Never mind the recession. Operators in Tampa Bay are experiencing revenue increases
right now because of Sunday's Super Bowl. Hopefully this will also lead to new clients who loved their rides and will book and refer more in the future. It takes quite a bit of clout to get the NFL to come to your city, and the same is true of other major events. You may not have that clout but might be providing transportation for people who do. Or it might take spending more of your free time at notable charity events, Chamber of Commerce meetings, etc. It might also mean looking outside the box. There might be smaller events happening nearby that you never dreamed of providing transportation to, but could add up during a time of deficit. Being creative and open to possibilities is priceless. -- J.L.
AN LCT SHOW GREEN MOMENT:
A green operator told me about two products he's looking into: microGreen Oil Filter
(which reduces maintenance costs and improves fuel efficiency) and Blade
(a tailpipe filter that reduces emissions). It's an interesting facet of a green program - it's not just buying a hybrid or using less paper in your office. There are more aftermarket products on the market now that can reduce your CO2 emissions, extend your mileage capacity, and improve performance. Exclusive Sedan Service in North Hollywood, Calif., has been getting good results using Blade. Another interesting note: Travelocity has created a Green Directory
, which features environmentally-friendly hotels and destinations, a listing of possible green marketing alliances for your company. -- J.L.
DOOM AND GLOOM WAS NOT IN THE ROOM. LCTers are back from the International LCT Show, which given the circumstances, surprised even the skeptics. . .
Read full story
Buses were the center of attention on the show floor at this week's International LCT Show. Galaxy Coach
, based in Santa Ana, Calif., participated for the first time and showed off a mini coach designed to look like a medium-sized motorcoach. And nearly every coachbuilder/manufacturer had some sort of bus to exhibit, especially shuttles and mini buses built on Freightliner, Ford, and GMC chassis. These will usually hold 25 to 35 passengers, and several have been designed as party/limo buses. Operators expanding into buses are getting attention in the press - from LCT (now called Limousine, Charter & Tour - read more about it later today in Driving Force) and from newspaper reports. Reston Limousine Service
, based in Sterling, Va., is good at promoting its bus marketing programs. Bus business was a subject of high interest at this year's LCT Show, and it will continue to grow. -- J.L.
Two hours ago, the winners of this year's LCT awards were announced.
In the 1-10 vehicle category: Leader Chauffeur Services, Kansas City, Mo., Bruce Heinrich
11-30 vehicles: Corporate Transportation Solutions, Sacramento, Calif., Chris Quinn
31-50 vehicles: Premier Transportation, Dallas, Eric Devlin
51+ vehicles: International Limousine Service, Washington, D.C., Richard Kane
Association of the year: Greater California Livery Association
For the marketing awards, Leros Point to Point won three while finishing in the top three finalists for the 51+ vehicle category.
Day two of the LCT Show went through smoothly. The atmosphere has been very positive, which has been great to see given the economic downturn pressures. Exhibitors were more than pleased that operators came to their booths to do business. While there were less this year than last year, those in attendance are here to understand their equipment purchasing options, and to network with each other. Most operators and exhibitors sent less people this year to save money and keep work flowing back at the home office. Operators have found the same to be true for customers, especially corporate accounts who might only need three cars instead of six for a staff meeting. -- J.L.
Less people are in attendance than last year, but for the ones who showed up, they're serious about doing business. There are less operators here, but the exhibit hall is packed with coachbuilders, buses, tech services, insurance, finance, etc. And for the operators in attendance, there's a lot of networking and serious discussions about what's going on in their market. Except for rare exceptions, the operators that we've talked to are down 30% to 40% in revenue right now, and some down about 50%. This all hit the fan in late November/early December. Scott Solombrino gave his usual dark and serious economic warnings and motivational tips during his keynote speech. For the operators and suppliers in attendance, the mood is mainly upbeat and positive. They're glad to see each other and have a lot of hope that their businesses will make it through this dark time. In other news, Ron Sorci, CFO of Aventura Worldwide, was elected president of the NLA, and Richard Kane is taking on the first vice president role. -- J.L.
