Randy and Lynn Allen have seen holiday lights tours revenue increase for their Richmond, Va.-based company, James Limousine.
RICHMOND, Va. — As retailers tally up holiday sales and consumers get credit card bills in the mail, operator Randy Allen gets to un-stuff a stocking full of revenue for his company, James Limousine.
For 23 years, James Limousine and other Virginia limousine companies have seen demand grow for “Tacky Light Tours” during the holiday season in the Richmond, Va. region. While December is a traditionally slow time of year for chauffeured transportation operators, the multiplying number of extravagant holiday lights displays are fueling demand for organized tours and offering operators a chance to use and showcase stretch limousines. Stretches have steadily declined in popularity for the last 10 years as SUVs, luxury sedans, and mini-buses increasingly define chauffeured transportation.
Allen reports James Limousine’s 2011 lights tours revenue grew 25% compared to the 2010 Christmas season. He estimates that James Limousine and other Richmond-area limousine and bus companies overall drew about $500,000 in revenue last month on a total of 800 tours.
“Vehicles booked included sedans, SUVs, stretch limousines, mini-coaches, and buses,” Allen told LCT. “We even saw a jacked-up SUV stretch limousine with the body raised one foot.”
In Richmond, the capital city of Virginia, the holiday lights tours drew national media attention this season with special features on CBS Sunday Morning and NBC Nightly News. The Learning Channel ran a special for the sixth consecutive year called Crazy Christmas Lights, featuring Richmond-area homes with “tacky” lights.
There are even two dedicated tacky light tour web sites at http://www.tackylighttour.com/ and http://www.christmasonwendhurst.com/.
“We booked tours for out-of-town visitors that came to the area specifically for the TLT,” Allen said.
But with success and opportunity, there always comes a price. With more attention, crowds, and bookings, operators have to handle some accompanying bad behavior on the tours.
“Drunk and rowdy guests are becoming a significant problem, especially from some limo and bus companies that do not monitor their passengers properly,” Allen reports. “Cursing in front of families and small children and trespassing into neighbor’s yards to go to the bathroom are the most frequent problems.”
If limousine and bus companies do not monitor and deter such behavior, the tours and their lucrative revenue stream could diminish over time, Allen warns. James Limousine, for example, provides crowd monitoring and help to the homeowner of one of the most popular stops on the tour and forbids passengers from exiting commercial vehicles while rolling through neighborhoods.
See related LCT article: Christmas Lights Tours Help Operators Tap Unused Stretches
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor