The pandemic has brought much uncertainty, chaos and unknowns the past few years. As in-person meetings and events start to increase in 2022 many aspects of the industry are still facing challenges. Currently the tourism and meetings industry are facing transportation woes. It has been a struggle for planners, organizers, and transportation companies since the pandemic ensued. Towards the end of last year and the first of 2022, many event planners struggled to find suitable transportation for their on-site groups. There just wasn’t availability. The pandemic affected many motorcoach and transportation companies. Many downsized the amount and type of vehicles they had, and some even shut their businesses. Pre-planning was essential to getting what a planner needed and wanted.
I live in a small Arizona town approximately 100 miles north of Phoenix. A group I consulted with for their March meeting here wanted to book motorcoaches for their 800+ group 4 months out and there were none to be had in our town nor in Phoenix. They could not have booked earlier as there was concern whether the meetings would be a go or not as the covid variants were rampant at the time. So, the group had to re-think the off-site event they were considering. They had to re-strategize and change to accommodate the lack of transportation. A sad reality.
Uber and Lyft are challenging in many locations with fewer drivers. The pandemic caused many to quit as they were worried about their health. Our little city has many retirees who were drivers and quit driving due to Covid concerns. It still has not picked up substantially. Also, many of us got used to staying in and not going out as much so the need decreased.
I spoke recently with a few planners and it appears the availability of transportation issue may be easing up. One planner was able to book coaches two weeks out in Puerto Vallarta and another was able to book 20 days out in Florida for a March program. I still think Uber and Lyft are not running at pre-pandemic capacities. And groups are still not totally back either. Many corporate groups continue to have hybrid meetings. However, confidence is growing, and more in-person meetings and events are on the books. Transportation needs and demand will continue to increase as more in-person programs commence.
So, now we have rising fuel costs and uncertainty with costs. Will current contracts be adjusted or honored? What will transportation companies use as a base for cost, and will it include provisions for rising fuel costs in future contracts or will they charge a fuel surcharge after the event based on costs at the time? So many questions now for the event planners to consider when contracting for transportation. Planners now will have to consider this in their budgets, and it certainly could affect other aspects of the program. Recently Travel Weekly contacted several tour operators across the globe and they indicated for now that fuel surcharges are not being considered but new bookings may very well see a price hike.
Just recently Uber began to charge a fuel fee for the next 60 days. There now will be a temporary fuel surcharge of $.45 or $.55 for each trip and $.35 or $.45 for each UberEats, location dependent. Lyft also followed Uber with the addition of a fuel surcharge. I suspect other transportation companies will do the same. They must cover their costs when it comes to fuel.
The days of ease of booking all aspects of an event, meeting or incentive have changed and the pandemic has definitely impacted so many in our industry. And now we are dealing with a major conflict overseas that is driving costs up not only in the US, but the world. Group transportation, I think, will continue to be challenging with availability and rising fuel prices. Buyer beware!
As we all know, the pandemic changed life in many ways and even how we conduct business and meetings. Many program components that once were booked with ease are now increasingly difficult. Nothing can be taken for granted. Change happened and will continue to happen in our industry. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming year.