2009 INTERNATIONAL LCT SHOW: We're off to the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas for the 25th annual LCT trade show and conference, the largest and most valuable chauffeured transportation business event in the world. We are expecting you there. Four out of every 10 attendees register onsite, so there are plenty of mintues left to make the correct last-minute decision: SHOW UP AT THE SHOW.
The airline tickets are cheap, the Vegas hotels have cut room rates, and everyone is looking for a good deal and a good time. Don't follow the crowd: Act like it's 1999, not 2009. And who knows -- the ideas and insights offered at the show may keep your business running until. . . 2019?
We'll also be unveiling a new LCT, with hundreds of copies of our historic, keepsake February 2009 issue being distributed on the show floor. Show up and learn about the exciting plans and future ahead for the LCT franchise, and why you need to be a part of it.
Finally, we'll post a blog item or two from the show, but then mabye we won't. After all, if the whole industry is there networking and connecting, who needs to be reading a blog? But we'll have plenty of posts and breaking news upon our return on Thursday, Jan. 29. Keep those limos, sedans, SUVs, and buses on the move. -- M.R.
NOT MUCH OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC:
A painful recession serves as what the political left likes to call a teachable moment, and the political right, a clarifying moment. Such is the case with global warming, which in the latest survey
, ranks dead last among the concerns of Americans. Indeed, talk of immiment Venus-like heat while the nation suffers a deep freeze in a protacted recession will not warm the wallets toward carbon offsets, credits, taxes, and other gimmicky granola doo-dads. In fact, one legendary British environmentalist now slams carbon trading
. Which once again underscores our point: If going green involves extra taxes, fees, and hassles, then it's not worth it and doesn't pass the test. Green initiatives and alternative fuel vehicles must follow the same rules as other products and services vying in the free market: They must be economically self-sustainable. -- M.R.
JIM LUFF WRITES: A trip to Beverly Hills, an upgraded vehicle for a new client, and a chauffeur who lost the client forever on the first trip.
Read full story
Working major events like the presidential inauguration means a lot of hard work
, and revenue increases that happen now and will probably lead to more business later. Your city will greatly benefit and will become much more likely to be the location of other large events in the future. As a business leader in your community, through Chambers of Commerce and other groups, you become a big part of the planning and successful execution of the event. And your company will provide a lot of transportation. In the future, your city may host major golf tournaments, championship sporting events, association and corporate conventions, entertainment industry awards shows, or something else that's never happened in your town. Becoming a well connected business leader means a lot of time and effort, but will lead to more business. --J.L.
10,000 buses stretching across 85 miles... 5,000 portable toilets... $8,249 for a seat at the swearing-in ceremony being sold by an online broker. Click here
to read more stats from Reuters on yesterday's extravaganza.
READ ALL ABOUT IT:
Have you noticed that press releases on chauffeured transportation companies many times originate outside the U.S., even though the company is based here? Take a look at this one.
It covers Staten Island, N.Y.-based S&L Limo and Buses
, and it was e-blasted by Aim 168, a Dubai-based online business networking site. This page of Aim 168 is tied into real estate sales offerings in Dubai, a sparkling emerging global business and leisure destination. When you read the press release, you'll notice that S&L Limo and Buses isn't mentioned until the very end. It's as if you're reading an article on why you should consider hiring limousines while traveling through the Tri-State area. This is a common format for similar press releases these days. Another trend is a U.S.-based operator launching a traditional company press release through a Europe-based media/marketing company. I would imagine these operators get a discounted rate and have their press releases linked to international websites more than using a traditional PR service.
It's not all happening overseas. For larger operators, it's common now to see their press releases broadcasted through Market Watch
, a Dow Jones financial news clearinghouse. The Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal connection provides obvious credibility benefits for those using this news service. --J.L.
Getting good coverage of your company is worth more than spending a lot on advertising and promotions. Ads, promos, and marketing materials are necessary of course, but building relationships with media decision makers is a great way to build your brand image and company recognition. So how do you get your photo and quotes posted into business magazines, local newspapers, and specialty publications? Try following a few steps:
- Open doors to local media sources looking for good stories to tell. It helps to have a favorable profile published and local newspapers, business pubs, and travel and entertainment magazines are always looking for businesses to profile if the story is worth telling. How you went from rags to riches... what you get out of being in business... how you serve the community... very good topics.
