Ensemble Connections Shows Agents Will Get Through Trying Times… Ensemble
with Anna Kroupina
Sometimes, the show must go on, rain or shine, viral outbreak or not.
And the show did indeed go on for Ensemble's annual conference in Toronto on 12MAR, the last stop on a six-city Canada-wide roadshow that also took place in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Oakville in FEB and MAR.
The Ensemble team. L-R: Cheryl Babulal, BDM, Eastern Canada; Cristie Newell, Director of Meetings & Events; Chris Lackstrom, Sr. Director, Supplier & Marketing Development; and Clare Burke, Manager, Meetings & Events.
Despite a few last-minute cancellations with the onslaught of coronavirus developments within the last 24 hours, close to 55 Toronto-area agents came out to network, meet with suppliers and learn how to grow their business.
"We really want to move forward with all of our events. Nothing is stronger than when you've got your partners and the members in the same room working towards a common goal. That's true partnership and we don't want to lose that," Cristie Newell, Director of Meetings & Events, told Open Jaw.
"I think agents appreciate that we've been continuing with the event. There's tremendous value in them stepping away from their business and coming together with likeminded people to see that we're sticking through this together."
Brian Joseph, BDM, AMResorts.
Despite talk of exciting product updates from Ensemble's preferred suppliers who were in attendance – from AMResorts to AMAWaterways, American Queen Steamboat Company to SeaDream Yacht Club, and more -- the coronavirus couldn't go unmentioned.
Newell says the consortium is working hard to keep its members as informed as possible during the outbreak, and most importantly – focusing on facts.
"We communicate with our agency community on a weekly or biweekly basis, keeping them up to speed internally on our member portal. We have resources, links to different organizations and government bodies," she says.
"We've also created a toolkit for agencies with email templates and different types of advertising. We've put together a lot of different tools that they can customize to send out to their clients."
"At the end of the day we band together and we rise to the top."
Lucille DePerro, Sales Director, SeaDream Yacht Club, speaking with an Ensemble advisor.
With an event like Ensemble Connections, Newell said agents can take comfort in knowing that they're not alone in navigating the global health crisis that's pummelling the travel industry. Agents had the opportunity to share what they're going through and how they're coming to grips with the grippe.
A common trend that arose from those conversations is that while some clients are cancelling their travels now, they're also rebooking for the future.
"We're hearing that there is a lot of cancellations, but people are still looking to book further out," said Newell.
"Agents are saying that they might be losing bookings now, but they're telling the client, 'this is your dream, this is important to you. So although we're taking a breather now, let's continue to move forward so that you have a date on the calendar to look forward to.'"
But amid the cancellations, uncertainties, risks and speed bumps, Newell still sees a bright side to the coronavirus pandemic.
Neil Dudley, BDM, AMAWaterways, speaking with Ensemble advisors.
"It really does amplify the value of booking with a travel professional. When you book with an OTA, there are risks that you take. But travel professionals really are there for you," she said.
"The importance of travel insurance rises to the top as well. These are things that we keep saying are important, but it's not until there's a crisis when they really rise to the top."
With so many questions remaining about the COVID-19 outbreak, the only thing left for Ensemble and its agencies to do is take things one day at a time.
"It's trying times but at the end of the day, we're a resilient group," says Newell. "We've been through these types of situations before and at the end of the day we band together and we rise to the top."
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