One of the most amazing facts that I have noticed about this industry is the small number of operators that are getting business by the Internet. To be more specific, the small number of operators that are taking advantage of their Web sites. Even in wake of failing dot-coms, there are still a large number of people who use the Internet for a variety of needs.
When I travel, I always do a little research on the town that I'm traveling to (weather conditions, points of interest, entertainment, etc.). As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time that I booked a flight other than by using the Internet. If I, just one man, am doing this, you can just imagine how many other people are involved in e-commerce.
While 89 percent of operators admit that they have Internet access, only 52 percent say that they have a company Web site. This seems surprising to me. As an operator, isn't one of your goals getting your company noticed? Shouldn't you use all of your available assets to promote your business? If you're already connected to the Internet, then why not have a Web site?
One reason may be the misconception that creating and maintaining a Web site is difficult. You don't have to be a computer technician to set up a homepage. As a matter of fact, Yahoo and AOL have free services that take you step-by-step through the setup process. Once you have the homepage established, maintenance is a snap.
Then, the next thing you should do, as a beginning Webmaster, is to get your site recognized by some of the large search engines (Yahoo, Excite, Alta Vista, etc.). This can be done as easy as, in the case of Excite, clicking the words "Add URL" at the bottom of its homepage. Once this happens, you're off and running.
Another surprising number was the fact that only 40 percent of operators are accepting reservations through their Web sites. Again, with so many travelers accessing the Web for travel and destination information, it seems that operators can benefit a great deal from allowing clients to book trips online.
This is not only for the computer engineers of the world. There are a number of programs and services available that you can use, and most of them have customer service centers to help you with all of your questions. Some of them will even walk you through the program's setup. Once you do this, you'll not only have a Web site that is searchable by various search engines, but also an e-commerce site that, according to the numbers, will allow your customers more accessibility than 60 percent of the industry.
In today's world, where travelers are taking advantage of e-commerce and Internet-based services, the limousine industry, as well as other service-based business, needs to keep up with customer demand in order to keep a competitive edge in the market.