Ensemble Executive Retreat Comes to the NWT

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April 6, 2018
The Northwest Territories has new fans. From March 24-28, 155 travel agency owners and partners landed in Yellowknife to experience tourism products and services. 


Photo: Bill Braden

The trip was part of the Ensemble Executive Retreat, an invitation-only annual event that brings together industry VIPs. The group has impressive contact lists and a wide-reach amongst industry, which can bode well for the NWT. Since their visit, several additional bookings from their clients are already underway, including a group of 40 in the spring of 2019, two school groups of 15 people each in 2019, and a group of 80 in the fall of 2020 to Yellowknife and Inuvik.

The groundwork for the NWT to host the prestigious event began several years ago, and northern business, Top of the World Travel was a key part in making it happen. Top of the World Travel is a member of the Ensemble Group and the inbound tour division Touch the Arctic Tours is a preferred partner. They are also the destination marketing company for the NWT and recommended that NWT Tourism attend the 2015 Ensemble Conference.

 Michelle Handley, Manager of NWT Conference Bureau at NWT Tourism, attended and pitched the idea of bringing the conference north during a speaking opportunity.


Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel. NWTT's Michelle Handley speaks at the Ensemble Retreat.

“The speaker before me had talked about their latest private jets and luxury cruise lines, so it was a little nerve-racking to speak in front of 1,100 people and portray how incredible, rugged and pristine the NWT is,” says Handley. “I started the presentation with footage of the Yellowknives Dene Drummers and after that you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Everyone was moved, and from that moment on, I knew they were hooked on the NWT.”

Welcoming Ensemble retreat delegates to the NWT is an example of how Top of the World Travel and the NWT Conference Bureau are helping to grow a strong sector for the territory’s tourism market: business travel.

Combining Industry Learning with NWT Excursions
The guests have had a rigorous schedule while in the NWT; combining learning sessions and networking with a variety of tourism experiences that they may take back to their agencies for promotion. In addition to taking in the Snow Castle and Long John Jamboree festivities, the group hired local tour operators for snowmobile tours, city tours, aurora viewing excursions, Indigenous cultural tours, dogsledding, fat tire bike tours, flightseeing, ice caves and much more.


Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel

“I think the most amazing part of our experience was observing the arrival of travel savvy people getting off a plane complaining about the cold, into people with this wonderment of their surroundings,” said Lindsay Pearlman, Co- President of Ensemble Travel Group. “Getting people to bundle up and seeing them embrace Yellowknife and all its natural beauty was fantastic. The only thing warmer than the gear was the people, they genuinely welcomed all of us. It was wonderful!”

Ensemble Retreat

Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel


Photo: Bill Braden

NWT Expo

A special NWT Expo was hosted on March 25 by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Ensemble Travel Group, NWT Tourism, and Top of the World Travel.

Because the retreat took place in Yellowknife, the inspiration behind the expo was to bring a sample of the whole NWT to the group.

Ensemble Retreat - NWT Expo

Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel

Handmade artwork from artists from every region of the NWT was on display, including beadwork, moose hair tufting, birch bark baskets and garments.

Ensemble Retreat - NWT Expo 2

Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel

Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur, which was part of the displays, was a highly popular part of the showcase.

Ensemble Retreat - NWT Expo 3

Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel

Local ingredients, including NWT mushrooms, Arctic Char, whitefish, Polar Eggs, rosehip jelly, and birch syrup, were part of the menu developed by Etienne Croteau of the Flavour Trader.


Large screens also projected aurora footage as well as wildlife, landscapes and experiences from across the NWT. The footage was so popular that some delegates asked for copies to show at meetings.

Ensemble Retreat - NWT Expo 4

Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel. Ensemble’s Co-Presidents Lindsay Pearlman and Libbie Rice welcomed the delegates to the NWT.


Photo: Lisa Kedian/Top of the World Travel. ITI’s Tracy St. Denis, highlights the regional representation that infused the room’s décor and menu; and invites delegates, and their clients, to return to the NWT.

“This year marked the 11th annual Executive Retreat. We have held this event in some of Canada’s most spectacular locations and resorts. And every year, we have rave reviews. However, the bar has now been raised so high, that I think every year after will be compared to our experience in spectacular Yellowknife, NWT,” said Cristie Newell, Senior Director Training & Events, Ensemble Travel Group.


“There was something special, something different. It was real and authentic. The attendees were “giddy” every day, we felt like kids staggering around in 40 pounds of winter gear, going down slides and cuddling dogs! Thank you to GNWT, NWTT, Top of the World Travel and everyone else in Yellowknife that made our event truly memorable. The only thing on people’s minds now is “When can we come back?”