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There’s good news for large fleet operators who supply full transportation services for meetings and conventions — and those smaller companies looking to gain a slice of the farm-out pie. 2016 is shaping up to be another growth year.
Positive economic trends combined with the global expansion of companies will drive growth for the meetings industry this year, according to the American Express Meetings & Events 2016 Global Meetings Forecast.
Companies are bullish on holding employee face-to-face meetings, although we live in a 24/7 non-stop digital communication age, the report states.
“The resurgence of meetings and events over the past few years has allowed meeting professionals to demonstrate the strong value that face-to-face meetings continue to offer globally,” said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events.
Another bright spot for limousine companies is an expected increase in the size of meetings and conventions, which bodes well for operations that can supply a range of vehicles for multiple transportation needs during the event.
“Our buses are running nonstop and many days our buses are sold out,” said George Jacobs, owner of Windy City Limousine in Chicago. Jacobs notes that he also gets bus bookings for special event outings, airport transfers, road shows, concerts, college sports teams, bands and “even the debate team.”
He notes that sports teams, for example, may need a motorcoach or a mini-bus depending on the number of people, equipment and the distance they must travel, and whether or not they need a vehicle with a restroom. He emphasizes that operators need to be able to handle all requests.
Regarding convention business, Jacobs has noticed people are more worried about prices. “For example, they may use sedans when they arrive at the airport, but they’ll group together in a mini-bus to save money on the return and that saves them money.”
He also has seen heavy use of buses to shuttle large groups among hotels and conventions sites that run continuous routes. Convention planners are looking for a one-stop-shop vendor to provide all transportation needs, he says. They want a company to offer sedans, SUVs and buses to also take them to dinners, functions and events.
Still, operators embedded in the meetings and convention business say that planners hiring ground transportation are cost conscious, expect more services, and don’t always understand the difficulty of logistics and the operation of motorcoaches.
“Meeting planners are looking for vendors like us to do more of the legwork to help them design more trips,” says Tony Simon, COO of Reston Limousine in Dulles, Va. “Everybody is stretched these days. It’s twofold — clients are looking for low pricing and meetings planners are trying to make a decent amount of money.”
One of the trends Simon notices is that meeting planners are making more last-minute changes and expecting transportation providers to make it happen.
“Society is all about ‘now’ and people feel they can get anything they want, whenever they want,” he adds. “For example, a wedding planner may have ordered one bus and then ask for two more buses at the last minute and expect it to just happen. It’s actually becoming the norm so we have to scramble to provide more buses. We’ve basically adapted and are used to it now.”