- Create positive working relationships with publication writers. This means reading through articles and finding out who writes about the subject you’re trying to pitch. “You can’t just blindly pitch it,” says Ben Bloch, managing partner of Econation in Los Angeles, “and it needs to be something the readers would find interesting.”
Network with your industry partners. You may have a hotel, restaurant, special event, or business convention that you provide transportation to, and that will be putting out a press release or newsletter article that mentions your company. Everyone wants good media coverage, and this is an effective way to work with and help your existing clients. --J.L.
HAIL TO THE CHIEF:
Have you been hearing enough about President Obama's customized Cadillac limousine? It's a customized, securitized, prototype Cadillac sedan/SUV fusion. And this isn't the first time that it's happened. Take a look at Popular Mechanics' ranking
of the seven best presidential limousines, with photos and descriptions of what was unique about those cars. Another facet of the Obamo limo has been a set of specialized Goodyear tires
. Perhaps presidential limousines are the research and development motivation factor for testing and trying out safer, highly functional auto components. -- J.L.
BREATHLESS COVERAGE: How does LCT Magazine plan to cover the inauguration? Why, the same way as POTUS 44! From the windows of the limos, of course. . .
Read full story
FACTS & RUMORS: The editors and event staff at LCT are practically breathless with amusement over industry rumors about how our show is tanking, cratering, plummeting -- just fill in your hysterical verb -- because of the recessionary economy. So far, we've heard such whoppers as "Only 400 people are coming and Krystal has pulled out!" or "I hear people are bailing right and left!" or "The show is being cut back!" Well, how about, "Limos are falling from the sky and landing on the Venetian!" (OK, we made that last one up).
OH, PLEASE. Enough, now. These industry moronics must stop. We're seeing a belated uptick, or SURGE, in registrations that should yield a respectable, if not outright successful, turnout considering the bleak and challenging global economic circumstances. Bottom line: This show will lack nothing.
FACT: We're rapidly approaching 100 exhibitors/suppliers
FACT: All major coachbuilders and livery vehicle makers will be there
FACT: About 40% of attendees register on site and/or same day.
FACT: Networking events, educational sessions, trade show floor hours, amenities -- all the same or better as last year
FACT: January shows get later registrations because so many people procrastinate until after the holidays
FACT: Our Show is sandwiched between the Presidential Inauguration and the Super Bowl
FACT: Wanna survive the recession? Better hitch your star to the strong horse: LCT & ILCT.
SOME GOOD NEWS: Two recent developments on the energy front should leave the chauffeured transportation industry with plenty of hope, both for the viability of gas-engine vehicles and the demise of fraud-fuel, excuse us, flex-fuel vehicles.
1) It appears the good-ole gas engine just keeps getting cleaner and more efficient, as it has steadily since the days of the Model T. With the latest advances in technology, and ones yet to come, gas engines eventually could challenge the hybrids in terms of energy- and eco-efficiences. Read about it here.
2) As corn prices rise, the ethanol industry is getting squeezed, with producers hurting financially and closing factories. We hope the latest free market fluctuations trigger the grisly implosion of this unprofitable, govenrment-babied energy venture that should have never been started. Ethanol is useless. It requires as much carbon to create it as it supposedly saves, it's hard to find, the industry can't make a profit on its own, and ethanolholics take affordable foodstuffs out of people's mouths. Not to mention the carnage to our croplands. We hope the final book on E-85 will be written with Chapters 7, 11, and 13. Read about it here. -- M.R.
SPECULATION: We at LCT admit we're obsessed with the Town Car and its possible successor. We just want to make sure the newbie after the 2010 model year is just as good or better. So is this a BIG HINT? -- M.R.
Read full story
A Concord, Calif. resident wrote a snappy letter
to the editor suggesting that Limousine Liberals start riding in Toyota Prius stretch limousines once coach builders start making them. Well, if they really want one, a small customized Canadian coach builder
first put one on the market more than a year ago. Other than that, LimeLite offers customers a stretched Mini Cooper, and a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid stretch. Other than that, you can always offer LimoLiberal politicians an airport run in a Town Car, SUV, minibus, or anything else they're perfectly happy riding in. -- J.L.
