Ensemble Travel Group said Navigatr Group’s agreement to acquire the travel agency consortium will benefit Ensemble members and ultimately the traveling public.
An overwhelming majority of Ensemble Travel Group’s 312 shareholders, or 83%, approved the acquisition.
Until now, Ensemble operated as a cooperative, with each member agency owning a share of the business. The move, “a pretty big process,” will make the company private, CEO David Harris said in an interview. The terms of the contract are not disclosed.
And while the transition is no small task, when it’s complete, he predicted it will be a “win-win-win” for Ensemble members, suppliers and consumers.
Harris said Ensemble had already received requests from agencies interested in joining following the announcement of the acquisition.
Once the Navigatr deal is completed, Ensemble will operate as a stand-alone entity under the Toronto-based Navigatr umbrella. And while Navigatr will provide tools like new technology to Ensemble agencies, members will have the ability to transact like they always have, and things will remain relatively unchanged.
“The well-known Ensemble brand for over 50 years will remain,” Harris said. “It’s about keeping things that work really well and improving in other areas where there’s a need for improvement.”
Ensemble, headquartered in New York, was established in 1968 as the Greater Independent Association of National Travel Services (GIANTS) and renamed Ensemble in 2004. Today, its 312 shareholders represent more than 600 agencies in the States United States and Canada.
Under a new structure, Harris will become the chairman of Ensemble. Michael Johnson, who joined Navigatr in 2021 without a specific title, will become president of Ensemble. Johnson had served as president of host agency Travel Edge, a Navigatr portfolio company, until September 2021. Navigatr’s other investments include travel technology company TripArc and Kensington Tours.
Navigatr’s Technology Should Help Agency’s Profitability
TripArc’s ADX platform will be a boon to Ensemble members, Harris said, and will allow them “to perform certain types of transactions that are not as readily or even readily available on other platforms.” . The fact that ADX was designed as a B2B program with agents in mind is also a plus.
Johnson said in an interview that Navigatr is dedicated to improving agency returns and margins and that ADX — which enables agents to create routes, book and set prices — is key to that mission.
“Ensemble already recognizes the value of agency and travel counseling and selling, as does Navigatr,” he said.
Navigatr and Ensemble began talking about a potential deal months ago. Johnson said they each recognized that “both organizations had considerable strength and that those strengths were in fact complementary.” Navigatr’s technology and Ensemble’s well-established community of brands and agencies work well together, he said.
As the talks progressed, Ensemble held a number of meetings with shareholders to communicate the terms of the agreement and the benefits of an acquisition, Harris said. The objectives of the two companies were to respect the legalities of the transaction but also to communicate well with the members of Ensemble.
The acquisition of Navigatr is expected to be finalized by the end of the month, but the process has not been without controversy.
Earlier this month, business travel agency consortium Hickory Global Partners said it had made a competing bid to acquire Ensemble, but claimed that Ensemble never disclosed the offer to members. Hickory also claimed that Ensemble was rushing the acquisition of Navigatr.
After Hickory’s statement on his offer was released, Ensemble member Eric Goldring, owner of Goldring Travel in Truckee, Calif., raised suspicions at the time. Goldring postulated that Hickory’s statement was intended to upset the impending vote on the Navigatr transaction.
Ensemble declined to comment on Hickory’s statement.