SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — In July, I was fortunate enough to take a mini-vacation to Puerto Rico, and on my way through San Juan, I stopped off to visit Royal Star Limousine Services.
Chauffeur José Febus, immaculately dressed and professional, met me at the baggage claim and whisked me to Royal Star’s facilities. José, who also does sales and marketing for the company, told me that the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (a government body) requires extensive tourism training for taxi drivers and chauffeurs before they can get behind the wheel.
After a tour of Royal Star’s place, José put some of that tourism knowledge in play, taking me to a hidden gem of a Spanish bakery called Panadería España Repostería. It’s the kind of place you would never find if you didn’t know where it was. (I highly recommend the coffee, by the way.)
I first came to know of Royal Star when I caught wind that Riverside, Calif.-based Grech Motors had shipped its first vehicle to the island in May. Erica Gardner, co-owner of Royal Star, bought the new bus to support the company’s growing corporate business. These clients are especially interested in traveling in something more comfortable than a standard shuttle bus. So far, they’ve been enamored with the Grech F550, a 27-passenger model with leather seats.
Royal Star chauffeur Jose Febus, who also helps market the company, gets extensive training from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
“I’ve [received] nothing but compliments on it,” Gardner says. “The bus has been [going] non-stop since I got it.” I hadn’t realized it but Puerto Rico has a thriving pharmaceuticals manufacturing industry, and many companies need to
transport doctors throughout the island to tour the plants. “That’s our main source for the bus,” she says.
Royal Star also provides service to the federal government, transporting judges from Latin American countries who are being trained by Puerto Rico’s bilingual judges.
Now a seven-vehicle company, Royal Star was founded in 1988 by Gardner’s husband, Jose Pepe Del Coro, and his mother. Gardner came to Puerto Rico in 1990 with the U.S. Coast Guard. The couple married in 1993, and after Erica’s term of service with the Coast Guard was complete, she entered the limousine business.
Gardner says her military background has helped her run the business, especially training chauffeurs. “I train them intensely,” she says. “The more training you have, the less stressful [an emergency] situation will be.”
Royal Star Limousine bought this 27-passenger Grech F550 bus to meet demand from a growing corporate business in Puerto Rico.
Also, after attending an International LCT Show, she recognized how fast technology was advancing and adopted reservation software and social media to bolster efficiency and marketing efforts. It’s helped the company move ahead very quickly, she says, but notes that networking is still important to finding affiliate partners. “I think the biggest challenge that we face is being secluded from the mainland.”
Another challenge is that island pricing is different than in the states because demand varies. “It limits us in the volume of work. When we set our pricing structures, we have to keep that in mind.”
She hopes the tourism industry keeps growing on the island, as evidenced by new hotels popping up. I can say from my two visits that it certainly warrants another.