The Lincoln Town Car is the essential sedan used across the country in all types of ground transportation services: limousine and chauffeured transportation, black car, towncar operators, certain taxi companies, livery drivers, and then there's rogues. It's the foundation of the industry in Oregon and enticed a retired owner
to get right back into the business. When the Town Car goes out of production at the end of the 2010 model year, it's not clear at all what will become the mainstay sedan. Will it be a Cadillac or Chrysler model, or another Lincoln? Will hybrids and alt-fuel vehicles fill some of the void? The sedan must meet certain criteria: it looks good and rides comfortably; it has adequate backseat and trunk space; it will run smoothly and not breakdown at high mileage (up to 250,000 miles) if service and maintenance is consistent; it's affordable (somewhere in the $35K-$40K range); and, there are enough cars manufactured and distributed to be a viable option across the country and into Canada. If it has reduced CO2 emissions, or could be run on alt-fuels without a heavy alteration cost, that would be good, too. Let's see how this wish list goes. -- J.L.
Luxury limousine operators will benefit from special access privileges in and out of Washington, D.C. Chauffeured vehicles can at least get inauguration goers to the public access areas within sight of the U.S. Capitol. NLA President Richard Kane offers observations in this MarketWatch press release
It's a car! No, it's a truck! No, it doesn't fit in either category. And it's a hybrid
, too. President-elect Obama will be driven to his inauguration in this new Cadillac limousine, and it's the first time that a president's limo isn't a stretched version of a current Cadillac car model. It's been customized to protect the president from terrorist attacks with run-flat tires, bulletproof glass, and a completely sealed interior to ward off a chemical attack. It's also luxurious: a 10-disc CD player and hand-stitched leather interiors, plus other accouterments.The Secret Service is not giving out all the secret diagnostic info on the limo, but did release this photo, taken along the Potomac River. -- J.L.
DETROIT ROCK CITY:
Hybrids and electrics are the center of attention at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Environmental Leader put together a summary
of green offerings, including the Honda Insight, Chevrolet Volt, 3rd generation Toyota Prius, and Ford's plans for upcoming model years. The Big 3 (especially GM) have been emphasizing hybrids and AFVs in its media coverage and promotions, as have major foreign automakers (especially Honda, Toyota, and Mercedes Benz). When the alt-fuel vehicle movement began right after federal environmental legislation was adopted in 1990, it was full speed ahead until the mid-1990s, when affordable gas prices and the mass market production and discount offerings of pickups and SUVs took over Detroit and moved Toyota and other automakers in that direction. It's more than ironic to see Detroit and the global auto industry in an economic vice grip, but this time, green vehicle offerings are the primary focus. -- J.L.
SUCCESSOR TO DOUG WALCZAK NAMED: I spoke for the first time today with Jeff Nichols, the new Global Fleet and Limo/Livery Manager for Ford Motor Company.
He started his new position Jan. 5, and succeeds Doug Walczak, who works down the hall from him at Ford's Detroit-area headquarters. Jeff will attend his first International LCT Show later this month, and looks forward to his crash course in the industry. Be sure to say hello and meet him at the Ford display on the show floor.
Jeff brings auto industry experience too extensive to mention here, so we'll save it for Driving Force, our e-newsletter that gets blasted out Wednesday afternoons. Of course, I couldn't resist asking Jeff about the successor to the venerable Town Car, to which he replied, "The Yugo. With floorboards." So no new developments yet on the vehicle to replace the Town Car after model year 2010, but we know this industry is getting a Ford rep with a smart sense of humor. Best wishes to Jeff. -- M.R.
I am sick and tired of reading news stories about chauffeurs being robbed
or hijacked by criminals fleeing bank robberies, or being crashed into by a drunk driver, or some other wrongdoing. There's no way to protect them from everything bad that can happen, but practical operators do what they can to hire the right chauffeurs, train them constantly, track them with GPS, communicate through hand-helds, dispatch them effectively, and move them away from weather disasters, traffic tie ups, and other calamities. Yet there's no way of making them 100% safe, even if they learned martial arts or carried a gun. Limousines and chauffeurs get a lot of attention out there: they represent wealth, glamor, and opportunities for good guys and bad guys. -- J.L.
