The Trade Show That Told It Straight

Martin Romjue
Posted on December 4, 2017
2017 LCT East show floor action (LCT photos)

2017 LCT East show floor action (LCT photos)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One rule of industry trade shows always stands in tension: It’s a tough physical experience offset by plenty of professional rewards. As any seasoned attendee would know, good information can take the edge off the morning tiredness.

The just-done LCT-NLA Show East served this up in spades with its balance of networking versus new insights and opportunities. As we sort out this packed event, I offer a few quick takeaways to size up the industry situation:

Battle Of Convenience: For all the talk about pricing, the real challenge arises in using technology to make the client experience more convenient. One resounding theme was operators need to embrace change to make their services stand out. “You have to get to near-demand for clients and link to systems that talk to each other,” said Tim Rose, the CEO of Addison Lee North America and Flyte Tyme Worldwide.

The former president of the Limousine Association of New Jersey gave a state of the industry talk during an early morning LANJ meeting, hosted by president Jason Sharenow. “We need to get all software providers on the same channel,” Sharenow said to applause, “and compete on a global platform.”

Sharenow and Rose stressed how operators should be bold in telling clients how their service provides superior duty-of-care and safety standards, such as driver background checks. “You need to sell that to clients,” Sharenow said.

Rich Travelers: Attendees absorbed a strong shot of vinegar reality during a keynote interview with public relations executive and CMO of JetSmarter, Ronn Torossian. JetSmarter is the fastest growing private jet company in the world valued at more than $1 billion. Torossian rustled the audience with his unabashed use of Uber for him and his daughter. Private jet customers, often travelers earning seven-figure salaries, are taking Uber en masse, Torossian said.

The luxury ground transportation industry has to talk about itself more, especially its high level of trust, insurance, safety, and drug testing of chauffeurs, he said. “Who knows about you? We have not read about your industry.”

Catering to client tastes, needs, and preferences in the most minute and detailed away is one way luxury chauffeured services can set themselves apart from TNCs, he advised.

Getting Connected: Before the start of the show, I sat down with GRiDD Technologies founder and CEO Amir Zafar and his public relations advisor, Pat Charla, CEO of DriveProfit. So far, if there is one technology with potential to connect the luxury ground transportation sector, it is this background “plumbing system” that operators can plug into based on their preferences. “Limo companies can do business with the companies they really want to,” Zafar says.

GRiDD, also known as G-Net, enables on demand and auto dispatch te  chnologies to tap into a reservoir of shared fleet. It aggregates fleet inventory so on-demand solutions can access any fleet share technology. GRiDD already has signed up or secured commitments from major software providers Limo Anywhere, FASTTRAK, Livery Coach, and Hudson Group, and a host of other tech-driven vendors and tech-enabled car services. As a non-operator, non-software provider, Zafar says G-Net is not here to threaten or compete, just help operators connect. GRiDD has 550 limo companies participating, compared to 280 six months ago. It handles about 350 average transactions per weekday.

The latest stats from the NLA's public relations campaign alerting the media to the problems of Uber. Click to enlarge. (LCT graphic)

The latest stats from the NLA's public relations campaign alerting the media to the problems of Uber. Click to enlarge. (LCT graphic)

New Outlooks:
One of the most encouraging industry shifts of late has been in media coverage about Uber and TNCs toward a more balanced and accurate approach. A presentation from the National Limousine Association during an industry leaders forum outlined how the media and public are cluing in more to Uber’s chronic safety, financial, and legal problems.

Facing a riding public that for years appeared blasé about the savage neglect of Uber, which had included in its ranks a driver who is a mass murderer and one who is a terrorist, the public’s positive perception of Uber has dipped from 86% in 2014 to 63% in 2017. The NLA’s artful media and public relations campaign has helped spur that decline, as more reporters expose Uber’s flaws and defects, especially labor lawsuits and bad driver behavior.

In a hopeful note during the show, NLA board director and BostonCoach CEO Scott Solombrino said, “We will prevail and be here 20 years from today.”

Related Topics: industry trends, LANJ, LCT editor, LCT-NLA Show East, limo tradeshows, Martin Romjue, media, NLA

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