Ensemble Travel Group, the 850-member travel agency cooperative, on Oct. 21 unveiled a number of additional partners, educational programs and amenities for its travel agency members in the U.S. and Canada at its 2011 Ensemble Travel Group International Conference, held in Las Vegas Oct. 19-23.
The group now has six new On Location, tour and airline partners, including Central Holidays, the family-owned tour business offering highly customized FIT itineraries focused on Italy and the Mediterranean (including exclusive rights to the 2015 Passion Play in Italy); East West Planners; a full-service travel and destination management company serving as Ensemble’s On Location partner in Malaysia; Metropolitan Touring, a specialist in historical, cultural, natural and high-end adventure excursions, serving as Ensemble’s On Location partner in Colombia and Ecuador; Jordan Tourism Board, a preferred destination partner that works with Ensemble members to showcase the country’s tourism attractions; Aeromexico, the Mexican carrier that operates more than 500 daily flights to different cities in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Europe and Asia; and Blue Star Jets, a private jet brokerage offering private charter jets in every size and performance range.
Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection also has added more hotel and resorts for 2012, including Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, Antigua; The Regent Phuket Cape Panwa; and 19 Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., including The Observatory Hotel in Sydney; Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco, Peru; and Hotel Ritz Madrid. These hotels and resorts are among the nearly 500 properties that will be featured in Ensemble’s 2012 hotel and resort guide, due out in early 2012. The group’s e-version of the property directory, launched earlier this year, showcases all the properties included in the traditional print publication, plus a “live” section that is continually updated.
Ensemble Hosted Cruises, the group’s hosted cruise program, which has grown from 10 escorted sailings in 1998 to more than 350 departures today, has added Oceania Cruises, the 14th preferred partner, as well as 10 new ports for Ensemble Experiences, the group’s shore excursion program, including Salaverry, Peru; Cesme, Turkey; and Vila, Vanuatu. In addition, a new series of special culinary-focused cruises with Holland America Line will be featured in 2012, which will offer private cooking demonstration on board, plus a specialty dining experience at Holland America’s Pinnacle Grill.
Ensemble Hosted Cruises also will add to its Leaving Your Legacy Program, a series of enhanced Ensemble Experience shore excursions that allow members’ clients to connect with local cultures and people of the area, as well as make a difference to the local destination. Ensemble also donates money on behalf of the guests to local schools, orphanages, and other places visited.
“This series of enhanced Ensemble Experience shore excursions allows members’ clients to deeply connect with the local cultures and people of the area," said Susan Gannon, Ensemble's senior director, marketing and development, cruises. "It’s been very popular with guests who are not only seeking an authentic travel experience, but one where they can make a difference or ‘leave their footprint,’ as some might say, in the local destination. And, since we leave behind a donation on behalf of the guests, the schools, orphanages, and other places we visit are always so appreciative.”
On the educational front, Ensemble said it will help its members in the U.S. tap into the lucrative destination weddings and honeymoons market by launching a new specialist program. Roughly 40 agents, who will compose the inaugural class of specialists, must complete certification through a program offered by The Travel Institute and also can take advantage of an array of collateral, training, and web-based tools to target clients. The program is being adapted for the U.S. market from the Weddings & Honeymoons Specialist Program launched for Ensemble Canadian members in 2009.
The Ensemble Weddings & Honeymoons Specialist Program, includes a complete Destination Weddings & Honeymoons website framed as part of the agency’s consumer-facing Client Site; a lead-generation Destination Weddings & Honeymoons website, called “Destination Vows,” which features destination and honeymoon content, tips and trends for weddings, and a specialist-only agency locator; Print collateral, including a feature-rich Ensemble Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine, personalized for the agency’s use at bridal shows and other venues.
“The destination weddings & honeymoons market offers tremendous opportunities, especially for those agents who are truly trained in this niche,” said Ensemble’s Carol Black, senior director, strategic marketing. “One of the real advantages of becoming a weddings and honeymoons specialist is the fact that this is a relatively recession-proof trend. In addition, often these couples will return to their agent for their future travel needs.”
Inaugural cruise, tour operator, resort and destination preferred partners of the Weddings & Honeymoons Specialist Program include: Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Princess Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, Classic Vacations, GOGO Worldwide Vacations, Royal Hideaway Playacar, Travel Impressions; Big Five Tours & Expeditions, Qantas Vacations, Australia, Fiji, Israel Ministry of Tourism, South Africa Tourism and Tahiti. Ensemble also is partnering with Nirjary Desai of KIS(cubed) Events and Bridal Elements for the new program. Desai’s website (www.kiscubedevents.com) will feature a new honeymoon tab with content provided by Ensemble as well as an agency locator set up on a rotating basis to drive leads to member specialists. In addition, Desai will serve as a resident destination weddings consultant for Ensemble members in need of an experienced planner.
Finally, Ensemble launched a new program for its U.S. and Canadian members called Ensemble Luxe Life, a concierge service dedicated to providing insider access and the best seats in the house for the world's top sporting, entertainment, and cultural events. Ensemble Luxe Life is a 24/7 service that delivers sold-out and premium seating to these events, as well as entrance to ‘A-List’ parties and other exclusive activities. Ensemble Luxe Life experiences are fully customizable and can include any of the following elements: event tickets, hotel accommodations, private ground transportation, athlete or celebrity-hosted receptions, red carpet and backstage access, and exclusive event pre- and post-parties.
“The product is designed for both a discerning clientele as well as those people wishing to fulfill their ‘bucket-list’ dreams,” said Suzanne Hall, senior director, marketing and development/land products. "Regardless of the occasion, it’s clearly an adventure they could not easily access on their own and one that showcases our members’ expertise front and center with their clients.”
Ensemble is working with partners Inside Sports & Entertainment Group (InsideSEG) for the sports, entertainment, and lifestyle events of Luxe Life, and Excursions Ltd. for the worldwide cultural/destination experiences. According to InsideSEG’s Alfred Schreiber, chief marketing officer, Ensemble Luxe Life can open a world of luxury experiences for Ensemble members to offer their clients. “From walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, the Emmy’s and the Monaco Grand Prix, to 50-yard line seats at Super Bowl and courtside at Wimbledon, Ensemble clients will enjoy privileges that most people only dream about,” said Schreiber.
Rupert Woodard, founder and owner of Excursions Ltd. credits the Ensemble team for thinking out-of-the-box to develop Luxe Life. “The support and encouragement to create this product stems from a dedicated team of visionary professionals within Ensemble,” said Woodard. “Luxe Life is a white-glove luxury product focused on personal treatment and extreme attention to detail. If guests are looking for a unique experience or event anywhere in the world, this is the product for them.” For more information about Ensemble, call 800-442-6871 or visit www.joinensemble.com.