NEW MKS: While Ford Motor Co. remains mum on the successor to its famous Lincoln Town Car, due to expire after the 2010 model year, we can't help but note with interest this development.
Now Ford has repeatedly said the MKS will not succeed the Town Car, but then again. . . luxury vehicle, plus green technology, plus V-8 performance? Is something walking and talking like a Town Car?
In any case, there is still considerable doubt as to whether the MKS will succeed the Town Car. We happened to be walking by a black MKS in a parking lot and noticed the legroom is considerably less than that of an Executive L. Even stretched six inches, it would appear less. Hopefully, Ford ends the suspense soon and unveils a livery vehicle destined to secure its longstanding market share. -- M.R.
A SLIVER OF GOOD NEWS:
Americans may not be cutting back as much on travel as thought this year, putting getaways ahead of gadgets and other spendables. Given the list of vacation preferences
, there may be opportunities for chauffeured and motorcoach operators to offer affordable ground transportation, i.e. green, group, etc. It is important for operators to communicate the overall value of chauffeured service, especially the practical, hassle-free, point-to-point benefits. -- M.R.
While corporate meetings had three strong years across the globe, by late 2008 they were down an estimated 8% and are expected to drop 7% this year. Per meeting attendance is expected to go up, but the number of meetings will go down, according to Meeting Professionals International and AmEx
. Providing buses, vans, and SUVs for corporate meetings and events has been a great source of business for operators, and many have been active in local MPI chapters. Starting in late 2008, corporate travel dropped quite a bit, and this included meetings and group travel. Corporate and organization meetings have grown in recent years, and need more travel services such as ground transportation. Meetings and events are going to come back, but like all other industries, the recession has taken its toll for now. -- J.L.
It may be the inauguration of the POTUS 44, but the perennial Constitutional event serves as a showcase for motorcoach service
. About 10,000 motorcoaches from around the U.S. will head into the D.C. area Jan. 20, creating a transportation spectacle unprecedented for even previous inaugurations. This will be a true test of charter bus service: Getting passengers to a place where they can access transportation into the city region -- in time for the inaugural -- and then find their buses upon return. Not to mention maneuvering in traffic and dealing with unexpected detours and delays. -- M.R.
Revised federal regulations meant that a local transit agency had to stop running trolleys in its fleet, which gave Rix Limousine, a Pennsylvania operator, a new market opportunity. Owner Rick Stancombe showed off his trolley for the local newspaper,
and told the reporter he's already booking summer trips in his classic trolley for 2009 and 2010. Of course it' s not really a trolley running on train tracks, even though it looks just like one. It was built 20 years ago by specialty manufacturer Molly Trolley. Operators with a few specialty vehicles in their fleets, including vintage cars, usually do well booking them for weddings, family reunions, anniversaries, and other special events. -- J.L.
Gasoline prices have increased 10% in the past week, but don't expect it to go right back to $4+ a gallon anytime soon
. Analysts expect fuel prices to continue climbing, possibly back to where they were in the summer, but not in the short-term future. Dramatic reduction in fuel consumption and purchasing has caused the price drop, and it's similar to everything else shaping the global economy these days. Houses, stock shares, new vehicles, and retail consumer products are way down in price, just like gas. All of this will stay low until individuals and organizations choose to start spending more. Everybody is holding back now and cutting back expenses, afraid of losing jobs, investments, houses, lifestyles, you name it. Cheap gasoline isn't enough to motivate fuel consumption increases yet. This will all change, when people decide to start spending. -- J.L.
EAST COAST UPDATE:
Eleven Northeastern states are discussing a "Low Carbon Fuel Standard" aimed at carbon reduction in vehicles and buildings: Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. These states "hope that the new standard will push companies to develop cleaner fuels and related technology in order to comply with the standard," according to the AP
. And in December, California adopted a similar plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. These regulatory issues are still being pushed in many states regardless of the economic recession. This is why Green Ride Global, Limousine Environmental Action Partners, and LimoGreen have become important to chauffeured transportation operators. Corporate travel program requirements and public interest have also motivated operators in all ground transportation sectors to go green and tell their stories. -- J.L.
