The message has been one of overwhelming optimism over the past few days as the Ensemble Travel Group’s annual conference is underway in Palm Springs, CA.
The conference has been shaped around the theme “Nobody Does It Better … Than You,” which taps into the cooperative’s role of an enabler, according to Co-President Lindsay Pearlman.
“For us, an enabler makes things possible. We equip, prepare, and even make things easier. At Ensemble, we do this in three ways: through partnerships, people, and programs,” said his colleague, Libbie Rice.
The leaders highlighted some of the new partners who have joined the organization’s powerful network in 2014, including Lindblad Expeditions, Club Med in the U.S. (following a solid performance in Canada), Amtrak Vacations-Yankee Holidays, Australis Cruises, more than 100 hotel partners, and 10 On Location partners.
It’s also been a period of growth for the organization, which Rice and Pearlman agree has been powered by a solid team of representatives plus supplier relationships.
Pearlman noted Ensemble’s creativity when it comes to developing new programs and products that meet members’ needs. He cited the award-winning Ensemble E-zine and Vacation Therapy, the fully “North Americanized” DestinationVows Specialist Program, and the next generation Extranet as examples of Ensemble’s success with designing creative programs and products.
Here is a summary of news from the Ensemble Conference 2014:
Overhaul of consumer site:
The organization’s fully rebuilt consumer website, ensembletravel.com, features search engine optimization and a greater call-to-action for travellers to connect with an Ensemble-member agent. Phase 1 of the rebuild was completed in August and featured an overhaul of the site’s content and graphics, and showcased new elements such as:
- benefits of working with an Ensemble-member travel agency
- overview of Ensemble Travel Group
- sampling of preferred partners
- descriptors of travel styles, interests, and destinations
- animated depiction of value of using a travel agent
Phase 2 focuses on the acquisition strategy, allowing consumers to directly connect with Ensemble-member travel agents. It features an agency locator and search function based on proximity, travel style, travel interest, and/or destination. For example, the destination section leads off with descriptors and then lists the Ensemble members who specialize in a particular travel niche or region. Consumers can then select an agent specialist to contact based on posted profiles, which highlight not only areas of specialization, but also such items as languages spoken and philosophy of travel.
Adding to Air By Ensemble:
Now in its fifth year, “Air By Ensemble,” the cooperative’s air program for members, is adding mega carriers Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Alitalia, and Cathay Pacific Airways to its lineup of preferred suppliers. These new partners bring the total number of airlines added this year to 10 and boost the overall program portfolio to 30.
Rounding out the 10 new air partners in 2014 for Ensemble: Qantas, SAS, Hainan Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, and Royal Air Maroc. Members have the opportunity to earn revenue in several ways with the organization’s 30 carriers – including commissions, overrides, or net fares – depending on the specific partner agreement. According to Brian Chapin, a member can make 15 or even 27 or 30 per cent on an airline ticket, especially when selling first-class or business-class air.
Enhanced hotel booking platform
Members will have access to a new hotel booking platform as of December 2014, featuring rich content, intuitive search functionality, and “an extensive inventory of properties at competitive rates.” Powered by Hotelzon, a Travelport company, Ensemble Hotel Express will display in priority both the amenity-driven Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection and preferred rates provided by the Radius Travel Global Hotel Program, Ensemble’s preferred corporate hotel program.
One of the major enhancements of Hotel Express relates to the agent identity behind the booking. With the Hotelzon-powered platform, regardless of the rate booked, the member’s IATA will be the only one recognized by the hotel. This key change will significantly strengthen the relationship between the agent and the property as it underscores the value that each player brings to the booking. In addition, the key travel information, such as location and proximity to major sites, is in real time.
The Radius Global Hotel Program allows members to book more than 39,000 hotels in 137 countries via the GDS at extremely competitive rates. And, in addition to tapping into this comprehensive program for corporate clients, members have access to a wide variety of properties for their leisure customers, as well.