Ensemble Travel Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and, at its 2018 Conference, which has drawn approximately 900 attendees to the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas, Ensemble co-presidents Lindsay Pearlman and Libbie Rice talked what’s next for the company in 2018 and beyond.
“Our financial performance is totally off the charts,” said Pearlman. “The last three years have been our best ever.”
“What’s on tap for 2019 is exciting,” Rice said, noting that 2018 sales are already tracking ahead year-over-year.
In 2019 and the years ahead, Ensemble is rolling out a number of new technology and marketing initiatives aimed at helping members grow their businesses. “We’re developing a portfolio of tools that members can easily understand, are comfortable using, and then can leverage to maximum power within their business,” said Pearlman. The company has even created a new director of deployment resources to make sure the rollout of the new tools to each Ensemble member goes smoothly.
First up is Navigate, Ensemble’s integrated booking platform. Navigate’s first phase, which handles cruise bookings, will finish onboarding all interested members by the end of the year, Rice said. Thus far, its most popular features include easy group bookings, port search and rate codes.
Also now underway is a Canada beta test for insurance bookings in Navigate. Ensemble plans to add U.S. products sometime next year.
Aviate, Ensemble’s air booking platform, will aim to launch a new, more user-friendly design soon. The ultimate goal is to be able to pull together both cruise and air bookings within Navigate.
Another major focus for the group’s upcoming technology offerings is in infometrics, which forms one of the four pillars of the organization’s “Plan 2020.”
“Intelligence is not something new at Ensemble—it goes back to our earliest days,” said Pearlman.
What is new, however, is an “information warehouse” that Ensemble has spent the past year developing to bring together intelligence from all aspects of the business. This information will allow Ensemble to detect shifts in booking patterns, destination trends and also help the organization to manage supplier contracts, Rice said. Ensemble also aims to offer this information to its member agencies in an easy-to-use format.
Soon after the conference the organization will launch “Ensemble Insights,” which will provide member agencies with an interactive analysis of their business housed on the Ensemble Extranet. The new report will outline members’ performance with preferred suppliers, where the member is trending and the member’s ranking within Ensemble. Next up, Ensemble plans to provide a “next tier” report that will provide members information on what they need to do to hit the next commission tier with a given supplier.
New Marketing Initiatives
In terms of marketing, personalization is a running theme in Ensemble’s latest efforts. “We’re incorporating more personal stories,” says Rice, noting that these resonate more with clients.
“It’s a new mindset built around greater agency personalization and call to action,” says Pearlman. “It’s about building loyalty.”
Pearlman says that, in its marketing materials, Ensemble is moving from a “bookend approach” that only provides agency branding at the front and back of a piece to putting an agency’s branding front and center throughout the material.
Additionally, some pieces will address clients by name, Rice says.
Also coming soon is a new Marketing Resource Center built around the organization’s Marketing Mind newsletter. Housed on the Ensemble Extranet, the new online hub will provide access to a library of reference materials, best practices and tools.
“For our future marketing efforts, we aim to dive deeper into cohorting and analytics,” Rice said. “Stay tuned.”
Finally, Ensemble’s upcoming marketing will focus on the “evolution of your role as a travel agent,” said Rice.
“It’s about moving from a travel agent to the role of a travel advisor,” Pearlman says.
“Not only does a travel advisor have insider expertise, they are also a calming influence in a sometimes chaotic world,” says Rice.