17 percent) will impact their vacation buying in the coming year. Price, deals, and discounts were again considered least important, Ensemble says.
“While consumers still place a high degree of importance on the value of their travel dollar, the fact that price is no longer the driving force behind their purchasing decisions is extremely encouraging,” said Ensemble’s Lindsay Pearlman, co-president. “For travelers to place such a high priority on what travel agents do best is huge for the future of our members and the entire industry.”
According to Co-President Libbie Rice, the organization’s marketing and educational tools, coupled with its extensive supplier partnerships, will help members thrive in the marketplace. “Between our organization’s numerous destination and niche specialty programs, our more than 80 On Location suppliers from more than 150 countries, as well as our other global travel partners, Ensemble members are ideally positioned to capitalize on this very positive trend.”
On luxury travel, Ensemble reports that while the average age of respondents’ high-end clients is currently 59, results indicate that number may be inching down as 57 percent said their luxury customers are becoming younger. Another 18 percent said older and 25 percent unchanged.
In terms of travel spending by the luxury sector, 42 percent of respondents expect spending to increase in 2013, with 10 percent indicating less and 48 percent unchanged. When asked about booking habits, 64 percent of respondents indicated luxury clients are booking six to nine months out in the coming year, followed by 20 percent at 3-6 months in advance, 12 percent at 10-12 months out, and 4 percent a year or more.
In the cruise category, Ensemble reports 67 percent of the survey respondents expected luxury booking to be up in 2013 (with an average gain of 12 percent), while only 2 percent said down (with an average decline of four percent), and 31 percent said unchanged.
In other Ensemble survey results:
• 2012 year-end travel sales compared to 2011: 68 percent expect an increase (with an average growth of 12 percent); 14 percent down (with an average decline of 8 percent); 18 percent unchanged;
• 2013 year-end travel sales compared to 2012: 84 percent expect an increase (with an average growth of 13 percent); 4 percent down (with an average decline of 8 percent); 12 percent unchanged;
• 2013 Europe bookings compared to 2012: 47 percent expect an increase (with an average growth of 12 percent); 16 percent down (with an average decline of 17 percent); 37 percent unchanged;
• 2013 river cruise bookings compared to 2012: 80 percent expect an increase (with an average growth of 17 percent); 20 percent unchanged.
The 2012-13 Ensemble Insights survey reflects input from more than 700 Ensemble Travel Group agents, managers, and owners in the U.S. and Canada.