The nation’s love affair with football will be on display at Super Bowl XXXVIII, held at Reliant Stadium Feb.1. The Super Bowl Host Committee expects more than 100,000 people to visit the city with an estimated economic impact of $300 million. Many of those visitors will be spending money on chauffeured transportation.
As America’s biggest annual sporting event returns to Houston for the first time since 1974, limousine operators are turning to past host cities for guidance and suggestions as they prepare. Operators are expecting business from football fans and executives, corporate bigwigs, incentive travelers, athletes and celebrities.
Number of Operators and Vehicles
*About 260 operators are licensed by the city. More than 95% are considered small or medium, with less than 10 vehicles.
*More than 3,000 chauffeured vehicles are expected to transport attendees of the Super Bowl, says David Schovajsa, president of the Limousine Association of Houston and CEO of Franklin Corporate Transportation.
* John Ferrari, vice president of AFC Corporate Transportation, says 85% of his 92-vehicle fleet was reserved more than three months in advance, largely by corporate clients.
* To avoid last minute no-shows, Ferrari’s company required a 50% deposit at booking, with the remaining amount due three weeks before Super Bowl.
* Last-minute reservations are expected to come in after Jan. 19, when the two teams playing the Super Bowl have been decided. Most operators are holding some cars in anticipation of these requests and for regular customers.
* Not surprisingly, operators will be raising their rates in the week prior to the game. But the local association is urging operators not to price gouge.
* Schovajsa says most operators will only raise hourly rates 10% to 15%, similar to prom season and the holidays. But, he adds, the minimum number of hours will increase three-fold. “Most operators will [require] eight-hour minimums in the week leading up to Super Bowl. Saturday’s reservations will be for 10 hours and Sunday will require a 12-hour reservation.”
* Game-day parking passes at the stadium will be $150 per vehicle and will allow drivers to enter and exit only once. Minibus passes are $200.
* Out-of-town companies looking to get a piece of the action must contract with a Houston operator to add their vehicles under the local company’s limousine license.
* City officials are working to develop a same-day permitting system for vehicles, but fingerprinting and background checks will require drivers to be present in the city three to five days before they operate a vehicle.
* Stretched SUVs will be limited to those with QVM and CMC certification. The city will allow stretched Hummers because of their heavier frame, according to Schovajsa.
* Operators say they are not doing any extra advertising because demand is expected to surpass supply. “It doesn’t make sense to advertise when we know business will come to us,” says Robert Pomerleau, owner and president of Gulf Coast Limousine Services.
* Ridgeway International, bus operations provider for the NFL, will offer a driver-training program one week before the event. Drivers will have the opportunity to learn new ways to maneuver through the city while areas are off-limits and will receive a map with designated routes.
* In anticipation of the increased number of travelers due to the Super Bowl, airport officials will create a temporary staging lot at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Vehicles may also be diverted to taxi and shuttle areas or private vehicle lots to minimize congestion.
* Limousine Association of Houston: David Schovajsa of Franklin Corporate Transportation is president. Phone: (713) 956-6662; E-mail: email@example.com