Ensemble Travel Group says it is continuing to grow. The Ensemble Outlook Survey was conducted in September and based on input from nearly 2,000 Ensemble member advisors in the U.S. and Canada. The results were released during the organization’s annual conference held at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar this week.
“Tailor-made/FIT vacations” was the top pick for what's driving new land-based business to members’ agencies in 2019; it was followed by “active,” with “adventure” as the third most popular request. At the other end of the spectrum were “spa/wellness,” “family history/seeking one’s roots,” and “shopping” vacations.
Travelers’ preference for the smaller, more personal experience can also be seen in the ocean cruise category where the top three niche segments creating the most interest for members’ business in 2019 were “all-inclusives,” followed by “small ship” and “family” cruises. And, while this category in the past for Ensemble members referred to partners Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, and Uniworld, more of the premium/contemporary cruise lines are now creating options for the popular all-inclusive experiences, such as the Grills with Cunard and The Haven with Norwegian Cruise Line.
Survey results about river cruising are also indicating travelers’ desire for a more hands-on, personal experience in smaller locales. For example, when asked what’s drawing clients to river cruising, the top three reasons from Ensemble members were “ability to experience smaller villages, towns, and cities,” followed by “smaller ships carrying less than 200 passengers” and “good value for experience received.”
The popularity of food, wine, and spirits also influences clients’ decisions, as nearly 50 percent of the respondents indicate culinary travel taking on a greater role in the vacation experience. “Wine and spirits vacations,” “culinary-themed cruises,” and “hands-on cooking vacations” were the top three types of culinary experiences being requested of Ensemble members, based on survey results. And when asked to rank the top three key elements of a “foodie” vacation destination, “local ambiance” (i.e., outdoor cafes, waterfront dining, street food), “local markets” and “abundance of renowned/award-winning dining establishments” were the top picks.
From a sales perspective, survey results indicate 2018 to be a banner year for Ensemble members compared to 2017, with 77 percent of the respondents expecting total travel bookings to increase (21 percent by 25 percent or more; 56 percent by 5 to 24 percent; 15 percent-same; 5 percent down 5 to 24 percent; 3 percent down by 25 percent or more). 2019 continues strong as well with 78 percent of respondents forecasting further growth (16 percent by more than 25 percent; 62 percent by 5 to 24 percent; 20 percent-same; 2 percent down 5 to 24 percent).
Broken down by product type or destination, when comparing 2019 to 2018, growth is expected across all segments for Ensemble members in the U.S. and Canada based on the following survey results:
- Europe bookings: 9 percent expect increase of 25 percent or more; 48 percent up by 5 to 24 percent; 42 percent-same; 1 percent-down;
- Ocean cruise bookings: 14 percent expect increase of 25 percent or more; 57 percent up by 5 to 24 percent; 25 percent-same; 4 percent-down;
- River cruise bookings: 13 percent expect increase of 25 percent or more; 60 percent up by 5 to 24 percent; 24 percent-same; 3 percent-down;
- Land bookings: 19 percent expect increase of 25 percent or more; 57 percent up by 5 to 24 percent; 23 percent-same; 1 percent-down 25 percent or more;
For more information, visit www.ensembletravel.com.