Why are transportation suppliers booked so far in advance?

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Why are transportation suppliers booked so far in advance?

Six tips for making sure your group can get from point A to point B.

By Beth Buehler

Many facets of the meetings and events industry have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re operating with different challenges and opportunities, price points, contract language and timelines for booking, and transportation is no exception. Destination Colorado connected with Jorge Sanchez, president and CEO of Denver-based Hermes Worldwide, Inc., to explore one of the major topics currently at hand for many planners: why are transportation suppliers booked so far in advance?

Retailers, builders, restaurants and transportation companies are all being faced with similar challenges: supply chain issues, inflation, difficulty finding staff and employees looking for work/life balance and not willing to work outside “normal” hours. This perfect storm leaves consumers and meeting planners asking, “Now what do I do?” Sanchez provided six tips for making sure groups have transportation.

Book transportation for meetings and events as far in advance as possible.

Three to four months’ notice is no longer enough; in most cases, it’s more like six months or more. Why is this happening? There are a variety of reasons. Many transportation providers downsized by a few buses during the pandemic, and now it is hard to find vehicles to purchase and hire enough drivers. Also, there also are less players in the industry due to mergers and companies going out of business. Throw in vehicles being out of commission for a period due to mechanical repairs needed or being hit and damaged, it adds to the complexity. In many cases, it takes up to six months to secure new equipment.

Avoid waiting until all the details are worked out.

You may not have your manifest for airport and other transfers or the locations nailed down quite yet, but it is better to book now and make modifications later rather than wait. Otherwise, transportation providers may not have the type and number of vehicles you need. “We need some details, but we can modify later,” Sanchez says.

Don’t assume that weekdays will be easier to book.

Demand for venues, transportation and almost any supplier service related to meetings and events is high since so many gatherings from 2020 and 2021 have been pushed into 2022 and beyond. “There is a lot of compression due to all the cancellations, especially for weddings. “We have more demand and less supply than ever in the transportation industry,” he explains. “Also, weddings are moving into midweek when corporate events normally happen.”

Group passengers together and use less equipment.

This helps with the driver and equipment shortage. Run a shuttle if the logistics make sense and figure out how quickly that shuttle can be flipped. For example, a property within a close distance to Denver International Airport can be completed in 45 minutes for a round trip, whereas transporting a group to Golden west of Denver requires a two-hour window. Plan accordingly to best utilize your transportation provider’s  fleet and consider providing greeters and amenities to make the time go quickly.

Select partners with group experience and a dedicated events team.

Hermes Worldwide, Inc. is one of the few transportation suppliers in Colorado and beyond that focuses solely on group business. The Hermes events team is expanding from four to six employees, and the company provides global service having worked throughout North America, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and beyond. “There is no limit to where we go. We have a vetted network of partners and send work all over the globe every day. Our team can manage event transportation from on-site or remotely almost anywhere,” says Sanchez, noting that transportation providers in other countries also are dealing with a shortage of drivers and equipment.

Plan on paying more than previously and understand your contract.

Take all these factors and inflation into account when drafting a budget as transportation costs more than in the past. “If an event is six months out or more, plan on 5 to 10% higher. Inflation is here,” he says. Also, force majeure clauses have been updated by nearly all suppliers in the meetings and events industry due to the pandemic. “Understand these clauses and any related cancellation fees,” he recommends. “Most transportation companies are not refunding for cancellations but giving clients a credit like the rest of the hospitality industry.”

It’s also important not to skimp on the little touches such as having enough greeters for airport arrivals. Sanchez says, “It makes or breaks the first part of event, getting attendees connected with their vehicles.”

Why are transportation suppliers booked so far in advance? Hopefully, we have explained the various reasons why and how to make sure your group has wheels.

Photos courtesy of Hermes Worldwide, Inc.