asked Catherine Chaulet, CMP, senior vice president, events, with Boston-based BostonCoach for some tips on how meeting planners can make the most of their ground transportation dollars. Here's what she had to say.
AM: What are the top things meeting planners can do to avoid premium costs when it comes to transportation?
Chaulet: Reserve your transportation as soon as possible. In addition to avoiding potential increased costs, you'll avoid a last-minute scramble to find vehicles to meet your needs. This is especially important when planning an event during a busy season. Also, don't dismiss shuttles, which are an extremely economical option for transporting large numbers of attendees.
To avoid confusion and any lapse in service, be sure to communicate to your guests details about transportation logistics — pickup and drop-off times and locations — according to the recommendations of your ground transportation partner.
AM: What information do planners need before doing a transportation request for proposal?
Chaulet: The more accurate the information about the following items, the better:
Date and duration
Number of attendees and their role or status (e.g., general public, member of board of directors, other VIP, media, etc.)
Any off-site activities planned that require ground transportation. How many activities are planned, where will they be held, and how many guests do you expect to attend?
Additional services you will require (e.g., signage, coordination with police and security, an on-site travel desk, valet parking, meet-and-greet service)
AM: How can planners budget realistically for transportation?
Chaulet: Every event is unique and therefore so is the best transportation plan — and budget — it requires. That said, we generally find that our clients allocate at least 10 percent of the budget to ground transportation.
AM: Can associations reduce their shuttle costs by contracting directly with a local bus company rather than using a management company?
Chaulet: Not really. A low-cost quote from a bus company may sound great, but it probably only covers the cost of vehicles, which may not be in optimal condition, and doesn't include any related services. A partner skilled in both transportation and transportation management may cost more, but the level of service is worth it.
AM: What are some of the biggest misconceptions planners have about budgeting for ground transportation?
Chaulet: The biggest misconception they tend to have is that transportation is simply a necessary evil. Transportation logistics are anything but simple, and far from being an evil, transportation can be a huge asset in setting the stage for a successful event. An event, after all, extends well beyond the confines of a venue. In fact, research shows that 70 percent of attendees harbor negative feelings about events because of bad transportation experiences.
AM: How can planners determine how many buses they'll need for their event?
Chaulet: The number of vehicles needed is a function of the number of attendees and their tolerance for waiting. An event planner coordinating transportation for 500 guests who are willing to wait 10 minutes for a shuttle bus is going to require fewer vehicles than a one who's planning for 300 VIPs who won't wait even three minutes for the next vehicle. Planners should consult with a transportation management specialist on refining that equation for their particular events.
As senior vice president, events, with BostonCoach (BostonCoach.com), Catherine Chaulet manages the events division, which provides group transportation and management for meetings and events.