Limousine Charter & Tour

December 2016

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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72 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR DECEMBER 2016 Martin Romjue Leisurely Directed EDITOR'S EDGE I DECEMBER 2016 HONG KONG — I MUST CON- fess: In eight years as LCT editor, I'd never taken an as-directed ride in a corporate sedan until this past October. It's all been occasional air- port transfers, point-to-point trips, or evenings in a stretch limousine. While vacationing in Hong Kong, we finally took an as-directed trip with London- based Tristar Worldwide Chauf- feur Services, one of the largest global chauffeured networks with operations there. I chose this option to efficiently tour more outlying areas and sites on the island of Hong Kong, thereby saving on wait time for public transportation and avoiding open-air double-decker tourist mobiles. The experience revealed a few operational points that could benefit limousine companies always looking for new approaches or niches: C2L: Corporate To Leisure The first point is we used a Mercedes- Benz S500 for leisure, instead of busi- ness purposes. Our senior chauffeur, Eddie Yu, arrived at the hotel dressed in a black suit, looking primed to transport some international bankers or a visiting CEO. Our experience bucks the conven- tional wisdom that corporate sedans and suited chauffeurs are best for B2B trips. Although we were dressed in shorts and tourist garb, I thought having a corporate sedan and professional chauffeur to enjoy a day of touring enhanced and classed up our experience in many ways. You don't need to relegate your leisure clients to stretches, buses, SUVs, or vans. Limousine services could find potential in marketing corporate-black-sedan-suited-chauffeur service to tourist clients who would appreciate the professionalism and the distinction of such an experience. After all, how many tourists do what we did? And in the eternal quest nowadays for unique experiences among travelers, does our run point to an added client market? Concierge Touch The second advantage was being driven around by a chauf- feur with strong local knowledge. Eddie could one-up any tour guide in detailing historical and cultural points of interest. On our run, we directed him to take us to the southern side of Hong Kong island, where the roads narrow to two lanes along some low cliffs and lead to beaches and small towns. He could answer every question we asked, and even knew all about the current events affecting Hong Kong, from traffic, to transportation, to housing shortages. After dropping us off near a downtown outdoor market, Eddie texted me to remind me most local vendors are willing to bargain and to never pay full price. That was a helpful tip to a novice visitor like me. Like any experienced chauffeur, he knew the best traffic routes, drop-off and pick-up points, and areas to walk to get the most out of our destinations. With a group tour, you are at the mercy of a preset, one-size-fits-all tour and route. So the ques- tion for operators: Do you have chauffeurs who are history and local interest buffs who could be part of a personalized tour for leisure clients, or even corporate clients who want to add a day off to their business trips? Global Clout This being our annual global issue, I would be remiss if I didn't plug the advantages of bilingual chauffeurs. Eddie speaks fluent English and Cantonese, which helped me (no Chinese language skills); my wife (fluent no-accent English and Cantonese); and my mother-in-law, (99% Cantonese speaking). Eddie could interchangeably talk with all of us, making our day a memorable experi- ence. I am well aware of how glob- ally connected chauffeured networks employ bilingual chauffeurs, but this skill is becoming more relevant in second- and third-tier metro markets. The global, hyper connected economy — regardless of political interferences — cannot be slowed. International tourism, corporate travel, and free trade will only grow in the years ahead, and more foreigners will be visiting U.S. cities. A recent example is the influx of Chinese citizens coming to Los Angeles and San Francisco, seeking second homes and college educations for kids. So it raises the questions: What are ethnic markets, trends, and demands in your region? What second languages should your chauffeurs know? Are language classes, especially in Spanish and Chinese, a worthwhile investment? What are the marketing advantages? Personal Service It's worth repeating: Chauffeured service boils down to per- sonal encounters. In our case, Eddie offered to take photos of us when we stopped by the parochial primary school my wife attended as a young girl. Her trip down memory lane was made all the better by not having to figure out exactly "where it was" and having a chauffeur who could maneuver the steep hillsides and winding roads of Happy Valley. Every client has special angles to a personal trip, and good chauffeurs know how to cater to them. At a time of angst about Uber and TNCs, operations can deepen their natural specialties to come up with added or bet- ter approaches to clients. I've never been a fan of obsessively surveying consumers about what they really desire. I would wager plenty of potential clients would want a "C2L: corpo- rate-to-leisure" chauffeured experience described above. With the right message and pitch, you can attract those clients who don't really know what they want until you show them — and then make them want it. martin@lctmag.com American tourist meets world class chauffeur.

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