Ensemble Survey Sees Growth In Active, Customized Travel Experiences

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Libbie Rice and Lindsay Perlman speak to Ensemble agents at the agent group's conference in the Bahamas.

The consumer desire for active, adventure-filled vacations, often tailor-made and in smaller locales, is showing no signs of slowing down, according to a survey of Ensemble Travel Group members in the U.S. and Canada. 

“The public’s pursuit of the more personal travel experiences across cultures and traditions around the globe is at the core of our members’ success,” said Lindsay Pearlman, Ensemble co-president. “And while mainstream travel continues to be a vacation staple, the customized bucket-list adventures that used to be ‘once in a lifetime’ have now become ‘as often as I can’ and built around first-hand immersion into the destination.”

Conducted in September and based on input from nearly 2,000 Ensemble member advisors in the U.S. and Canada, the Ensemble Outlook Survey was released during the organization’s annual conference being held at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar through Saturday. 

For instance, the appeal of “tailor-made/FIT vacations” was the top pick for driving new land-based business to members’ agencies in 2019, followed by “active,” and “adventure” as the third most popular request.  At the other end of the spectrum were “spa/wellness,” “family history/seeking one’s roots,” and “shopping” vacations.

Travellers’ preference for the smaller, more personal experience can also be seen in the ocean cruise category where the top three niche segments creating the most interest for members’ business in 2019 were “all-inclusives,” followed by “small ship,” and “family” cruises. 

And, while this category in the past for Ensemble members referred to partners Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, and Uniworld, more of the premium/contemporary cruise lines are now creating options for the popular all-inclusive experiences, such as the Grills with Cunard and The Haven with Norwegian Cruise Line.

Survey results about river cruising also indicate a desire for a more hands-on, personal experience in smaller locales. For example, when asked what’s drawing clients to river cruising, the top three reasons from Ensemble members were “ability to experience smaller villages, towns, and cities,” followed by “smaller ships carrying less than 200 passengers,” and “good value for experience received.”

The popularity of food, wine, and spirits also influences clients’ decisions, as nearly 50% of respondents reported that culinary travel taking on a greater role in the vacation experience. 

“Wine and spirits vacations,” “culinary-themed cruises,” and “hands-on cooking vacations” were the top three types of culinary experiences being requested of Ensemble members, based on survey results. And when asked to rank the top three key elements of a “foodie” vacation destination, “local ambiance” (i.e., outdoor cafes, waterfront dining, street food), “local markets,” and “abundance of renowned/award-winning dining establishments” were the top picks.  

From a sales perspective, survey results indicate 2018 to be a banner year for Ensemble members compared to 2017, with 77% percent of respondents expecting total travel bookings to increase (21% by 25% or more; 56% by 5 to 24%; 15% same; 5% down 5 to 24%; 3% down by 25% or more). 

2019 continues to look strong as well with 78% of respondents forecasting further growth (16% by more than 25%; 62% by 5 to 24%; 20% same; 2% down 5 to 24 percent).

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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