Operations

China Operators Share Insights On Coronavirus Experience

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 26, 2020

(L to R) Cathleen Lamprecht, co-owner of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services in Shanghai and Amy Yan, owner of AmyExpress in Hong Kong

(L to R) Cathleen Lamprecht, co-owner of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services in Shanghai and Amy Yan, owner of AmyExpress in Hong Kong

Two Chinese operators are dealing with multiple hurdles as they try to run their companies amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in their country and around the world.

The spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) has and may continue to affect China socially and economically as well as greater Asia. The virus originated in Wuhan city, Hubei province in mainland China in December 2019, and spread rapidly. It now poses a grave threat to cities including Beijing, Shanghai, etc. where workers are usually expected to return to work after the Lunar New Year holiday. Many travel restrictions at the domestic level have been put in place to contain the outbreak.

For the latest news and updates on the virus and what one U.S. operator is doing, CLICK HERE.

Amy Yan, owner of AmyExpress in Hong Kong, and Cathleen Lamprecht, co-owner of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services in Shanghai, recently shared with LCT how they are making the health and safety of their clients and employees a top priority ahead of commercial interests. Their experiences offer lessons for U.S. operators who could be facing similar challenges if Center for Disease Control (CDC) predictions of an outbreak in the U.S. prove accurate.

(Photo 1, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 1, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

At BCDLIMO, all chauffeurs wear protective masks and disposable gloves, which are thrown away at the end of service after each client (photos 1 and 2). All vehicles are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected inside out before and after each ride (photo 3).

Given the travel restrictions resulting in no business travel needs, AmyExpress has shut down all operations in mainland China, but maintains operations in other cities outside, such as Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, and Tokyo, which are less affected.

(Photo 2, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 2, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

At AmyExpress, operational staff are encouraged to work remotely from home, and chauffeurs are checked daily to ensure they haven’t been to Hubei province in the past 30 days (longer than the government requirement of 14 days) or displayed any relevant symptoms like fever, sneezing, cough, sore throat, etc. Anyone with the above symptoms would be required to be quarantined at home for 30 days. Chauffeurs are also asked to stay at home and avoid public exposure when off duty.

(Photo 3, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 3, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

AmyExpress ensures their chauffeurs are not exposed to health risks by providing medical facemasks. This has provided good protection as a first, but crucial, level of defense. They also reach out to all clients who travel from China to know their health conditions and ensure no contagion risks for their chauffeurs.

“We are glad such a procedure has been understood and welcomed by our clients,” Yan says.

Chauffeurs are monitored daily, must wear facemasks at all times, and are required to report immediately and stop working if they display any signs of sickness. Cars are stocked with facemasks and hand sanitizer and are cleaned and sanitized after each ride, just as BCDLIMO does.

AmyExpress operational staff are encouraged to sign up for an online training course to help them further their understanding of the virus. “We created a chatroom to update everyone on any useful tips for heath protection purposes as well.”

Working With Government

According to BCDLIMO, the Chinese government has implemented an isolation quarantine in all cities throughout China to try and prevent the spread of the virus. Most public transportation has been canceled and stopped, including flights, trains, subways, buses, etc.

(Photo 4, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 4, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

Top-level inspection and examination points and blocks have been set up at airports (photo 4), train stations, highway/expressway entrances (photo 5), streets, community and housing estate entrances (photo 6, 7, and 8), malls, etc., where they check for fever and whether protective masks are worn. The government has commanded all citizens to stay inside their homes and encourages them to work and study from home. Schools are told to give online courses only. All communities, housing estates, and office buildings are isolated under quarantine, and only one person per household with a pass can go in and out (photo 9); the pass goes for vehicles as well (photo 10).

(Photo 5, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 5, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

“All of our chauffeurs and cars have been registered to be able to travel around the city under the quarantine situation. All outside personnel and non-local license plates are asked to return to where they came from and are forbidden to enter the city or community (photo 11,12),” says Lamprecht.

Yan’s company is staying on top of the latest travel restrictions in each of its operational areas to ensure their clients get updated in time so they can adjust their plans accordingly. “We suggested one of FBO clients not stop by Hong Kong when we learned any travelers who have stayed in mainland China for any period of time should be quarantined for 14 days.”

Dealing With Cancellations

(Photo 6, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 6, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

Handling client cancellations is always a tricky situation, but the coronavirus threat is an exception. Yan offers a full refund for her clients for all cancellations in mainland China due to the coronavirus.

As a company, BCDLIMO fully understands and encourages clients to cancel with a full refund. Despite the fact there are not many public transportation options still working, all travelers from anywhere in the world coming into China or within China between cities are requested to be isolated for quarantine for 14 days (the latent period for Coronavirus) in specified hotels, hospitals, etc. or told to return unconditionally. If the virus conditions are detected in a person, that person will be transported in designated vehicles to designated hospitals.

(Photo 7, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 7, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

“We do explain these details to all clients, but if the customer still insists on traveling and once our chauffeurs show up at the pickup point and anything happens to the client due to the circumstances advised, there will be a full charge for the booking and all other expenses that might result due to the situation will be charged,” says Lamprecht.

