ONE Ensemble Virtual Conference Kicks Off With High Energy

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

As with most Ensemble conferences, the little extra touches are noticeable. Even in a virtual format, details such as dotting the lobby with friendly Ensemble faces, filling the auditorium seats with attendees, and using a variety of animated graphics kept viewers engaged.

Despite an upbeat mood, much of the heavy lifting was left to CEO David Harris, who had the unenviable task of shining a light on the worst travel year in memory. His opening address focused on the concept of pivoting - finding a different way of doing business when the old is no longer viable. 

"We know we can survive by pivoting, by making perhaps the greatest pivots we've ever imagined and move through this time that is like no other to get to the other side,” he said in his opening address.

In reviewing 2020, Harris acknowledged how much travel advisors have lost. But, he reminded viewers that it also gave back on a number of levels: "the opportunity to show our resilience, the chance to dig deep, and rely on the unique skills we bring as experts in our field and leverage the relationships of trust we've each worked so incredibly hard to build with our clients.”

Despite being virtual this year, the event's purpose was not lost in digital translation. According to Harris, "The purpose of being together is this: connection, inspiration, a way forward."

Suppliers Open Jaw spoke with expressed they were happy to take part in the virtual event and catch up with agents.

"It is amazing to see so many people come together for Ensemble's first virtual event," Karine Gagnon, Commercial Director with Transat Tours Canada told Open Jaw. "The Transat team is delighted to take part in this important event."

AmaWaterways' Sandra Gardiner, National Accounts Manager for Canada, noted, "We are truly enjoying the virtual conference and on behalf of AmaWaterways, we thank all who support us."

"Consumers Are Raring To Go"

Harris noted that although 2020 is a lost year and international travel has been decimated, consumers have turned to domestic travel. Just as travellers have rediscovered national parks and camping escapades to satisfy their thirst for adventure, advisors, too, must "pivot" and adjust to the new reality.

Already, said Harris, there are hopeful signs that international travel will rebound – and hard.

He cited one study, which showed travellers are planning more leisure trips in 2021 than they did in the past two years. Skyscanner reported a 368% jump in searches for January travel in a four-week period.

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"In short, consumers are raring to go. As soon as they feel safe, we will absolutely see a tremendous surge in demand and that’s where you will be essential for your clients,” Harris said.

"They know that if something goes wrong, you'll move heaven and earth to make it right. They know, too, how different that makes you from a big, impersonal, behemoth OTA."

Recovery Is Far Off

Despite the optimism, Harris didn't sugar-coat the reality that "recovery is still some time away."

As both the U.S. and Canada continue to see spiking numbers and Europe experiences a resurgence of the virus, the ability to re-open travel will be impacted, Harris said.

As Ensemble itself pivots, Harris said the network has made tough choices to weather the crisis.

"We’ve worked hard to be creative ourselves, adapt what we offer to be useful to you at this unusual time. We’ve had to make very difficult decisions to be fiscally responsible stewards, including staffing reductions, terminating our involvement in Australia and New Zealand, finance and accounting realignment and much more," Harris said.

Harris ended by touching on Ensemble's recovery campaign -- Mission Restart: Recover Stronger – which focuses on helping advisors "reboot" their business and remarket their key differentiators. 

"The new campaign focuses on reinforcing these differentiators for clients everywhere so that we can be ready,” Harris said, “because travel is coming back.”

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.


Ken Sears - November 19, 2020 @ 09:17
Maybe a dose of reality is needed here...
People are not travelling and won't be for another 6-12 months. Ensemble has not distributed all of the 2019 profit sharing owed to travel agencies. 50% is still owed to agencies who have had almost ZERO income since March. I'm sure the money they are holding back is compensating the CEO ant other executives quite well. If I am wrong, please enlighten us on what sacrifices the working executive have made during this time.

Andrea Szirtes - November 18, 2020 @ 17:40
As I am a Canadian Travel Professional, Would love to attend

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