Spending is estimated to advance another 7.1% in 2018 and will expand to $1.7 trillion total by 2022.
To start seeing what is top of mind, we checked in with Bronwyn Wilson, president of IMG Motorcoach Group (IMG), the leading network of motorcoach transportation providers in North America that focuses on high performance. The elite private group, with 57 company members, holds its operators accountable to standards of excellence in the areas of safety, maintenance, training, road support, and customer service.
Among the challenges Wilson cited for operators are multiple state and federal regulations, the increasing costs of equipment, the pressure to generate a good profit, and a near-universal shortage of good drivers.
The rising costs of equipment and higher interest rates make P&L and financial management critical for operators so they can translate customer volume into a good ROI. Motorcoach prices have gradually increased as buses evolve on safety, technology, and quality, and as more consumers expect luxury style comforts and amenities.
Success depends on getting motorcoach riders to “understand what it takes to support a fully functional and great business,” Wilson said. “There is a disconnect on the (customer) willingness to pay for superior product that the industry needs to engage in, which is a focus in our meetings.”
LCT talked with a sample of operators for an overview of the realities of running motorcoach transportation in a high-demand but competitive environment.
NO. 1: Regulations/Safety
Regulator overload is a real challenge for smaller motorcoach operators who cannot afford full time managers to handle all the compliance at federal and state levels. Random federal inspections are often perfectionist exercises resulting in citations for minor infractions. Larger operators may have more buses, but more organized systems of compliance with adequate staff support.
Motorcoach operators are also seeing a generational shift in the long-term tour market as fewer Millennials and Gen Xers take tours while there are not many tour trips that appeal to them, Goff says.
The traditional motorcoach tour destinations of casinos, Branson, Dollywood, Elvis, Nashville — most heavy with religious and country music themes — are getting a bit dated as they appeal mostly to older Boomers and the prior generation, Goff said. Operators are concerned about declining tour revenues from an aging population, so what will it take to make younger generations embrace bus tours? Some potential lies in cannabis tours, which could someday succeed the wine tours as appealing to middle age and younger bus tour groups, Goff says.
“The question is, how do you develop relevant tours to this new generation of people who should be our customers but who are happy to get on a Megabus or Bolt bus, but not Greyhound? How do we reshape the tour market, like we have the line-run market?”
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