“It has become imperative that we set the record straight”: An open response from Ensemble President Michael Johnson

“It has become imperative that we set the record straight”: An open response from Ensemble President Michael Johnson

TORONTO — Not so fast, says Ensemble.

The consortium says it wants to set the record straight on recent allegations about overdue incentive payments.

As reported earlier this week, an open letter signed by nine North American retail groups including Travel Best Bets and The Travel Agent Next Door, to the leadership of Ensemble Travel, asked that Ensemble make good on what the agencies say are overdue payments from 2019, when all were Ensemble members.

Now an open response from Ensemble President Michael Johnson, shared with Travelweek, addresses the allegations head-on.

“At the heart of their dispute is the claim that they are owed patronage payments from 2019. This is not correct,” says Johnson in the letter.

Johnson continues: “In spring 2020 – just as the pandemic was taking hold – Ensemble paid 50% of the 2019 patronage payments and thereafter prudently advised members of its intention to pay the other half if and when funding for 12 months of liquidity was secured.

“Despite every reasonable effort, the funding support was not secured. Under the bylaws that governed Ensemble until it was acquired by Navigatr Group in June 2022, only members in good standing were eligible to receive patronage payments.

“Agencies who chose to exit during COVID knew that they were no longer eligible for patronage. The former agencies making these claims left Ensemble on their own accord during the pandemic and were therefore not entitled to any further payments the moment they left Ensemble.

“It has become clear that despite knowing this to be true, they have elected to use the media to make false and disparaging accusations in an attempt to secure payments that they are not otherwise entitled to receive.”

The nine agencies acknowledge that they are no longer with Ensemble, noting in their letter that they have all left the consortium “following the non-payment”. The Travel Agent Next Door announced in October 2021 that it was switching to TL Network. The agencies include Around the Globe Travel, ConsortiaX, Diplomat Travel Agency, Go Travel, The Travel Agent Next Door, Travel Best Bets, Travel of America, Travel Planners International and Uniglobe Travel Center.

Says Johnson: “In light of the recent allegations made by former members of Ensemble that have been published in several trade industry publications, it has become imperative that we set the record straight.”

Johnson notes that “while we can’t change what happened as a result of this once-in-a-generation crisis, a signing bonus was offered to every member who elected to sign on with the new Ensemble – which was nearly 95% – and agreed to try the ADX booking platform, from which members are already seeing the benefit with higher commissions and increased sales.

“Despite all that has transpired, the offer to join Ensemble, try ADX and receive a signing bonus remains open, including to former Ensemble members, as we are fully committed to helping everyone recover from the pandemic and achieve the highest profitability possible for their businesses,” he adds.

“We are proud of the new Ensemble and its renewed support for member agencies and travel professionals. We will continue to exceed the expectations of our members with our focus and investment on substantially improving the profits of our member agents.”