UPDATE & OVERVIEW: This online article nicely sums what LCT has been reporting over the last few months about the destructive inroads of the rental car industry into chauffeured transportation. NLA President Richard Kane and Limousine Association of Houston President Joe Jordan are quoted in this comprehensive report. Along with union-driven card-check propossed legislation, the deepening recession, and the drive toward greener livery vehicles, the Avis issue has the potential to radically remake the dynamics of chauffeured transportation. The rental car/chauffeur arrangements must be fought at every level so that ALL chauffeured vehicles fit the same definition and comply with the same rules.
Look for more coverage in the March and April issues of LCT Magazine. -- M.R.
HEADS UP: LCT Magazine breaks new ground in the February issue with its "Class of 2009" Operator of the Year finalists. Be sure to check out the one-page profiles and scene-setter photos of each finalist. Four of these 12 will walk away Tuesday, Jan. 27 with. . . .
Read full story
About 85% of travelers consider themselves environmentally conscious but expect travel service providers to be "good stewards" of the environment in which they operate, according to a recent YPartnership survey
. This means that travelers don't want to pay more or make sacrifices for green causes, but expect travel companies to do that for them. This would include ground transportation companies. This linked article from Environmental Leader lays out some of the problems travel service companies are having while being good green stewards, such as participating in carbon offset programs. Carbon offset allows a company to trade carbon emission credits with another company instead of reducing its own emissions. Carbon reduction is a real solution being integrated and practiced today by many transporation companies. So, a pragmatic strategy for operators might be to carefully track CO2 emission reductions and get the word out to customers, media, and the local community. You'll be considered a good steward. -- J.L.
Don't let all the economic drama fool you; the U.S. savings rate is rising and lots of investors and consumers are hoarding cash, including the rich. So the trick is to get them to take advantage of deflationary deals. In the housing market, what better way to do that than from the windows of a classy chauffeured vehicle
. It's working in Marin Country, Calif. Can it work in the wealthy area du jour of other metropolitan areas? Operators may want to connect with their local Realtor associations. Sooner, rather than later, homebuyers will be jumping in en masse. Make sure the chauffeur is waiting. -- M.R.
We at LCT must admit that we sometimes struggle with finding the most persuasive way to encourage clients to rent limousines amid a recession. Despite the diversity and necessity of chauffeured transportation, the limousine image remains entrenched in the common psyche as a touchstone of excess. So that's why we were thrilled to read this blog entry
, explaining why, yes, it's a good idea to reserve a stretch during a recession. It may not exactly qualify as counter-cultural, but it sure is counter-cyclical. Onward consumer rebels! Stretch those budgets! -- M.R.
And Limo Operators? About 3,500 attendees are expected to show up this week
at the Charlotte Convention Center for the American Bus Association's annual Marketplace event. This is the first time Charlotte, N.C. will host this event in Marketplace's 28 year history. The attendee numbers are very similar to what's expected in less than three weeks at the International LCT Show
. The ABA expects attendance to be down a bit but good given that recessionary pressures have increased on operators very recently, as they have in chauffeured transportation. Operators will send less people this year but they're not going to bail out. The benefits of making the trip are there now more than ever, as is the chance to get out of the office and blow off some steam. -- J.L.
GREEN HERE TO STAY:
U.S. hybrid petro-electric vehicle sales were down 53% in November from one year earlier, while overall auto sales were down less: 37%. Environmental Leader reported this story.
Obviously, rapidly dropping gasoline prices and recessionary panic motivated consumers to back off purchasing hybrids when they can spend less on the acquisition of something else. Automakers and dealers are offering tons of deals these days, so why spend a little bit more on a hybrid? Does this mean the green movement is going away? No, it doesn't.
There are two reasons for this perspective: one is that the economy is in deep trouble and everyone is open to embracing something that might work, including GM and Ford investing in and marketing green products. The green economy (which affects autos, home building, offices, lighting, heating, etc.) is expected to create lots of jobs in this country and business opportunities. And many corporations have built in green practices for purchasing and travel procedures. Another reason why this won't go away: Americans want to conserve and spend less, and get the most out of their dollars. (Does this remind you of people who lived through the Depression?) Green practices, including driving (or being driven in) hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell, and alternative-fuel vehicles, are part of living within their means. -- J.L.
NLA EXPERTISE: An operator and board member of the National Limousine Association managed to stay compeitive on New Year's Eve despite the recession. Deena Papagni, owner of a limousine company near Fresno, Calif., was quoted in this article:
EXCERPT: Deena Papagni, the President of Touch of Class Limousine Services says she is staying competitive by offering customers the same rates from 10 years ago and it's working. "You just can't sit in your house just because we are in a recession," said Papagni. "Everything looks fantastic," said Papagni, "our whole fleet is booked with the exception of one limousine and one corporate Sedan. But, other than that our bus is booked, our super-stretch SUVs are booked."
LIMO DESTINATIONS: While private jet travel may be taking an economic hit like everything else, this article at least shows signs of consistent demand among wealthy travelers. Upscalers may be cutting back on luxuries because it's fashionable, or they're afraid of what lessers might think. We say, don't be shy. If you are rich enough to worry about what others might think or say about you, then you'll be resented and envied whether times are good or bad. So enjoy, spend, rent a limousine, show everyone you know how to arrive even when the masses are stuck. We at LCT have no adimiration for those who can afford limos but avoid them becasue they want to seem, um, humble and sensitive. There's nothing more patronizing than a fake slummer. -- M.R.
In the Scene Limousine has launched a marketing program in the Phoenix market called Naughty on Wheels in Scottsdale. Click here for description and cute chick photo
. During the trip, customers can receive a free gift bag from Porn Pinatas, enjoy food and drinks at RA Sushi, stop at Castle Boutique store for lingerie or adult toys, and then party, party, party at their favorite club in Scottsdale. What a night! Operators around the country have done well going outside airport runs, weddings, and proms. Packaging and marketing special nights on the town can produce big dollars. -- J.L.
Mystery shopping is one of the most effective, low budget methods for conducting market research on your competitors and your own company. The National Federation of Independent Business provides tips
on making it work for you. Do you have friends and family that care about your business and want to help you through a quick and easy process? Have them make phone calls for booking trips and see what they find out. Better yet, have them take trips and report back to you exactly what they thought about everything from start to finish. -- J.L.
DRIVING FOR DRINKERS: A young transportation entrepreneur at the University of California/San Diego has found a worthwhile chauffeured niche that doubles as a public service.
Drunk drivers kill 13,000 people each year in the U.S. Each accident could have been prevented had the driver ridden in a chauffeured vehicle.
Despite all the awareness, tougher laws, and social stigmas, drunk driving remains a chronic problem.
Drunks may not be the most appealing clients, but think about what you could prevent. That limousine tragedy underscores the need for such services. -- M.R.
HAPPY NEW YEAR: Happy may not be the best buzzword for the new year given the worsening economic picture, but then aren't most people happy on a roller-coaster? At least the gas prices, hotel rates, airline tickets, and restaurant meal deals are spiraling down, down, down. The trick is to not let it all deflate you. Thinking optimistically, if it gets really cheap to do overnight travel and lodging, suppose remaining travelers will see chauffeured vehicles as relatively affordable? What better way to take the edge off a shared room at the Motel 6 and a meal deal at Subway than a chauffeured vehicle ride to and from the Southwest terminal?
So in the general spirit of volatility and financial lurches, we'll start the New Year off with some inflammatory findings and remarks. This could actually save the chauffeured transportation industry some money and needless fretting: Don't let the global warmistas frost your day. Our New Year's wish for this industry is a rational, informed, factual, skeptical, science-based discussion on global warming and exactly what approaches to the issue work. The financial and business stakes are tremendous, given the potential for costly and cumbersome regulations. There's nothing like speaking truth to power. -- M.R.
Did you enjoy your New Year celebrations? Jim Luff got through New Year's eve just fine, but is more than concerned about the drop in business that became obvious in December.
Read full story