One-on-One with Ensemble Execs in Vegas

Ensemble President Michael Johnson and SVP Operations Kristina Boyce.

It’s been a busy year for Ensemble, which was acquired by Navigatr only 16 months ago (the “new” Ensemble was featured in a video by Open Jaw’s Nina Slawek who attended last year’s conference). With some 500 member agencies across North America, including almost 300 in Canada, the consortium has just concluded its annual Horizon Conference.

This year, advisors and ICs joined managers, over 40 head office staff and 200 supplier personnel at the Paris Hotel in LAS for a packed few days of learning, networking – and fun.

Open Jaw sat down with Ensemble President Michael Johnson and SVP Operations Kristina Boyce for some high-level insights into the group’s philosophies and plans.

Asked about his personal takeaway from the conference, Toronto-based Johnson said that the positive feedback was overwhelming, which he doubly appreciates since all attendees had taken time away from their families to attend. “The work is never done but this has been very validating.”

As Boyce added, “We brought almost our entire head office team here and they too now have an enhanced sense of purpose and connection.”

And what sets Ensemble aside from the other consortia? According to Johnson, “We are heavily focused on connections. You need a partnership – not an affiliation. We don’t aspire to be the largest but to be relevant to our members and our suppliers. Our approach to technology is innovating and a differentiator because we have a tried and true, proven system designed for the leisure agent.”

Ensemble management is enthusiastic about the proprietary ADX (Agent Digital Experience) booking system which has been in existence for some 10 years but is new to Ensemble. ADX allows agents to bundle multiple trip elements and service fees into a single invoice and itinerary. It also supports with servicing, commissions reporting and CRM. ADX is, according to Boyce, currently strong on air, hotel and insurance with cruise, currently in beta testing, coming online in spring 2024. Car rentals and in-destination activities are also slated for inclusion.

No word on the most important component for many agents, and that’s packages from Softvoyage inventory, which ADX currently does not include.

Depending on their ADX volume, members retain 80% to 95% of commissions. The jury seems to still be out with some advisors not yet sold on the system (one Montreal agent told me that French language capability is still not available, a real issue for Quebec) but if the very well-attended hands-on training sessions were any indication, there’s a lot of interest in ADX – with agents calling the system “very easy to use”.

Future Initiatives
According to Boyce, Ensemble’s initiatives now and into next year include a raft of innovations such as Ensemble-only fams to destinations as exotic as the Maldives and Peru, branding and website assistance, as well as access to a high-quality print magazine called Range.

Both Johnson and Boyce were careful to highlight Spark, another new program whereby members can donate to charities around the world, including nine – so far – where Ensemble will match contributions. These include Doctors Without Borders, Make-a-Wish and the Royal Ontario Museum. “Each agency is welcome to decide how they get involved, such as having internal fundraisers or allowing clients to decide which charity is supported.”

Johnson is especially proud that this year The Travel Corporation honoured Ensemble with their first innovation award. “We were very thrilled because we believe that there is an opportunity to simplify while innovating.”

And next year’s conference? At the gala Moulin Rouge-themed farewell event, Johnson announced that in 2024 they’ll be reconvening in Vegas SEP 16-19 at Resorts World – with advisors and ICs sure to be again part of the mix.

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