Answering Questions

(Photo 8, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 8, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

The BCDLIMO team answers any questions about the coronavirus sincerely with all government reported information and statistics to show the client if requested.

“We do ask clients to take the situation seriously as we are experiencing it every day. People have been warned against spreading rumors and may be quarantined for not respecting the regulations implemented by the government trying to prevent the virus and hoping to solve the situation sooner. Infected people have fallen and been taken away by ambulances. Other than our chauffeurs who are fully suited up and vehicles that are disinfected before and after each ride, prevention kits are also prepared in each of our vehicles for the clients (photo 13), which includes prevention masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Our professional chauffeurs are aware of all surroundings under all situations to warn clients to stay away or be prepared for checkpoints,” says Lamprecht.

(Photo 9, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 9, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

Yan says her clients are extraordinarily cautious about the chauffeurs’ health statuses. “Any sickness symptoms, no matter how small, would cause alarm. Therefore, we need to raise our performance bar and ensure every chauffeur assigned is in very good health. Furthermore, we believe in transparency. For any clients who may have some exposure to the infected people and areas, we would share our honest feedback and decisions not to take them onboard; not only for the safety of our chauffeurs, but also for the safety of the general public. For the same reason, I decided not to attend the long-planned International LCT Show in Las Vegas in 2020.”

WHAT OPERATORS CAN DO:

Preparing For The Possible

(Photo 10, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 10, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

Undoubtably, this has been a difficult time for luxury ground transportation operations in the region. Yan has learned much during this scare, and here are a few tips she has for operators who may have to endure something similar.

1. Ensure material preparedness for the next epidemic crisis

(Photo 11, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 11, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

You never know how fast basic medical supplies (e.g. facemask, sanitizer, etc.) can become scarce at a time everyone and every country are running after them. The first lesson is to have all your employees/chauffeurs have at least five boxes (with 50 pieces) and five bottles of hand sanitizers in stock. The more, the better. These would not cost much in normal times but can save lives during times like these. Also, at the company level, an operator should have a good stock in place as well to meet emergency needs.

2. Keep enough money tucked away in order to survive

How can an operator survive in such a crisis when no new income is coming in and all business travel is restricted or reduced to the bare minimum? An operator may need to start to reserve right away, assuming no income for at least four months.

3. Diversify business more to survive

(Photo 12, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 12, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

Yan’s revenue in February has been reduced to one-fifth of what it is normally, so for the first time in the company’s history, they are running into operational losses. “On the positive side, we still have some income, albeit limited, generated from the rides performed outside mainland China (i.e. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, and the rest of the globe). These rides help alleviate our pain. We are thankful for our past efforts in business diversification. Otherwise, our bottom line would be badly hurt if we only limited our service in one city or even just one country.”

(Photo 4, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

(Photo 4, courtesy of BCDLIMO-CHINA Services)

4. Enable your staff to work from home

On day one, Amy leveraged new technologies to enable all to “work from home.” This strategy proves to be working very well in this difficult time. They can serve their clients without delay or disruption.

5. Hold up high social responsibility as a firm

No one knows how the virus outbreak will end, or when. This is the most difficult time not only for owners/operators, but also for their employees. The government has called upon small and medium-sized business operators not to fire people on a large scale during the crisis.

(Photo courtesy of AmyExpress)

(Photo courtesy of AmyExpress)

“AmyExpress admits this is our social responsibility as well, and we will try our best to hold up high our social responsibility as a firm.”

Lamprecht echoes similar lessons. “We were lucky we were able to get some prevention products from Japan because my fleet manager personally traveled there to bring some back. During the current crisis peak, there’s been a huge shortage of prevention masks, hand sanitizer, and any disinfectant products,” she explains.

She strongly suggests paying attention to the news. With the current situation, the Chinese government and health scientists predict if citizens respect regulations, the outbreak might end late April 2020.

“We have prepared to not have any business for half a year. I also strongly suggest all business owners always do their best to be financially lucrative enough so you can try to save a year’s worth of revenue, and to own your properties including your home, office, equipment, and vehicles. An epidemic like this may only last for a short period if you are lucky, or it could cost you your business and might end in a recession.”

(Photo courtesy of AmyExpress)

(Photo courtesy of AmyExpress)

Experiencing a potential pandemic outbreak like this is not far from living through a real-life horror movie.

“Although it might be very costly for my business to make this suggestion, I sincerely suggest, unless it’s a life or death situation, that all my operator friends please tell your clients not to travel to China during this period,” Lamprecht said.

“Despite the traveler designated quarantine for 14 days and a possible unconditional send back, if the client is lucky to have passed those screenings, the current scientific statistics show a 10% death rate for coronavirus, and a lifetime of side effects for cured patients. If all these have bypassed, there is still the possibility of not being able to return to your country of origin, and for sure to be quarantined for 14 days traveling from China to anywhere. Of course, we are always prepared with professionalism if any client insists to travel to us at this time. Scientists predict the virus will die down by the end of April, and we will welcome everyone with open arms then.”

Related Topics: business management, business travel, China operators, coronavirus, covid-19, crisis management, disasters, emergency planning, emergency preparedness, eNews Exclusive, Global operators, international, international business

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories