DALLAS -- Ensemble Travel Group is on track for the most lucrative year in its 49-year history despite travel disruptions from recent natural disasters.

The company, which had its best year in 2016, is on track to beat those numbers because of increases in all travel categories, Ensemble co-president Lindsay Pearlman told a media gathering.

"We're doing really well in pretty much every category," he said. "We're a little concerned about the impact of the hurricanes and [last month's Mexico] earthquake, but we'll know more in about a month."

Despite record numbers, both Pearlman and co-president Libbie Rice acknowledged that last year's launches of the Aviate and Navigate air- and cruise-booking systems have required additional work to make them more user-friendly to member agents.

Australia-based Aviate needed tweaks to its user interface to be better suited for North American travel agents -- users were initially sent through the Galileo GDS largely used in Australia instead of Apollo, which is more widely used among U.S. agents.

Ensemble established an Aviate support desk last month to give users more support, though Rice also said Aviate's visual interface "needs a little bit of a facelift."

As for Navigate, Ensemble has redeployed employees specifically "to bridge the gap between vendors and infrastructure," according to Rice.

"Has the rollout of Navigate gone as smoothly as expected? No," Rice told an audience of about 900 attendees on Monday. "It's all part of our cultural shift to spend more time in the planning stages."

Ensemble has added 16 preferred suppliers to its stable, including Carnival Cruise Line, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan National Tourism Organization, Norwegian Air, TAP Portugal, Eva Airways and Onefinestay.

Pearlman said it added Carnival because its distribution strategy has evolved "relative to 3 to 5 years ago," when the company focused more on direct sales.

"The members were asking for it," added Pearlman. "We do extremely well with them."

 Ensemble executives along with ASTA announced the creation of the "Susan D. Tanzman Inspiration Award" in honor of the late travel agent, who died in September. The award, to be given annually at ASTA's annual convention, embodies Tanzman's "inspiring nature and dedication to the agency community." Tanzman headed Los Angeles-based Martin's Travel & Tours.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI