We at Event Transportation Systems (ETS) are feeling more optimistic as each day passes and we see positive news about a real recovery. However, for the multi-faceted national network of mostly family-owned motor coach operators, optimism may feel further out of reach.
According to a Bloomberg CityLab article, as many as 800 motor coach charter operators (of approximately 3,000 nationwide) have closed their doors since the pandemic brought the motorcoach industry to an abrupt and unexpected halt. And with little funding included in the last round of government pandemic relief, many more could be teetering on the edge of shuttering their businesses.
Some larger operators have been able to pivot, converting their buses into mobile testing and vaccination units, and others have been able to support government agencies by providing transportation for health-care workers and natural disaster evacuees, but hundreds of smaller operators are struggling to stay afloat.
Why does this matter to meeting and event planners? Well, for one thing, it’s not clear yet if we will be faced with a motorcoach supply shortage in some markets, and perhaps a larger shortage of drivers compared to pre-pandemic times. It’s estimated that nearly 80% of the industry’s workforce has been furloughed. Will they return to the industry or will many seek new jobs in different industries? That’s certainly a question that those laid off from their jobs in the meetings and events industry can relate to.
In addition, it appears that based on the positive outlook regarding pandemic recovery, many organizations have rescheduled early 2021 meetings to late 2021 (mostly in the Fall), which will likely create competition for bus supply in popular convention cities. This may drive up the hourly rate for vehicles.
We are thinking about these issues and surveying the landscape of cities where our clients will be hosting their meetings in the next few years, so we can be prepared. But this also requires attention from planners who are looking ahead to meetings that will require shuttling. These are challenging times and we know that many planners are being forced to make decisions about hosting their meetings with shorter lead times, and therefore are hesitant to sign contracts far in advance.
We at ETS understand these challenges. To help reduce risk for planners, we have created even more flexible contract terms and will provide clients with multiple transportation scenarios given that attendee numbers are not as predictable for near to mid-term conferences. We suggest that planners do not wait to begin the process of sourcing their transportation, otherwise they may find that they will be competing for a potentially more limited supply of high quality and safe motorcoaches and drivers.
ETS is a nationwide ground transportation management company, specializing in designing, managing and executing transportation systems for meetings and events of all sizes across North America. Read about our full suite of services including our attendee transportation app – ETS-Next-Shuttle – and our transportation sponsorship programs division, Newsday Communications.