Saturday,  June 25, 2022  6:54 pm

Ensemble: think big, think better


Ensemble: think big, think better
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

Yesterday afternoon, co-presidents Lindsay Pearlman and Libbie Rice from the Ensemble Travel Group welcomed approximately 900 suppliers, agents, and media to this year’s 2017 Ensemble Travel Group International Conference, on now through Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion, here in downtown Dallas, Texas.

The overlying theme of this year’s conference is to “Think Big”, a message that was echoed throughout the afternoon’s opening session, and also pays tribute to Ensemble’s upcoming milestone of 50 years in the business, which will be celebrated on Oct. 11 of next year.

Rice and Pearlman welcomed the original founding member Warren Buckner, CTC, of Gayety Travel Service, to the stage, who provided an overview of Ensemble’s early beginnings back in 1968, then known as GIANTS, and shared his experiences of what has lent to the company’s success over the years. “Creating an organization like GIANTS certainly wasn’t easy, with all the feuding and distress at that time in the agent community,” Buckner said, speaking to the audience at the Ensemble conference Monday afternoon.

_MG_8883.jpg Warren Buckner, CTC of Gayety Travel Service, speaks to conference-goers from a recorded video message at this year's 2017 Ensemble International Conference in Dallas, Texas.

“The Greater Independent Association of National Travel Services was created to help individual agencies compete with the major chains. Our purpose was clear from the beginning - by working together, combining our efforts, not just locally but nationally and eventually internationally into Canada in 1984 and Australia in 2015, it would in turn provide us with space and availability, quality travel products, and higher commissions as a member-owned organization that allowed everyone who was a member to share in the profits.” Buckner went on to express that agent and supplier trust was a major part of the fabric back in 1968, and continues to be the ultimate goal today with Ensemble.

Think Big

The term “think big” might sound generic, but to Pearlman and Rice, it’s all about “The Ensemble evolution and the guiding principles that are hard-wired into our DNA and have allowed us to think big for almost 50 years,” Pearlman said.

“At Ensemble, 'think big' doesn’t mean being the largest, or the biggest in quantity or size, or all the fanfare that comes with that,” Rice added. “For us, it’s the small steps that collectively make us big and make us who we are as we kick off the year-long celebration of our 50th anniversary in 2018. It means operating creatively, oftentimes to the point of discomfort. It means letting go of things that limit us internally, getting beyond that to allow yourself to be the best in class. There’s no better example in our industry than the early days of GIANTS and our evolution of nearly 50 years in the business of travel.”

A series of new initiatives have been introduced by the Ensemble Travel Group, including four of the organization’s most recent and visible value propositions: the Ensemble Extranet, Aviate, Navigate, and Marketing, which introduces a new strategy under development and led by Ensemble newcomer Carl Schmitt.

Ensemble Extranet

To replace an older, outdated system, and to keep up with a 42 per cent jump in users, Ensemble has launched a new extranet platform called Ensemble Extranet. Launched in August, the rebuilt platform delivers a fast, reliable search engine, a mobile-friendly design with logical content organization, and the ability to market content to customers easily. It has successfully reduced the time required to book clients online, which is increasingly important given that the amount of time spent on the Ensemble Extranet has increased by 33 per cent and the bounce rate has dropped by 15.

_MG_8885copy.jpgLibbie Price and Lindsay Pearlman of Ensemble Travel Group take to the stage for the opening ceremony in Dallas, Texas.

“The universal search capability, in particular, is getting high marks from members because it draws across all travel products to integrate rich content and special offers into the results,” Pearlman said. “The rebuilt Ensemble Extranet also features an updated profile section, which allows members to showcase more details about themselves, their expertise, and their agency,” Rice added. “All of this information is dynamically synced with our consumer-facing Ensemble Travel websites, which allow potential customers to easily find members based on their travel interests.”

Navigate

Powered by Revelex, Navigate is a new booking platform featuring multi-stage technology that is intended to help agents grow their online business. “This tool was designed to be your go-to, your one-stop shop to growing your business,” Pearlman said. The tool is free to all members, and, as Rice pointed out to the audience, it comes with a perk everyone will love. “Navigate gives you something we all have very little of, and that’s time,” Rice said. “With navigate, we’re seeing less time spent searching or training online, and more freedom to compete in selling online, now all under one roof.”

Aviate

Launched Sept. 1, Aviate was created to assist Ensemble and its members with ticketing, fare quotes, and interpretation of air contracts for self-ticketing. The emphasis is on selling-ensemble preferred partners, and new for 2018, Ensemble is in the midst of working with an Australian partner who will help to provide a major facelift on the front-end of Aviate to make it even more intuitive.

Ensemble’s additional updates for 2018 include a new river cruise module that allows agents to search cruises by river, dual pricing for Canadian members, and single sign-on for the extranet portal.

With the onset of changes, the Ensemble Travel Group cited the recognition of needing to hire a formal team to bridge a gap between the vendors and the internal infrastructure. To that end, the Product Development-Technology Solutions Department, headed up by newcomer Helen Enriquez, was created in May to oversee integration, implementation, training, and management of third-party vendors. “We’re already seeing results in terms of better dialogue with vendors, greater focus on standardization, and more frequent conversations with members on what they need, how they will use it, and then prioritizing all of this information,” Rice said.

“The primary way to grow is to continue to add value for our members and partners,” Rice said. “It requires looking outside the comfort-zone to create uniqueness in the marketplace.”

The presentation concluded with Rice and Pearlman acknowledging and thanking the Ensemble Travel Group’s family of preferred partners, who collectively, represent 450 combined years of dedication to the Ensemble Group.

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