Ensemble Travel Group recently wrapped its International Conference, themed Travel With Purpose. The organization held the event October 23 – 27 at the Hyatt Regency Seattle with panels and speakers on topics relating to sustainable travel and how the company and industry can promote responsible travel. During the event Ensemble also announced several new programs and initiatives.
Here are some of the highlights:
CEO Remarks – New Analytics and Total Travel Value
In his opening remarks, Ensemble’s CEO David Harris announced that after more than 50 years in business, the company celebrated its best year in 2018. This year preferred supplier sales from members will eclipse $1.4 billion – which represents 8 percent year over year growth.
Harris also referenced new analytics that show Ensemble’s footprint is actually double of what had previously been assumed with at least $4 billion of business. This was because they had previously only tracked managed business to accurately compensate shareholders. But that was to the detriment of capturing the full value of their unmanaged business - the Total Travel Value - which puts the number closer to being a $4 billion business.
Spotlight on Sustainability
“With people making more than seven billion trips annually, sustainability is increasingly impacting our industry,” said Harris. “Sustainability is about the health and long-term viability of not only our planet and society, but also our organization.”
With its focus on sustainability and traveling with purpose, Ensemble said it tried to maintain that approach in all aspects of the conference. For example, instead of using posters and easels, they used chalkboards. In addition, the team uniform T-shirts were made from recycled water bottles, and each attendee was provided a reusable water bottle with refill water stations being found all around the venue to avoid single-use plastic water bottles. The conference tote bags were made from a product called “jute,” which is plant fibers. Ensemble is also donating the 60 laptops used at the conference to Interconnection, an organization that provides technology to underserved communities around the world.
Reducing Travel’s Carbon Footprint Through Partnerships With Cool Effect and Travel Care Code
Ensemble CEO David Harris announced a new partnership with Cool Effect that included Ensemble’s purchase of travel offsets for flights to attend the conference. Dedicated to helping businesses and individuals reduce as much carbon as possible and offset the rest with credits from projects demonstrating the highest environmental integrity, Cool Effect will also enable Ensemble members to offset their client’s flights using its Offset Tool to help members offset the carbon footprint of air travel.
Ensemble offset all attendee travel and the footprint of the conference through Cool Effect’s Jacundá Forest Reserve carbon reduction project based in Brazil. The project protects carbon-sequestering rubber trees in the Amazon rainforest while providing jobs to the local community.
Harris also announced a partnership with Travel Care Code, an initiative of a network of academics and professionals committed to encouraging responsible travel. The campaign works with travel companies and guests alike to provide guidelines on how they can reduce the impact of their travel on the environment. This includes a range of activities from supporting local communities to disposing of waste and protecting natural surroundings.
At the annual Ensemble Conference Gala, Harris announced the recipients of the organization’s first-ever Purpose Awards. Recognizing Ensemble partners who are taking leadership positions in caring for the environment, local community and protecting local heritage, the voting was conducted by Zane Kerby, CEO of ASTA, and Greg Takahera, CEO of Tourism Cares.
Inaugural Purpose Award recipients included:
- G Adventures – Caring for the Community
- Air New Zealand – Caring for the Environment
- The Travel Corporation -Protecting Local Heritage
- Lindblad Expeditions - Caring for Community, Environment and Protecting Local Heritage
Warren Bruckner Innovation Award
This award was created to honor the founder of Ensemble’s vision and forward thinking and recognizes a member who exemplifies his creativity, passion, integrity, and perseverance in commitment to their agency, the travel industry, and Ensemble Travel Group.
The second annual award was bestowed on Stephanie Turner of Brentwood Travel in St Louis. Turner has been at the helm of the company - founded by her parents in 1957 - for 44 years. During that time, she has earned countless accolades such as Travel Agent Magazine’s “Top 25” award. She is a premium member of ASTA and has consistently served on many boards and committees helping to further our industry in the eyes of partners and consumers alike.
Fulfilling its longstanding commitment to using the conference as a vehicle to raise money for charities and in keeping with the Travel with Purpose theme, Ensemble is in its 9th year of holding an auction with proceeds going to the Make A Wish Foundation.
In addition, three trips were auctioned off to specifically benefit the Tourism Cares Disaster Relief Fund supporting those directly impacted by Hurricane Dorian. A raffle drawing was also held with proceeds going to benefit WE.org in support of the Water Pillar in Lugumek, Kenya. The funds raised will help to support the construction of latrines in the community, which are a vital part of creating a healthy and sanitary environment for students to learn. This particularly ensures that young women are able to attend school because they have a private, clean space to use, Ensemble said.
Capping off several days of speakers, panels training workshops, and a tradeshow, Ensemble also honored the top producers and suppliers at its annual Circle of Excellence Gala.
Finally, Ensemble announced the selection of Harrah’s Casino Hotel and Caesar’s Forum as the site for its 2020 International Conference to be held from October 5-9, 2020.