Operations

Christmas Lights Tours Help Operators Tap Unused Stretches

Posted on December 15, 2011

Stretch limousines are proving popular on the holiday lights tour circuit, a relatively hassle-free seasonal clientele.
Stretch limousines are proving popular on the holiday lights tour circuit, a relatively hassle-free seasonal clientele.

NORFOLK, Va. — If a string of simple white lights around an evergreen isn't enough Christmas for you, then you might want to know about the Tidewater Tinsel Tour.

Seven local limousine and car service companies, all members of the Virginia Limousine Association, have put together the region's first tour of holiday displays. It's a three-hour guided ride past all the big, brash and bright sites the organizers could find.

This year, they're all in Virginia Beach. But the limo companies hope more "Griswalds" from other cities will vie to become part of the lineup in the future, said Paul Walsh, president of Superior Executive Transportation. (The Griswald family excessively decked their halls in the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," starring Chevy Chase as the elder Griswald.)

Tidewater Tinsel Tour starts with "Holiday Lights at the Beach" on the Oceanfront boardwalk and moves on to other sites, including a house on Brockie Street that "has THE Griswald setup," Walsh said.

Prices vary by company but they're generally charging between $190 and $500, depending on the size of the vehicle and the number of passengers it can carry.

The operators hope the tour will become as popular as the Tacky Lights Tour in Richmond, which is booked solid every year, though they would never suggest that local displays are tacky.

The state of Virginia would indeed qualify as Ground Central for holiday light tours, given its status as the original British colony where American Christmas traditions started in the 17th Century. One limousine operator headquartered in Thomas Jefferson country, Dan Goff of A. Goff Transportation in Charlottesville, has seen a 225% increase in holiday light tours, with an average rate increase of about 12% for the same period. The company expects to chauffeur 3,000 people across the state this month on lights tours.

“We are seeing bigger demand for the minibuses with the company holiday party / company picnic client base being the hottest segment this year,” Goff told LCT. “I think it provides an opportunity for small companies to get employees together in one place for three hours to have fun while avoiding the cost of a rental hall and a band.”

A. Goff Transportation in Virginia houses extra limousines in Richmond each December to meet demand for holiday lights tours, referred to as tacky, but a growing Christmas tradition.
A. Goff Transportation in Virginia houses extra limousines in Richmond each December to meet demand for holiday lights tours, referred to as tacky, but a growing Christmas tradition.

A Goff, which serves all major Virginia cities, has seen its biggest increase in business in the capital city of Richmond, where the light tour volume has proven bigger than prom season. The company rents out about seven limousines for seven nights a week for nearly a month. “As a result of the December demand, we rent additional warehouse space in Richmond and add seasonal staff,” Goff said.

In A. Goff’s other primary markets of Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville and of course, Williamsburg, the state’s historical center and mecca of Colonial Virginia Christmas traditions, demand is increasing but does not yet match the volume in Richmond.A. Goff Virginia Tacky Lights Tours

Other operators doing brisk business on holiday light tours in Richmond include Randy Allen of James Limousine and Glenn Stafford of Love Limousine, both based in Richmond.

TACKY LIGHT TOURS LOCATOR AND DETAILS

Sources: The Virginia Pilot; Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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