Though The Mile High City is justifiably famous as the gateway to Colorado’s world-class ski resorts, Denver is also a major business hub.
Corporate work, consisting primarily of airport runs, represents about 70% of limousine operators’ collective business. Mountain runs during the ski season (November to April) account for about 5% to 10% of operators’ business.
About 180 limousine companies serve the Denver metropolitan area. One-to-three-car operators make up about 85% of the city’s operators, with a fair portion only operating sedans.
Competition * Denver is a competitive market but price cutting is “not a major factor,” said Cris Haiskey, president of Towne and Country Limousine. * The area has had one of the worst economies in the country since the burst of the dot-com bubble. Operators’ business has declined 15% to 20%. * Tourism industry spending has been “horrible” lately since many people don’t have the disposable income they once did, said Two Step Limousine’s Vice President Walter Curtis. Business is getting better but “is nowhere near before 9/11.”
What’s Unique * The Colorado Public Utilities Commission grants special licenses to mountain carriers to operate 10-passenger vans that run as a shuttle service from Denver to mountain areas like Vail (two hours away) and Aspen (four hours away) on an every-hour-on-the-hour basis during the ski season. * “It’s not a pre-arranged transportation service, as with the limousine industry,” Haiskey explained, “and there’s always a set per-person fee.” * Limousine operators were granted the right to operate vans by the PUC in the mid-1990s, but the mountain carriers continue to perform the majority of the area’s mountain shuttle work.
Licensing Issues * In order to obtain a limousine authority from the PUC, limousine operators are required to feature beverage service, a television and a cellular phone in all their vehicles, including sedans. * “We’ve tried to get it changed, but we’ve got opposition from the cab companies and the mountain carriers,” Haiskey said, explaining that taxicab companies have greater political clout.
Airport Regulations * Extra security gates that restrict access to the drop off/pick up areas at Denver Airport have been put in place and can only be opened with special badges. * Chauffeurs cannot have felony charges and must be fingerprinted, watch a 20-minute movie about safety and pass a security test administered by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration before being allowed to purchase a badge. * The fingerprinting and testing of each chauffeur costs $40, advised Michele Rossi, president of Presidential Limousine, and can take up to 30 days. * There is an additional $10 fee for each badge. * All badges expire in July of each year regardless of which month they were bought.
Vehicles * SUVs are more common than in most cities of similar size, since their rugged nature makes them practical when taking people up to the mountains in the winter.
Local Associations * The Limousine Association of Colorado has about 35 member companies and won LCT’s Association of the Year award in 2003. An operator must have a PUC license and show proof of insurance to become a member. The association has two members on the airport advisory board. Cris Haiskey, Towne & Country Limousine, is president. Phone: (303) 576-8123; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.laoconline.com.