TORONTO — Ensemble Travel’s ONEnsemble Virtual conference is wrapping up after several days and a long list of sessions with suppliers, not to mention numerous networking opportunities.
ONEnsemble Virtual, which took place this week, has focused on restarting and recovery, with live sessions and speakers from a custom designed virtual studio, as well as pre-taped sessions plus breakouts and Zoom rooms.
Coverage from the Nov. 17 live Ready, Set, Sail panel session included straight talk and advice from top executives from Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, RSSC and AmaWaterways.
Meanwhile the Nov. 18 highlights included two panel discussions: ’The Travel Journey: What Will it Look Like?’ with AmaWaterways’ Kristin Karst, Delta’s Scott Jordan and Globus family of brand’s Scott Nisbet; and ‘The Power of Partnerships’, which looked at commissions amid COVID-19 with Globus’ Paula Hayes and Stephanie Bishop, Steve Smotrys with Cunard and Seabourn and Randall Soy with RSSC.
Here’s what ’The Travel Journey: What Will it Look Like?’ panel had to say about reasons for hope as this COVID-19 year starts to wind to a close …
KRISTIN KARST – AMAWATERWAYS
“Our engagement with travel agents has never been stronger. Since March we’ve hosted more than 2,000 virtual agents to help travel agents prepare for an eventual return to river cruising. We know how hard you’ve been working and this trust and confidence will grow and blossom in 2021 and beyond.”
AmaWaterways has three new ships on the way: AmaSiena, AmaLucia and AmaDahlia. Karst reports that AmaDahlia’s first season in Egypt is 70% full already. “We are very optimistic about the future of river cruising. Whatever unfolds in the month ahead, we will adapt.”
SCOTT JORDAN – DELTA AIR LINES
“I know the industry is hurting. Delta is hurting too. We will get through this. And we will need your support and your energy to do that. We want to install confidence. This is what the industry needs … it’s our obligation to get some encouragement out there. As crazy as it sounds, at the start of the pandemic we were burning through US$100 million in cash per day. By the end of this year we hope to get that down to $10 – $12 million per day. That’s through cost cutting and we’re also seeing some demand coming back.”
SCOTT NISBET – GLOBUS FAMILY OF BRANDS
“You have a lot to be proud of. You’re really making a difference. Globus recently restarted its tours with a trip in the Canadian Rockies and it was a success, and we’ve even had to add departures. Next year is off to a strong start and we’re estimating that we’ll do half of what we did in 2019, and we’re already 60% towards that goal. Two-thirds of our FTCs haven’t been rebooked yet. Our BDMs would love to create a plan with you to help you lock in that business. We’re also optimistic about the safety of group touring. We can help travellers maneuver around the hassles.”
And here’s what ‘The Power of Partnerships’ panel said about commissions and survival strategies …
RANDALL SOY – REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
“We’re getting great feedback from agents about our commission policy. We paying on the cancelled cruise and then again when the rebooked cruise sails. It’s not about cash flow, it’s rewarding their earnings on what they sold on our product. Their role has been crucial. We’re not giving it – they’re earning it. Survival strategies? Don’t be too proud to ask for help. There is a solution that’s right for your business and we’re hear for you to help you on that path.”
STEVE SMOTRYS – CUNARD & SEABOURN
“At Seabourn and Cunard we’ve always had the policy to pay commission at full payment. We urge agents to tap into that pent-up demand that’s out there. Going forward, there will be a lot of changes in the cruise and travel experience, but people will embrace it because people want to go on vacation. That’s not going to change.”
PAULA HAYES – GLOBUS FAMILY OF BRANDS (U.S.)
“We’re one of the few [suppliers] paying either if deposited or under full payment. We will continue to do that for the future. We’re also paying early commission on 2021 bookings. We started that in August 2020, we paid retroactively on anything that was on the books for 2021 or 2022. That was huge for our advisers. They really appreciated that cash flow. We will extend that policy through Feb. 28, 2021.”
STEPHANIE BISHOP – GLOBUS FAMILY OF BRANDS (CANADA)
Globus pays commission at time of final payment as well as on future travel credits. “We’ve always paid commission to agents at final payment. On new bookings we’ll do the same as our colleagues in the U.S., with advance commission on deposit. We are in this for the long haul.”