Ensemble Champions Human-Centric Future at Horizons Conference

With a theme of Level Up, Ensemble recently hosted its annual Horizons conference focusing on the future defined by human expertise and experience and ways to leverage technology, data and programming to help members grow their businesses amidst evolving challenges.

Speaking to more than 800 owners, managers, and advisors as well as preferred partners—the first time the entire consortium has been together since an acquisition and re-haul of the brand—Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble, opened the conference at Paris Las Vegas by sharing four fundamentals that represent the foundation of Ensemble.

Chief among them is a core principle that people make travel better. Addressing the threat of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Johnson stated that the time advisors put into their craft from developing their expertise to building relationships with partners and clients is the most valuable and something technology cannot replicate. “The craft is the advisor’s advantage—the combination of art and science, expertise and empathy, that turns a trip into an experience and is the magic that allows travelers to collect memories instead of souvenirs.”

Building on that is the second fundamental that connections matter, Johnson emphasized that while other consortia often refer to themselves as the glue, he views Ensemble as an active connection. “Rather than merely sit in the middle, we are a real-life example of an information highway connecting buyers with sellers, connecting agencies with solutions and partners with sales driving opportunities.”

The third core principle is that agencies require business partners rather than mere affiliations. Johnson stressed that Ensemble's role is to facilitate, but it's the advisor who truly makes the magic happen. He also highlighted a key distinction between Ensemble and other consortia—a deliberate choice to prioritize the members and their business. "Our primary role is to support our members, standing behind them in a deliberate and quietly effective manner—they are the ones who have spent years building their businesses and nurturing client relationships.” In line with this philosophy, Ensemble focuses on providing customizable tools and resources that empower the advisor to take the forefront—not Ensemble itself—offering features like white-label itineraries and customizable marketing options.

In her remarks, Kristina Boyce, SVP of operations, focused on the tactical aspects of Ensemble’s growth strategy. Speaking from her own experience, Boyce addressed how fear can often inhibit or paralyze people from doing things that lead to growth and how the antidote is knowledge and information—which is exactly what Ensemble provides.

“I see our role at Ensemble as being in service to the travel professional by providing not just knowledge, but practical solutions for you to obtain that knowledge, and put it in action,” said Boyce. “We are doing that by delivering access to all of Ensemble’s preferred partner information, member marketing tools, updated travel information and exclusive promotions on the new Member Portal; learning through all of the new training and educational programs; tools such as the ADX platform that makes booking travel easy and seamless while also offering opportunities for higher yield and increased commissions; and depth to “level up” across all areas.” 

Boyce also referenced Ensemble’s focus to create tools that build efficiency and productivity. Among them are the newly revamped Universe of Ensemble, the learning management system that includes all training and development programs and ClientSites, a tool that enables members to build a fully customizable site that highlights their knowledge and expertise paired with Ensemble’s partner and marketing features to seamlessly add new content. Coming in 2024 is a new Member Portal that will serve as the central source for everything from partner information to data analytics and reporting.

Attendees also participated in several partnership networking sessions as well as several professional development breakouts with topics such as leveraging social media to grow your business, ADX labs, and how to build your own packages.

Results of Travel Survey

In a presentation with Michael Johnson, Arnie Weissmann, editor in chief of Travel Weekly, provided an exclusive sneak peek of the results of a travel survey conducted by Travel Weekly and Phocuswright for which Ensemble was also a top sponsor. Among the most striking findings reflect that there are many advisors new to the industry as well as the bulk of advisors are home based. Specifically, the survey revealed that more than 1/3 (36 percent) of advisors began selling travel in the past five years and 1 in 10 have been selling travel for less than a year. 

“These numbers reflect what we have seen within our membership and are the genesis for creating all of the new training and development programs we’ve launched in the past year,” says Johnson. Another striking statistic from the survey that resonated with Johnson that he referenced in his opening remarks is that it takes nearly 11 years for most advisors to achieve the median income of around $60k. "We shouldn’t need a threat like AI to come to terms with the fact that the economics of selling travel are a travesty. We have to do better. And that is our core focus at Ensemble.”

Other notable data points include:

  • ICs and agencies account for 72 percent of the advisor population
  • Relationships are key: Advisors are most likely to cite personal relationships, customer service and expertise as the main reasons clients book with them.
  • Less than half (47 percent) of agencies charge clients a service fee
  • Ocean cruises, all-inclusive resorts and air are the most booked products by advisors
  • Nearly three quarters of agency revenue comes from commissions/overrides.

A New Social Impact Program

In the opening session, Johnson also spoke about a fourth fundamental—that Ensemble can also be a force for good by contributing positively to society. Ensemble has a long history of working with organizations such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation and now as part of Navigatr Group through its myriad relationships with organizations that support the environment, those impacted by war and many others.  

In keeping with that ethos to make a positive impact, Ensemble is launching a new giving platform called Spark. Through this program, members can choose from over two million charitable causes to support. In addition, Ensemble announced a one-to-one matching program with an initial group of nine charities including Doctors Without Borders, World Central Kitchen, Make-a-Wish Foundation and others. Each agency will have its own dedicated page where they can choose from a range of activities to participate in, create their own branded giving campaigns, and show their support for these organizations.

Reflective of this commitment and to help launch the program was guest speaker, Giles Duley, founder and CEO of Legacy of War Foundation, and the first U.N. Global Advocate for Persons with disabilities in Conflict and Peacebuilding settings. Duley spoke of his own firsthand experience as a photographer and writer documenting the long-term impact of conflict globally—including in Afghanistan, where he was critically injured by a landmine. Now, living as a triple amputee, Giles has dedicated his life to supporting survivors of conflict. Guests heard about Legacy of War’s Land for Women project in Rwanda which gives sustainable farming cooperatives to survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

The four-day event culminated in a Moulin Rouge-themed gala where Ensemble recognized members and partners with awards. Winners included:


  • Partner of the Year/Adventure — Lindblad Expeditions
  • Partner of the Year/Tourist Board – Jamaica Tourist Board
  • Partner(s) of the Year/DMC — Titanium Tours and Egypt & Beyond
  • Partner of the Year/Land — Globus Family of Brands
  • Partner of the Year/Ocean Cruise — Viking
  • Partner of the Year/River Cruise — AmaWaterways
  • Unchartered Award for Best Presentation at Ensemble’s virtual Unchartered event — G Adventures
  • Partner of the Year — Celebrity Cruises


  • Innovation Award(s) — Larissa Lognay, Groupe Voyage Montreal and Diana HechlerDTours Travel
  • Rising Stars — Megan Duncan, Travel Gurus and Susan Jasnoch, Custom Cruises and Travel
  • Member Excellence Award — Goldrush Travel
  • Outstanding Commitment to the Travel Community Award — Fareconnect

Ensemble also unveiled the dates and locations for the 2024 series of annual branded events. This includes:

  • March 27 - Unchartered — Ensemble's virtual event for owners, managers, and advisors where Ensemble partners bring their brand/destination come to life virtually
  • April 28-30 — Summit — High-level executive retreat for owners and managers at the Biltmore, Arizona
  • June 17-21 — Beyond — Celebrating top performers at Half Moon in Jamaica
  • September 16-19 — Horizons — Annual network-wide event at Resorts World Las Vegas

A recap video from Horizons can be found here. For more information or to join Ensemble, visit https://ensembletravel.com/

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