ENSEMBLE’S BOLD VISION: Consortia e-ases into future with new vision, branding
It may be spelled now with a small ‘e,’ but ensemble unveiled big plans for the future at the travel organization’s first event for owners and managers since being acquired by Navigatr Group.
Held at the Eden Roc and Nobu Miami Beach, Fla., Oct. 20-23, the inaugural ‘Horizon by ensemble’ provided the consortia’s leadership team a platform to present its vision of the future based a trio of core company pillars: bigger profit, bolder vision, and better member services.
President Michael Johnson underscored several areas where ensemble would focus its energy to achieve the goals, including member and supplier relations, training and development, marketing, and data monetization.
“From the beginning, we believed that the strengths of the Navigatr Group were complementary to ensemble, and that investing in this great company represented an opportunity to do something really unique,” said Johnson. “This was always about building on existing strengths and giving members more options. The new ensemble is very focused on choice and the word ‘and.’ We are still providing the programs and resources that members rely upon, but we are now also offering several other new tools and resources with the goal of helping our members be more efficient and more profitable.”
Since the acquisition was completed in June, the transition has focused on people and reorganizing and building the ensemble team, building relationships and process, and fostering a culture of engagement. The team has increased by 20% with plans to invest aggressively in talent by an additional 50%.
With a distinct focus on improving margin and yield, Johnson told members that ensemble wasn’t focused on becoming the biggest consortium; rather, it aims to be the most profitable for its members.
A key to delivering on that promise – and one of the key differentiators ensemble has emphasized since the acquisition was announced – is confidence in its proprietary technology platform, ADX (Agent Digital Experience), which allows advisors to not only book all aspects of a client’s trip, but also invoice in the same platform for maximum efficiency.
From the early adopters who have been onboarded to the platform, members are seeing an average commission of 8 to 13%, says ensemble, with one member agency reporting an increase in sales of 150% in just one month on the platform.
Plans are to have all members onboard by year’s end.
Reflective of a new energy but a commitment to also honour the past, ensemble also revealed new branding, with a new logo featuring just the word ensemble and dropping the travel group. “We wanted to simplify the logo and felt that ensemble is what people will remember,” says Johnson. “It is also a name we are all proud of.”
A new tagline – Further Together – was also introduced, inspired by an African proverb that says, if you want to travel fast, go alone; if you want to travel far, go together.”
The new branding will extend to ensemble’s portfolio of magazines and brand across print, digital and social.
The magazines will come to life in two print formats: one focused on aspirational travel and lifestyle editorial along with advertising. The second format focuses on key travel themes and the best travel products in the market to highlight ensemble’s partners and their offerings.
There are also several new high-impact B2B vehicles to highlight relevant partner offers and keep them top of mind during the selling process – an array of branded email platforms called Bold, Lift and Pronto. The branding will extend to several annual events, each named in a distinct way that connects to the new tagline. Marquee events will include Horizons, which will be the full annual gathering with the entire ensemble advisor community; The Summit as the executive retreat; Beyond for top performer recognition; Skyline, regional networking opportunities with frontline advisors; and Uncharted, a virtual event that will allow partners to share messages from the vantage points unique to their brand.
Training and development
In response to the demand for travel advisor services and to support members with recruitment and retention – and limited bandwidth to effectively onboard new advisors and ICs who are new-to-industry – ensemble is expanding the department, which now also includes Development as a key function. In addition to expanding the team is the launch of a new ensemble Training Academy (ETA), which l expand upon Universe of ensemble’s on demand programs and weekly training webinars.
Data is king
Expanding on its focus on data collection and monetization, ensemble will continue to capture transactional data with the express intent of delivering profit by leveraging stronger contracts for the entire network; proactively managing override targets; and utilizing partner dollars more strategically.
Johnson emphasized the importance of sourcing real time data to enable members to see industry trend lines early and leveraging that information to increase sales and commissions and ultimately, making their businesses more profitable.
Power of partnerships
David Harris, who had served as ensemble’s CEO since 2019 and assumed a new role as Executive Chairman as part of the acquisition, will focus on industry advocacy and ensuring that ensemble has a strong voice and leadership position.
“I truly believe it is critical for us to work together and speak with one voice in order to fully recover and continue to grow the global tourism industry,” said Harris, who will also continue to focus on supplier partner relationships and will work with the leadership team to execute the vision for the new ensemble.
Harris also moderated an industry panel that included addressing the future for the industry and how advisors and partners can work together more effectively. Perhaps not surprisingly, all agreed that one of the outcomes of the pandemic has been greater demand for and appreciation of the expertise and services provided by travel advisors and the group’s opinions included:
• Focusing on service and the need to prioritize people over profits
• Authenticity, transparency and communication as core pillars for meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
• The importance of travel in our DNA and how the global shutdown of travel for such an extended period has led to a greater appreciation for travel.
• Travel as the catalyst for greater understanding and appreciation of other cultures and as the best way to bridge people and cultures for a more peaceful world.
Other highlights of the conference included a keynote speech from Kara Goldin, founder of Hint water who shared stories of her journey from journalism major to entrepreneur encouraging the audience to approach opportunity and change without fear.
The event culminated in a gala dinner where ensemble recognized and celebrated several members and partners with awards for efforts during the pandemic. These included:
• Partner Pandemic Response – Royal Caribbean
• Ambassador Partner of the Year – Silversea and WestJet Vacations
• Most Socially Responsible Travel Partner – Ama Waterways
• Reinvention Award – Lauren Doyle, President, The Travel Mechanic
• Member Excellence Award – Ross Spalding, President, Crown Cruise Vacations
• Outstanding Contributions to the Travel Community – Travel Only
First published at Travel Industry Today