Helene Poirier (Paul Gauguin Cruises) and Liz Story (Kensington Tours)
Charmaine MacDonald (Tauck) and Franca Iuele (Ensemble)
Ensemble agents at the trade show
The Porter Airlines crew
Ensemble agents at the trade show
Ensemble Travel Group wrapped up its week-long national Ensemble Extraordinary tour in Toronto last week and by all accounts, it was a success.
With a focus this year on specialty and niche product, suppliers on hand at this event included Paul Gaugin Cruises, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, Kensington Tours, Azamara Club Cruises, AmaWaterways, Viking River Cruises, Tauck, G Adventures, Seabourn and more.
For Kevin Babinger of Beaches & Beyond, it was a good opportunity to get up to speed on what’s out there. “I like getting a refresher on a lot of the suppliers and seeing the wide variety of offerings. I’ve come to [these events] previously and learned a lot, and even today, again, learning more.”
The focus on specialty was especially key to Scott Waldron from Gravitate Travel. “Niche and specialty suppliers were absolutely one of the main focuses of why I came. Seeing the partners and identifying what you currently have on the books, or what your clients are looking for by knowing them, is definitely one of the big benefits, especially with Ensemble.”
And for the suppliers themselves, given the format of this event and the amount of dedicated facetime they get with the Ensemble membership, it’s a perfect opportunity to really get their message out.
“It’s a big one for us to get in front of agents and ensure that they know what we can offer them and how we can help them grow their business,” said Ian Lyne of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold. “That’s our biggest drive: that they know that we’re here to support them… [and] ensuring that they have the up-to-date knowledge is crucial for us.”
The focus for this year’s event came from the survey Ensemble conducted after last year’s event, with feedback indicating their members wanted to learn more about specialty and niche partners.
So with that in mind, Ensemble invited all of these suppliers to participate and put it all together in a format that is equally digestible and interesting, breaking up the various sessions into quick 10-minute presentations that gets people up and moving around more. “It’s not everybody in one big trade show at once. It gives agents a chance to really talk to the different suppliers in a more intimate way. We’ve found that format really works,” said Cathy Varrecchia, National Training Manager for Ensemble.
As for the general reaction, “So far the agents are loving all the speakers that are here today,” said Varrecchia. “We have all of our extraordinary partners – those partners that agents wouldn’t normally see at the usual tradeshows and events – and we bring out these types of suppliers that can create those [unique] experiences for their clients.”
Aligning the marketing with this thirst for everything FIT, Ensemble has also recently launched a campaign that offers the tools and techniques to “allow our members to be experts in unique and extraordinary experiences with a catalogue of product they can sell,” said Franca Iuele, Ensemble’s Director of Marketing. The catalogue, which is currently being delivered to Ensemble’s top tier clients, is “jam-packed with ideas to inspire clients to think about those very unique, experiential travel vacations.”
“The training and the marketing go hand-in-hand and hopefully we’re able to reach clients, and our members are ready to go and sell it,” said Iuele.
Kerry Sharpe Columnist
Having worked in travel for the last 16 years, Kerry has experience covering the industry as media, as well as being under its lens when she worked for Thomas Cook, TravelBrands and itravel2000. A new mom, Kerry recently returned to the workforce and when she’s not chasing after her daughter, you’ll see her out and about covering industry events alongside her new BFF Tina the Travel Agent.