Ensemble Travel Group has revamped its agent extranet as well as ClientSite, the consumer-facing website it provides its members.
“Rather than continue to tweak our existing platforms, we adopted a ‘leap-frog’ approach that effectively takes us to a whole new level in one fell swoop,” said Ensemble’s Marc Jacobsen, senior director of IT in North America.
He said agents had a great deal of input in the redesigns of the sites, both of which were designed to make travel agents more efficient.
The extranet, which is scheduled to go live Dec. 9, has been redesigned to make it easier for agents to search. Ensemble said it has added content and categorized it in a logical, easy-to-find fashion so members can search with fewer clicks for exclusive Ensemble and cruise and land offerings, supplier offers and fam trips.
It also offers one-click access to Ensemble Express, which includes booking engines for air, cruise, hotels, car rentals (which is new) and Ensemble’s On Location suppliers — destination specialists who can set up unique-to-a-destination experiences. Examples offered were one-on-one training with an Olympic athlete or a personalized wine tour.
The redesign is also intended to make the sites easier for suppliers to use. They will now be able to log on and update their content themselves rather than having to send updated content to Ensemble’s supplier-relations staff.
Libbie Rice, co-president of Ensemble, said, “Now [suppliers] can go online themselves and ensure that their information is up-to-date and accurate.”
Eric Goldring, owner of Goldring Travel, which specializes in luxury cruises, said that previously, agent extranet content had been somewhat static but that the new supplier interface changed that.
In the past, he said, an agent would have to go to one part of the extranet to search for a certain travel component, then go to a different part to find another component. He said it now works more like a one-stop shop.
Jani Miller, president and CEO of Central Travel, who also serves on the Ensemble technology committee, described the new extranet as a “single global solution.”
“Anything can be found in two clicks,” she said, adding that it’s far easier to find preferred suppliers on the site, even when she can’t remember the correct name.
“You just enter one keyword and it pops up,” she said. “I love it.”
Goldring, whose website is a Travel Weekly 2013 Silver Magellan Award winner, also praised the new ClientSite design.
He said the site now has a simple graphical interface that makes it easy for agents to customize their own websites. He uses rolling photos to draw clients’ attention and has structured his site so that it’s easy for them to find what they’re looking for — but also easy for Google and Yahoo to find him.
Goldring said it was very easy to import existing content that he has created over the years to his new site.
“I really can’t imagine a better interface than what we have,” he said.
Goldring, who also serves on Ensemble’s technology committee, said agents can choose their own look for the site.
“If you have 27 cruise specials at $399 and you want to roll those around your website, you can do that,” he said. “If you have a booking engine, you have the ability to have that. If you look at my website vs. other Ensemble websites, you’ll see that it’s a very unique thing.”
Miller said the new ClientSite is easy to use for agents who are not experienced in website design and a time-saver for her agency, which updates its site almost daily.
Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.