LAS VEGAS — One year after incorporating, the Limousine Operators Association of Las Vegas (LOA) got formal status Jan. 28 from the National Limousine Association, joining a network of 34 state and regional industry associations nationwide working to advance operator interests.
Brent Bell, LOA president and CEO of the city’s oldest chauffeured transportation provider, Bell Trans, said the association is focusing on three key items:
1) Trying to build a consensus against the Avis WeDriveU chauffeured business model, which skirts regulations and fees that apply to regulated chauffeured transportation companies. LOA is working with authorities at McCarran International Airport and with state legislators to look for an close any loopholes that enables Avis WeDriveU to avoid being classified as a conventional chauffeured transportation company.
2)Work with the Nevada Transportation Authority to make sure some operators are not about charging lowball rates that undercut the legal market for chauffeured transportation. “That hurts the industry as a whole,” Bell said. “We’ve been working with them on that, working to make sure economic conditions stay sound, and make sure not every person and type of vehicle is flooding the streets.”
3) Look for ways to help the state save money by making the agency that regulates limousines, the Nevada Transportation Authority, self-sufficient based on its fee structure so that it is not subject to the mercies of state budget woes. Also consider combining agencies/authorities that regulate taxicabs and limousines to streamline them. “We will work with the legislature on how to be more self-sufficient, and charge ourselves for the regulation,” Bell said. “We just as soon not be impacted by the state budget.”
Founding members of the LOA, which incorporated in February 2009, include: Charlie Horkey, owner/president of CLS Nevada; B.J. Balaban of On Demand Sedan & Limousine; Ray Chenoweth of Ambassador Limousine; Alan Waxler of Alan Waxler Group (AWG Inc.); Mark James of Las Vegas Limousines; and J.J. Bell of Presidential Limousine.
One formidable challenge the chauffeured transportation industry has faced in Las Vegas this past year has been the politically charged anti-business travel climate that decimated convention and trade show events and the number of visitors. That fallout was in part triggered by President Obama early last year whose public gaffes portraying Las Vegas as an irresponsible, excessive luxury destination tanked business throughout 2009. A similar gaffe last month rekindled the outrage in the city’s tourism, convention, and hospitality industries.
“We’ve taken a massive hit,” Bell said. “The first remark from the President was devastating. It hit home hard. Many companies and operators in Las Vegas had big groups booked. . . I personally remember seeing cancellations flying off the books after that happened. I think we were slated to move several of the Wells Fargo people, but it was all scuttled.”
As to President Obama’s second remark, Bell said, “I don’t know how much his last statement might hurt. I think a lot of people just aren’t listening to him anymore.”
As a result of the recession and Las Vegas visitor slowdown in 2009, Bell estimated his limousine business was off about 18-24% during the last year and a half. In comparison, the taxicab portion of Bell Trans was down six to eight percent. Bell Trans overall has seen a slight comeback starting last month, but so far that does not include the limousine market.
Bell Trans now draws 65% of its business from taxicabs and 35% from limousine vehicles and buses. Bell said it now has 250 stretch limousines, 35 sedans, 10 SUVs, 135 mini-buses, five limo-buses, and 450 taxicabs.
“We’re just trying to survive,” Bell said. “I’m still buying new limos, but not as many as I was.”
— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine