Social Networking with Ensemble

I’m back from Ensemble Travel Group’s annual international conference, which was held October 17-21 at the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach in Cancun. Of note is the group’s strong emphasis on technology: Ensemble said its members will soon have access to a “more content-rich [and] user-friendly” Ensemble Client Site, which they can personalize for their own use. The program will even provide the opportunity for a social networking function on an agency’s site. How so? An agency’s clients will be able to create their own vacation pages to bookmark their trips, and they can then invite friends to visit the site to see photos from their vacations. What does this mean for the agency? At the very least, more traffic to its website, which in turn could generate more clients for the agency. This is the first I’ve heard of the consortia getting into social networking online, and I’m impressed.

Still on the technology front, Ensemble said it also plans to put into effect a fully integrated customer relationship management (CRM) system as a result of its new agreement with TRAMS. The program will pull together data on a travel agency’s clients, and that’s rich data—such as their demographics, preferences, where they’ve traveled, where they’re about to travel to and, even better, what marketing pieces they’ve been sent and which ones they’ve responded to in the past. Talk about one-to-one marketing.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that Ensemble is focusing more on luxury, and why not? That’s where the money is.

“You need to be sure your client base is comprised of those who buy luxury and premium products,” Jack Mannix, president and CEO of Ensemble, told agents in attendance. The luxury strategy comes with tools that will help the agency sell. Included in that effort is the launch of Ensemble Lifestyles, a publication that will be distributed to 200,000 clients of Ensemble agency members. The magazine, set to publish in February and October of next year, will prominently display the member’s travel agency brand, name, logo and contact information, with a personalized letter from the agency on the inside front cover.

Ensemble’s strategy also includes establishing a Luxury Advisor Council, as well as increasing the amount of marketing materials targeted at luxury travelers. It will also expand the number of offerings in its Inspired Journeys portfolio, which contains personalized cruise and land vacations. Nine departures in 2008 focus on a variety of themes, including Family Adventures, Epicurean Adventures, Health and Self-Realization, and Mysterious Cultures.

Next year Ensemble’s international conference will be held October 15-19 in Las Vegas, at the Red Rock Resort and Spa. —Ruthanne Terrero