Hilik Swimir was a student at Columbia University when he submitted his senior thesis business plan for a luxury bus company. The Israeli immigrant envisioned a fleet of specially modified coaches that would cater to the entertainment and fashion industry of New York City. He envisioned an on-board hostess with luxury amenities that would be reminiscent of a four star hotel.
Swimir, a trained engineer, proposed specific modifications to the standard coach which would make it more functional and attractive. These included the addition of a second rear door, an upgraded air conditioning system, and multipurpose seat configurations. In 1992, Royal Buses was born.
Royal Buses operates three luxury coaches and one modified recreational vehicle from its offices in Flushing, NY. The buses were originally standard coaches from Eagle and MCI that seated 49 passengers. Swimir gutted the interior of each vehicle and installed premium leather captains’ chairs and perimeter seating. After adding the rear door, he customized a hydraulic lift to operate the televisions. Top quality marble, glass, and lighting was then installed. The restrooms feature high- end fixtures and sleek granite floors. The electronics system is fully computerized. Passengers in the front of the vehicle can watch a video while passengers in the rear listen to the stereo.
Tal Mosca, director of sales, has targeted the fashion and entertainment industry. Major rock groups, MTV, VH1, and The Fashion Cafe are clients. A handful of Wall Street investment firms consistently rent the buses for company functions.
Swimir has also created the “Gil Gamlieli Beauty Express.” The bus becomes a full-service beauty salon on Friday afternoons. Gamlieli, a well-known stylist, provides full salon services as his clients are transported from midtown Manhattan to their summer homes in The Hamptons.
The company’s main advertising thrust is the New York Production Guide, a listing of approved vendors the entertainment industry uses when working in New York City. At about $200 per hour, Royal Buses’ vehicles command more than twice the average coach rate. With a minimum rental rate of $ 1,100 for a three-hour wedding, Royal Buses has developed a strong secondary market. The company advertises in both New York and Connecticut wedding guides.
“We have created a totally unique niche in a very competitive city,” says Mosca.
According to Swimir, the company has become profitable for one important reason. “I am able to do a lot of the maintenance and mechanical work in house,” he says. “This saves my company a tremendous amount of money.”