Ensemble Travel Group has kicked off its 2017 Ensemble International Conference with an update on the organization’s extranet, a new award in memory of long-time travel industry advocate Susan D. Tanzman, and more.
Ensemble Co-Presidents Lindsay Pearlman and Libbie Rice kicked off the event, which runs through October 19 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion, with a keynote address to an audience of approximately 900 members, suppliers and guests. Framing their speech around the theme of “Think Big. Think Best. Think Ensemble,” Pearlman and Rice gave an overview of the organization, from its beginnings in 1968 to a look at what’s ahead. Founding member and member emeritus Warren Buckner of Gayety Travel Service also provided insight into the early days of GIANTS during the opening general session.
“Last year was the best year in our history from a North American profit-sharing perspective,” said Pearlman. “But taking a step back, what’s even more impressive, we came back from the recession with a vengeance by delivering the strongest seven-year performance in our company’s history. A huge congratulations for this outstanding achievement and for supporting our preferred partners in such a significant way.”
Pearlman and Rice discussed four of Ensemble’s most recent initiatives: the Ensemble Extranet, Aviate (airline booking tool and overall air program), Navigate (integrated booking platform powered by Revelex), and Marketing (strategy under development and led by Ensemble newcomer Carl Schmitt).
At the event Ensemble shared that its new Ensemble Extranet, which was officially launched in August 2017, has seen a 61 percent increase in sessions, a 42 percent jump in users, and an increase of 102 percent in page views. Also, the amount of time spent on the Ensemble Extranet has increased by 33 percent and the bounce rate has dropped by 15.
Pearlman and Rice said that the platform’s search engine, mobile friendly design and marketing capabilities won high marks from Ensemble members, particularly the universal search capability that can draw from all travel products and integrate rich content into search results.
The new platform, which was developed in-house by Senior Director, Digital Kale Hungerson and his team, also has an updated profile section, as well as extensive information on Ensemble programs and services. The new and old extranets were developed in parallel for several months in order to ease the transition. Prior to the August launch, the most recent rebuild was in 2014.
Susan D. Tanzman Inspiration Award
Also at this year’s event, Ensemble and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) announced the creation of the Susan D. Tanzman Inspiration Award.
During a special tribute to Tanzman, a long-time travel industry advocate who passed away in September, Ensemble announced that the award will be presented each year to an individual who embodies Susan’s inspiring nature and dedication to the agency community. The recipient will be announced at ASTA’s annual global convention, beginning next year in Washington D.C. Among the selection criteria, the award will be presented to an individual who has:
- Inspired new talent to become travel advisors;
- Inspired a new, fresh way of educating for their team;
- Inspired those in our travel community to share their knowledge and expertise to help one another; and
- Inspired all to stand up for what they believe in, with integrity and what is best for all, not just one.
New Preferred Partners
Finally, this year’s event saw Ensemble officially welcome 14 new preferred partners to its supplier lineup for 2017.
New Ensemble On Location partners ranged from Druk Travel Service, which specializes in Bhutan, to Essence of Iceland, Pelican New Orleans, Stupak Las Vegas and The Dutchmen, a specialist in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
In the destination marketing category, Ensemble welcomed Bavaria Tourism Marketing and the Japan National Tourism Organization. In terms of tour operators, Anderson Vacations and Butterfield and Robinson joined up, while Hawaiian Airlines, Norwegian Air, TAP Portugal and Eva Airways rounded out Ensemble’s new air partners.
Luxury private home rental specialist Onefinestay.com was Ensemble’s newest accommodations partner. The Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection also welcomed more than 100 new properties in 2017, including these five-star standouts: Hassler Roma (Rome), The Brando (Tetiaroa, Tahiti), and The K Club (Kildare, Ireland). In addition, new relationships were forged with luxury brands such as Karisma Hotels (Azul Beach Resort Sensatori in Jamaica and Mexico, Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana, and Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma in Riviera Maya). Ensemble has also expanded its relationship with long-time partners such as Hyatt and its new Unbound Collection, which offers home rentals through Oasis, as well as with its Park Hyatt brand in Dubai, Hamburg, and Vienna.