Industry bottom line: Happier days are here again, but no way to say if it’s all good times ahead. The numbers clearly indicate an industry recovery in progress.
The 2011-12 LCT Fact Book survey provides a solid measure of relief this year, following the “terrible two” years of 2008 and 2009. We saw hints of an upturn as last year’s Fact Book went to press, but now we have some reliable numbers to show it.
Most notable this year was the high number of operators who responded to our annual survey, which was revised, rephrased, and reorganized for a changing industry. We used 460 responses from online and print survey forms, yielding a + 4.3% margin of error at a 95% confidence level. Most participants responded online. That makes sorting and compiling results mercifully easier and more accurate.
One added bonus you’ll see in the following pages are the Fact Book’s “Info Bursts.” These takeout items indicate added statistics gleaned from non-LCT sources that complement our survey findings.
Here are a few standout stats and trends from this year’s survey:
Corporate travel still climbing back: 44% of operator revenue in 2010 was derived from business/corporate clients, up from 36% in 2009, but still below 50% in 2008.
Airport advantages: Almost half of all chauffeured transportation business is connected to servicing airports.
Trendy with tech: Although tablet style computers such as the iPad have only been out a relatively short time, already one-fourth of operators are using them as part of their technology regimes.
Social media succeeds: 63% of operators have put their companies on Facebook while 32% of operators use Twitter for marketing/social contact.
Revenues UP: Of all operators who earned $3 million or less in annual revenues in 2010, the average annual revenue was $643,832, up from $489,993 in 2009. (LCT re-asked operators for their 2009 figures in this year’s survey).
Majority success: Almost 7 out of 10 operators reported a revenue increase from 2009 to 2010.
Holding their own: Even with the worst recession since the Great Depression, a full one-third (33%) of chauffeured transportation operators saw revenues actually increase in calendar years 2008 and 2009.
Not quite there yet: The average operator profit margin is almost back up to the 2007 level.
Despite the rosier numbers this year, we go to press well aware of the economic challenges gathering, with higher fuel prices, food inflation, anemic job growth, record federal deficits, revenue-strapped state governments, and falling home values.
But there are always countervailing good signs as well: Corporate profits are healthy, with a lot of corporate cash on the sidelines; investment and venture capital are up; the financial markets are holding their own; the economy has technically been growing since July 2009; and the political momentum is in favor of cutting government spending. We won’t make any predictions, but we can say the numbers look not bad for now, but not good enough yet for the long haul.
COMPLETE FACT BOOK SURVEY NUMBERS will be posted on LCT's redesigned web site, launching this summer.