MOHEGAN SUN RESORT & CASINO, CT — There is clearly a long-term trend for limousine operators to get into the motorcoach business, as seen by evolving line-up of mini- and limo-buses throughout the industry. At the same time, traditional charter bus operators are entering the arena of limo-bus operations, further eroding the line between traditional chauffeured transportation companies and charter bus companies.
This trend was most reflected in the re-branding this year of Limousine & Chauffeur Transportation Magazine to Limousine, Charter & Tour Magazine as the two industries merge in many ways. To this end, LCT East featured Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, who presented a panoramic overview of the challenges facing the motorcoach industry now and into the future as well as future growth of the ground transportation industry.
Pantuso shared information of legislation about to be authorized by the U.S. Congress that addresses congested roadways and the concerns for environmental stewardship, along with the responsibilities of transportation providers. Pantuso said the passenger transportation industry is well positioned to be the vehicle of choice in the future.
Pantuso was optimistic about the opportunities for the future. He stressed that the needs of the traveling public have changed dramatically in the bus industry as the expectations for excellent customer service and well-maintained equipment have increased. Passenger safety also has become a higher concern among corporate entities securing such services and the eyes of the government.
The government is looking at methods to improve the safety of the traveling public by considering a redesign of buses as we know them today by mandating seat belts, adding additional entry and exit doors, and fortifying the structural components of the roofs to hold up better in a rollover incident. Of course all of these things will push the total price of a coach up more than $100,000 when financed. Meanwhile, the government is considering replacing the 17-cent exemption in fuel taxes enjoyed by the industry with an additional tax ranging from 50 cents to $1 again, thereby increasing the total operational expense.
Pantuso provided a breakdown of the new face of the traveling public. In the past, there was a tendency to consider the average charter bus full of senior citizens heading off to the casino. Today, that demographic accounts for less than 40% of charter bus passengers. They have been eclipsed by the baby boom generation, now ages 45 to 63, that represents more than 40% of the customer base. Along with the change of customers came a change in demand for services not previously thought of. These include plug-in jacks for iPods and other devices. The boomers can’t be disconnected from the world so they are demanding WiFi service onboard. They want galleys to prepare food and beverages. They want DVD players instead of VCRs.
Even the way the public books its transportation has changed with the Internet offering the opportunity to display photos of equipment available and offer online reservations.
Source: Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor