Supply Side Economics Revealed at 2009 Ensemble Conference

Ensemble Travel Group noted several new supplier partnerships at its annual international conference, held in Banff Springs, Canada this year.

Among the joiners are Costa Cruises, Desert Adventures Tourism, Destination World, Israel Ministry of Tourism, South Africa Tourism, Way to Go Tours, Wireless Traveler and nearly 150 new hotel members.

MLT joined in July; we launched Air by Ensemble last month; these things are huge!” said Ensemble president and CEO Jack Mannix, CTC. “We ask our members to take advantage of the amazing tools Ensemble offers – and also to take advantage of what our suppliers can offer.”

Ensemble has a collection of nearly 200 supplier companies in the U.S. alone plus a healthy roster of hotels and resorts serving its 900 agencies in the U.S. and Canada. Many of those companies attended last week’s annual international conference and took time to talk with Ensemble members about their new wares and services.

While Ensemble agents usually receive added commissions and incentives in these partnerships some of the values put on the table last week are available to all travel agents.


Africa Travel, Inc. sends guest to Southern Africa with children's shoes for the Safari with a Sole program.

For example, Africa Travel, Inc. is offering a package to Botswana called “The Last Refuge,” in which the second person travels for free. The nine-day stint visits three Orient Express safari camps and includes heli-bush rides and bush plane transfers as well as all lodging, meals, drinks and laundry while on safari for $6,295 for two (land only) for travel between January and March 2010. With the final documents comes a little pair of children’s sneakers. Why? Africa Travel supports three orphanages in Southern Africa and mailing means only one in three packages arrive, according to company founder Dave Herbert. “This way, we know the shoes get there – and usually with a lot of added clothing the clients bring along. We call it ‘Safari with a Sole.’ Clients love it. It gets them involved in a human way and often they end up visiting the orphanages. It’s what travel really is supposed to be about,” says Herbert. (800) 421-8907;

Access America now has a “cancel anytime” card. The company allows clients to cancel a cruise or tour up to the last minute and receive 100 percent cash back in the case of illness, injury or sudden joblessness. It allows for pre-existing conditions until final payment. In addition, clients can purchase the insurance up to the day of departure. For agents, it allows comfort in selling through the current swine flu scare, the ability to collect commissions no matter what, and the ability to help clients recover from cruise/tour operator defaults or missed sailings due to flight delays when air tickets are purchased separately from the cruise tickets. (800) 284-8300;

Wireless Traveler, a new supplier at Ensemble, has chimed in with a new wireless phone and phone service that agents can sell to their clients for around $100, which will allow them to make and receive calls in 200 countries with rates far lower than what they would pay in roaming charges on their personal lines. The phone is a one-time purchase for the client, who continues to reload the account when necessary. The agent, meanwhile, receives a 20 percent commission on the sale of the phone plus all the use of that phone for the life of the account. (866) 700-3883;

Avis and Budget offer agents added commissions, credits and overrides when they book with their correct discount number. Travel agents receive special rates that are more than 30 percent below booking rates through Avis Travel Agent and Budget Class Pass privileges (AWD #C210000 or BCD #T997000). In addition, for health-conscious agents and their clients, Avis announced that its whole fleet in North America is now non-smoking – the first fleet to do this in that industry. Smokers will get penalized $250 should cigarette use be detected.,

Windstar is promoting a “30 Sailings on Sale for 30 Days” campaign for bookings by November 14 on a broad choice of cruises. For instance, a seven-day  Caribbean vacation circling the islands around Barbados leaves January 17 for $1,599 per person, double. Seven days on the Wind Star around Costa Rica in January and February run $1,899 per person, double and come with shipboard credits and bonus commissions. (800) 258-SAIL (7245);

Disney Destinations has a ‘buy seven pay for five nights at Disney World” campaign in motion. And at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the company is offering a $400 savings on four-night holiday packages beginning November 13. Published 2011 sailings of the Disney Wonder will soon be out. The Disney Wonder is coming to California for itineraries that will take her from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta and then up to Vancouver for a summer of Alaska sailings.

Voyages of Discovery is a new Ensemble Preferred Supplier. Owned by a British Company, it was known for many years for its cruises to Antarctica. “But now we’re doing more India, Asia and Africa,” said Mark Flager, vice president of sales.

The market tends to skew to an older and sophisticated set and the line often works with Elderhostel and alumni programs. Sailings around South America in winter 2011 will include stops in Cuba. “We’re hoping to interest Americans in that,” Flager adds.

The company has a two-for-one plus low-cost air sale on in which the second person pays only port charges for a January Bangkok, Bali & Beyond package, a February Singapore to Port Louis, Mauritius sailing, and a March Indian Ocean and South Africa cruise. (866) 623-2689;

Travel Guard has a new VIP card campaign called My Travel Guard that launched in July. The card offers 24/7 access to travel assistance and high-end concierge services anywhere, anytime during a client’s trip. That means Travel Guard will track down missing luggage, offer restaurant recommendations, refund trips gone bad, or attend to any medical emergency. (800) 826-1300;

Air New Zealand has rolled out a new economy class travel agent fare: $399 roundtrip to anywhere. It also has a premium economy class fare of $899 that offers a dedicated seating zone, business class meal service and business class check-in. Seats there have a 40-inch pitch verses 34 inches in economy and 38 inches on comparable seats at other airline companies. Also Air New Zealand is the only airline with inflight concierge service – a dedicated concierge attendant on board. The agent rates are good through December 9 and likely to be repeated next year. (800) 262-1234;

Viking River Cruises announced a rise in its commission rate to 15 percent as of October 1. An early booking discount currently in motion offers two-for-one prices plus $400 off international air per couple on 2010 itineraries booked and paid in full by December 18. The fares focus on all Viking’s sailings in Europe, Russia, China and Egypt and each booking is celebrated with complimentary wine during the trip. (877) 668-4546;

Free Spirit Vacations and Events is bringing Branson, MO to Mesquite, NV, some 60 miles north of Las Vegas February 8-11, 2010. “Mesquite’s BransonFest Out West” is targeted more toward senior travelers who may be traveling to Las Vegas but want to see the country shade of the neon city. Rates for the entertainment-packed event run $270 per person, double and $325 per person, single, including accommodations at the  Virgin River Hotel, roundtrip transfers from Las Vegas and all show tickets for the three days. Commission is 10 percent with net rates available. (562) 920-3395;