How To Price Event-Related Movements

John M. Greene
Posted on August 18, 2012



Picking up a CEO at the airport is simple enough, but when he’s followed off the plane by 40 to 50 of his people on their way to a convention taking place in three different locations, with everyone staying at a different hotel, you want to make sure you have properly planned for every scenario. And there are many ways to do that.

We recently had the privilege of working with Plaza Limousine and the Boston Red Sox on the gala event surrounding the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. We had to coordinate pickup and delivery of 150 former Red Sox players, take them from the airport to the numerous hotels they were staying at, then over to Fenway Park, and then the process had to be reversed. Add into the equation the fact that every player had a Red Sox representative shadowing them and you could see the potential for a logistical nightmare. At one point we had more than 60 vehicles in motion around the city at the same time — pretty much creating our own mini rush hour.

Still, everything ran like clockwork. The Boston Red Sox, an incredibly organized corporation, enabled us to see the big picture as much in advance as possible, thus eliminating any surprises. Dealing with large groups takes precision, organization, and exact planning.

Get the big picture
For starters, know what’s going on in your area that might warrant your services. One of the best ways is to be in constant contact with the local convention board, visitors’ bureau and chambers of commerce. Usually nothing of any significance comes into the city without them knowing it first. And if you are a member of any of these organizations, there’s a good chance you will have the opportunity to present an RFP for services.

The key here is to make sure what you offer is what you can handle. Know how many vehicles you can provide and have a back-up plan ready in the shape of reliable contractors who can quickly pick up the slack. Measure twice and cut once, because chances are if you mess up with this client you are going to get “cut” out quickly the next time.

The best way to get a handle on a particular job involving a large incoming group is to try and deal directly with the travel agency handling the incoming flights. That way you will be able to obtain from them a complete itinerary of who’s arriving and when, on what airline, and where they are staying. If you can do this, and are able to import it directly into your ground transportation software, you are way ahead of the game. The alternative is that your contact information is given to the incoming guests who will be calling you, not a scenario you want as you have no control over how many people you are picking up, when they are coming in, etc.

Pricing challenges
This scenario also makes pricing difficult. For instance, if you know for a fact 10 people are coming in on United 123 at Logan International Airport at 9:30 a.m., you can send a mini-bus to pick them up; one trip, nice and smooth. Maybe you charge $30 per person. But if you don’t have that information, and you quote $30 a person, you will see what little profit margin you might have dwindle away when those 10 people come in at different times; now you need to make two, three, four different trips to pick them up.

Working directly with a travel agency lets you see the whole jigsaw puzzle at once. It’s a lot easier than trying to guess what the image is with a dozen pieces missing. Many moving parts are involved, so the better handle you can get on them, the better off you — and the client — will be. This is also advantageous to the travel agent.

“We are in the meetings department and not corporate travel agents, so it is vital to us to have a great relationship with our ground transportation company,” says Laura Lage, operations manager in the meetings and incentives department for Atlas Travel. “As our clients plan to attend their meetings and/or conferences, we want their transportation to be seamless and stress free. Having a transportation company be on time, be visible to the clients that are being picked up, and be able to make last minute changes makes the client happy and both of us look good.

hen we work with a transportation company we expect great communication between us to make the upcoming event flawless. We also expect them to be one step ahead in case of last minute changes or emergencies.”

Pricing it right
Of course, once you know all the variables then you can accurately price out the job, an important factor when a lot of your pricing will depend on which types of vehicles you have to put in motion. And remember you may have to be involved with spouse tours, which means allocating vehicles and manpower to shuttling spouses and family members to museums, sporting events, shopping, and so forth.

That being said, once you know all the information, give a price based on value, not what you perceive will be the lowest bid. Our industry already has a small profit margin, so don’t carve away at it like a Thanksgiving turkey by getting into a bidding war.

Don’t forget old faithfuls
Finally, once you have committed most of your fleet to be tied up with a major group coming in, that doesn’t mean your regular clients will suddenly stop calling you. Be prepared. You don’t want to lose a faithful client who has helped keep your lights on over the years because you don’t have the vehicles to service them. Make sure you have good, reliable contractors at the ready should a need arise. In other words, don’t jeopardize a good long marriage for a one week fling.

Working with large groups takes hard work and a high level of commitment, plus the ability to juggle as many balls in the air as possible while still keeping your eye on the overall “big” picture. There are many moving parts, and at any time one of them could veer off down an unexpected path. But if you can deliver on what you priced, and deliver it with the highest level of service, then you’ll discover the most important thing in our industry — repeat business.

Related Topics: group transportation, group travel, How To, service pricing, special events

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