Luxury Coach & Transportation

October 2018

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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64 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION OCTOBER 2018 MARTIN ROMJUE Soaring With More Class OCTOBER 2018 I 'll admit I'm getting burned out on all the talk of cost-conscious consumers, especially those travelers angling for a $9 ride-hail. I understand the desire to save money where possible and not pay too much, but one conse- quence of the real-time, mobile-centric market is a mismatch between price and expectations. Consumers collectively insist on low prices, thanks to more media at their •ngertips. But they also want what they see all over the media, too: Other people enjoying the good or better life, or a carefully curated life on Facebook. Welcome to envy- eyed, sel•e-stickied, cheapskate Ameri- cana brought to you in part by Uber and Lyft. Sorry to de†ate anyone's smart shop- ping strategy, but no matter how much money you can save thanks to an info- surged, competitive, e-commerce market, you still get what you pay for in one way or another. ‡at's why a recent Forbes magazine report about a start-up luxury airline got my attention. At a time when so much of our commerce has become commoditized, the idea of an all luxury air carrier o‰ers vast potential. If anything, the boldness of going against trendy peer pressure deserves notice. As Forbes reported, a Taiwanese entrepre- neur plans to launch StarLux Airlines by 2020. It intends to go "above and beyond the everyday wide seats and free champagne typically found in business class," the article states. While fo- cused on the top 5% wealthiest travelers, it seeks people looking for new experiences. "Passengers will also be able to use a customized on-call function to set their own schedules for sleeping, eating, and drinking while in †ight," all in rede- signed aircraft interiors. ‡at sure sounds familiar in LCT circles: Luxury = customization + comfort + conve- nience (the 3 Cs). Now, StarLux has not dis- closed pricing, routes, and seating options, and plenty of experts question if this airline would succeed. While it won't be cheap, the concept is a proven winner. Appetites for luxury prod- ucts, services, and experiences have increased as the economy strengthens and consumer eyes grow bigger as their wallets fatten. ‡e challenge is to take appetite and turn it into non-cheapskate demand. For a luxury transportation business, the StarLux approach embodies a classic business calculation: When everyone is going low class, you go high class: Selling/offering added service: "‡irty minutes after we drop you o‰ at your hotel, do you need a trip somewhere for an errand, appointment, or meal?" I've more than once checked in late at an unfamiliar destination, hungry, tired, and clueless about where to go eat, and wished I would have been asked that question. What about giving clients the option to hold the chau‰eur over for an hour or 90 minutes to take them to and from a restaurant when none are in walking distance? Would such "added service" arranged via app be a bonus experience you could o‰er? It's easier for a client to request or reserve additional trips or er- rand runs they think of as they're heading in from the airport. Why make them go to Uber? Putting yourself in the shoes of the clients and their situa- tions could yield new service opportunities. Upgraded luxury vehicles: ‡ere was a time when many travelers relished being picked up in a stretch limousine. ‡ose days are long gone, but what about using corporate-style limo and road show vans or SUVs for occasional airport transfers for those clients wanting the "StarLux" di‰erence? Would clients facing one hour-plus trips from the airport to the outer burbs or another part of the state pay a little extra for some "cabin comfort?" Concierge training: Let's face it — anyone can drive any vehicle with the proper training. As I've heard operators explain, what often distin- guishes your service or brand are your frontline chau‰eurs. How well do most of them know the city and all those tips and insights you don't get in tourist manuals or even online? How much †exibility do they have in accommodating real- time client requests and side trips? How well con- nected are they to local complementary services and resources? Good information from a friendly, attentive chau‰eur can de•ne your brand and instill customer loyalty. Not all employees grow up in your city or area. Do you invest in giving them a head and heart for local †avor? ‡ose are just three ideas. ‡e potential for customized services is as vast as the number of clients. As the price-plungers race to the bot- tom, luxury transportation operators can rise up through more layers of revenue. As Forbes quotes the airline entrepreneur: "He believes luxury should not be the exclusive experience of the elite, but readily available to everyone." LET'S FACE IT; ANYONE CAN DRIVE A CAR OR ANY VEHICLE WITH THE PROPER TRAINING. AS I'VE HEARD OPERATORS EXPLAIN, WHAT OFTEN DISTINGUISHES YOUR SERVICE OR BRAND ARE YOUR FRONTLINE CHAUFFEURS. What's Included With 'Luxury'? The LCT team recently tackled the term "luxury" during our annual planning sessions. What values or concepts come to mind when you hear the word, and what should LCT convey through its content? Here were our top responses, which can define a company: • Uniqueness • Plush • Fancy • Exclusive • Value • Worry-free • Quality • Safe • Step above • Experience martin@lctmag.com EDITOR'S EDGE An Asian airline startup offers some lessons on how luxury transportation providers can move up in a price-driven market.

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