Ensemble Travel Group wrapped up its Ensemble EXTRAORDINARY series for U.S. members this week, with full-day trainings held in San Francisco (Tuesday) and Los Angeles (Thursday). The annual educational program is designed to help members grow their high-end sales of niche, specialty, and luxury products with a select group of Ensemble preferred partners, the organization said.
Approximately 250 travel professionals participated in one of five sessions, which were also conducted in Orlando, Chicago, and Newark. A business dinner for Ensemble owner/managers, led by Ensemble Co-President Libbie Rice, wrapped up each event. A similar training series was held for Ensemble members in Canada earlier this spring, with Co-President Lindsay Pearlman leading the business meeting.
A new format was introduced this year, Ensemble said. Instead of one large tradeshow at the end of each day as in the past, this year each supplier group (EXTRAORDINARY sponsors, niche, and specialty/luxury) had a dedicated block of training time followed by their own tradeshow.
“This structure allowed for greater and more engaged interaction between advisor and partner because there was no long lag time between the training and tradeshow,” said Ensemble’s Cristie Newell, director of training, North America. “This meant products were top-of-mind and allowed the conversation to flow non-stop. We’re getting great feedback on the new format. We also ‘themed’ the specialty and luxury training segment, which allowed members to really concentrate on the partners who are most relevant to their business.”
Each Ensemble EXTRAORDINARY program was kicked off by Kim Specht, Ensemble national training manager, who presented "Delivering on EXTRAORDINARY.” Specht discussed how consumers have shifted from a service economy to an “experience” economy, where traditional customer service is no longer enough.
“Your clients are expecting to be treated to an ‘experience’ and one that’s memorable from start to finish,” said Specht. “Your customers come to you for your expertise. Now you must deliver by providing tips and insider info and access they can’t get on their own. Whether it’s suggesting a flight tracking app for their trip, arranging passes to a lounge if their flight’s delayed, or surprising them with a gift card to a drycleaners upon return from a long trip, you are the first in line to make that service memorable.”
More than 30 Ensemble preferred partners participated in this year’s Ensemble Extraordinary in the U.S., with the specific suppliers differing slightly by venue. The only exception were the six “EXTRAORDINARY Sponsors” – Alexander & Roberts, AIG TravelGuard, AmaWaterways, Delta Air Lines, Insight Vacations, and Silversea Cruises – who attended the entire training series.