If you’ve spent months planning the perfect sales meeting for your team, or the best annual conference for your membership and clients, you know that details count. You’ve added personal touches throughout the planning process and are ready for success. But one area that could hinder the timeliness, as well as the sentiment of attendees, is transportation. Ensuring your attendees arrive and are shuttled in a convenient manner can set the tone of your entire event. Pulling it all off with today’s streamlined budgets can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are a few key areas that can help you save money without hampering the quality of your event.
One of the main methods of saving money related to transportation is ordering early. Although it’s logical to handle transportation as a last-tasked item as you want to have all the other details finalized first, planning early can allow you to lock in fuel rates as well as provide more flexibility in available vehicles. Further, while a good destination management company (DMC) is able to accommodate last minute requests, an organization can typically save money if the vehicles are reserved early. Even if your schedule isn’t firm, a DMC can book a tentative schedule. If you do not book early, vehicles will become reserved by others, resulting in higher fares for the remaining inventory. In such cases, depending on your group’s size, several smaller vehicles may need to be used if a large enough motor coach isn’t available. This will result in higher costs as well as additional coordination on your end.
Another consideration is the ability to better plan routes and activities. By consolidating transfers and looking at all available options with your DMC, you’ll benefit from a more economical solution. For example, with air travel, many attendees book their own flights, resulting in countless itineraries and airport meet-and-greets. However, much expense can be eliminated by using a program manifest. This ensures the proper number of buses is ordered and available during an appropriate timeframe for attendees. Gathering such information can be cumbersome, so it is key to partner with a DMC that offers attendees the opportunity to easily share their travel information, such as through a custom event registration website.
Other key factors that may impact your bottom-line are restrictions and permitting, staging areas for loading and unloading guests, safety, inspections and insurance. With ample notice, a DMC can ensure economical and efficient solutions related to these factors. For example, it’s possible to obtain a permit to pick-up at a location that normally won’t allow buses to load/unload, which obviously provides the best door-to-door service for your guests. It is also key that your DMC have connections with local convention and visitor bureaus, hotel concierge, airport staff and city officials to assist with routing information and streamlined staging. Knowledge of various customs and cultures is also critical. For example, a tour of students from the
In addition to incorporating these tips to save money, your transportation line-item can also be a revenue generator for your event. For instance, some DMCs will facilitate sponsorship opportunities for the group by integrating branded bus wraps, headrest covers or other signage to promote the sponsor and/or conference theme. This not only provides you with the opportunity to generate funds, but it provides for a better experience as you can incorporate the brand and theme through every attendee touch point.
Many common mistakes, inefficiencies, expenses and general areas of frustration can be alleviated through simple pre-planning. If possible, it is recommended to share transfer and shuttling needs with your DMC three to six months prior to the event. Other transportation, such as airport meet-and-greets, can be arranged one to two months in advance.
As a final note, working with a DMC that is a member of the Association of Destination Management Executives International will help you efficiently identify your needs and maximize your return on investment.
Renee Splittgerber is the director of transportation services for metroConnections. She oversees the tour and transportation services division, including operations and sales functions. Her experience includes the management of 4,000 attendee conventions and juggling the management of 17 groups during the NCAA final four championships.