by Karen Robbins, President
After a two-year pause on most meetings and events, the industry seems to be on fire right now. This is a good thing, a wonderful sign of fast recovery for an industry that has been leveled during the pandemic. When I look back on the last two years, I remember wondering, at certain points, if the industry would ever recover.
When Omicron hit at the start of the year and the events on the books started to cancel, the too familiar dread in the pit of my stomach returned. But then, something happened. People waited just a little bit of time, not long, maybe a few weeks, then they started booking events like crazy and they haven’t let up since.
Such wonderful news! But is it? Yes, we are incredibly grateful for this resurgence in business. But the fact of the matter is the transportation industry is still in recovery here. While the industry is gaining back some ground it has lost, many operators in major markets are suffering from a shortage of staff and/or drivers or have opted to sell their businesses to larger companies that are suffering a shortage of staff and drivers. Aargh.
Where we find ourselves is; demand is high, supply is high, rates are high, fuel is high, but manpower is severely limited in some markets. Couple this with our customers coming back online, all at once, and “hair on fire” (as we say in the South), is what this process feels like.
Which leads me to the crux of this blog. How can we do “all the things” as my team likes to say and find a happy medium between “on fire” and slow down?
Sometimes, we just can’t do all the things. Gone are the days when we would say yes to everything because the market was flush with choices. Today, we face a lot of different market challenges, so it’s important to be careful about the business we take on so we can ensure it is handled well by us and our vendor partners.
If you are considering a transportation component for your next event, here are a few key takeaways I’ve been thinking about to help find the happy medium.
1. Plan Ahead, Don’t Book Transportation Last
I beg you, please don’t think about transportation last. Once you pick your destination, securing transportation should move to the top of your list. This gives our team time to source the appropriate solutions. We may have to go to more than one source to fulfill the order and we need the time to do so.
2. Vendors Need A Buffer to Help Meet Demand
Clients are throwing events up in the air with less than two weeks planning time. With the sourcing we are doing now, putting together a proposal is based on making sure vehicles are available in the market first then pricing. This takes time. Many companies that we go to for rates and availability are struggling to keep up with their own demand, so response times are slow. Think turtle slow. Any lead time you give us is appreciated.
3. Proper Lead Times Are Helpful
Queuing people is one of the things we do the best, but now we are queuing proposals! Having appropriate lead times helps us assign the proper person on our team to take care of your transportation event. It also helps our team queue the work. Otherwise, we are wedging in proposals and events between other clients that are already booked. This is hard on everyone.
When you have an event that requires one or more of our on-site leads we need time to plan this out too. Even if your event is just a tiny bleep on your radar, very small in the distance, let us know. Traveling these days often requires quite a bit of time to plan, so the sooner you know, the better.
4. Proposals Take Time & Careful Planning
For the love of all events, please give us enough time to complete a proposal or an RFP. We want to do a great job! Transportation proposals can often be complex or because of the above points, they may take longer than normal to complete. There are so many events back-to-back now, we need at least two weeks to prepare a proposal.
5. Be Prepared for Budgets to Look Different
When you are budgeting for a transportation event, the normal process might be to base your budget on what you did last year or the last time you were in the same city. This doesn’t work anymore because of supply and demand issues. The cost of everything has gone up and this includes vehicles and staff. But, consider our team’s experience is much like a “frequent flier” experience with our vendor partners. We bring business to our partners over and over, so they are more likely to work with us to find the right solution at the right price to deliver the best experience.
6. Lay Out Your Expectations
Let us know what is important to you so we can meet your expectations. If the lowest cost and no staff is what you need, we may not be the right fit. If you need customized full-service transportation options with high-touch, subject matter experts, then we are the team for you. We want to know what matters to you so we can customize your plan.
7. Be Open to Honesty, Transparency & Creativity
Expect honest conversations from our team. This is one of our core values. We will not sugar coat any challenges we face in the industry today. We will not tell you something will work when it may not. If you value an honest conversation about how to get your event transportation managed, we are the people for the job.
In some markets, we may need to bring vehicles or drivers in from out-of-town because availability is depleted or limited due to driver shortages while the market is still recovering. We may need to use less of one type of vehicle or more of another or maybe it’s more trips with less vehicles. There are a lot of creative options we can turn to and help figure out the best plan for your event.
From a transportation perspective, I hope you have found these points helpful and appreciate you taking the time to read this blog. I understand some of what was just outlined can’t be avoided because well, we are all a little “hair on fire” these days. But thinking about transportation a little differently and in advance as much as possible can ease a lot of stress and lay the groundwork for a great experience.