Planning Group Travel Has Never Been Easier
by: Michael Campos, Assistant Editor, Limousine, Charter & Tour Magazine
THE AMERICAN BUS ASSOCIATION, ONTARIO MOTOR COACH ASSOCIATION, AND UNITED MOTORCOACH ASSOCIATION HAVE LAUNCHED WEBSITES TO CONNECT TRAVEL SERVICES WITH THE CLIENTS LOOKING FOR THEM.
In 2005, the United Motorcoach association launched BusRates.com to offer an easier way for group-travel planners to find bus companies. In 2009, the American Bus Association joined with the Ontario Motor Coach Association to launch GroupConnect.com, their portal for group-travel planners.
Both websites have evolved since their inception and offer more planning tools and options to benefit clients and operators alike. The philosophy behind them is simple: the easier it is for a client to book coaches and other group travel services from the same portal, the more likely they are to choose motorcoach travel over other modes of transportation.
BusRates.com, which receives nearly 100,000 visitors each month, sports an easy-to-use interface for clients searching for coach operators, hotel accommodations, restaurants, attractions, events, and other group activities.
“Our goal is not only to make it easy for our visitors to fulfill their group travel needs, but also to let them find out more about each company by directing them to a website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and/or review past customer reviews,” says Eric Elliott, program manager for BusRates.com.
“We encourage user reviews to help future customers navigate the choices available to them,” BusRates CEO Victor Parra says.
BusRates.com User Features
- Free to access.
- Search for bus companies that offer group charters and own their buses.
- Search by bus type, location, or company name.
- Bus types: charter bus, minibus, school bus, Entertainer, Executive, limo bus, party bus, trolley, double decker, van, transit bus, tour operator.
- Search for hotels, attractions, events and restaurants with National Tour Association membership.
- Build customized itinerary.
- Customer review and testimonials section.
- Company descriptions, DOT safety ratings, websites, phone numbers, and email addresses.
BusRates.com Operator/Service Provider Features
- Different paid ad positions.
- Free one-month directory listing at the end of which BusRates will email the operator a summary traffic report to assess the benefit of joining the directory.
- Post information such as fleet size, vehicle types, vehicle specs and amenities.
- Post general rates, custom quotes, and inventory.
How Well Does it Work?
Dan Goff of A Goff Transportation in Charlottesville, Va. first came across BusRates.com when its ads popped up as competitors on sites where he already advertised. “I understand the benefit of referral networks, so I bought some advertising and received some work the first year,” he says.
“The following year, I bought the dominant ad in each of the markets we service, and I saw a very significant increase in the amount of work we received. I’m very pleased with BusRates.com because it has very active managers who don’t shy away from problems. When I had an incident with a competitor bashing my company by posting negative reviews on the site, I notified BusRates and they did a thorough, multi-day investigation to find the fraud and correct it. I find it a very valuable site and would recommend them to anyone.”
BusRates.com does not list:
- Brokers or middlemen.
- Fixed route/single passenger tickets.
- Public transportation.
- School bus companies that do not charter to the public.
- Tourism and travel suppliers who are not members of NTA.
Monthly BusRates.com Visitors from June 2010 to May 2011:
- May: 124,352
- April: 121,163
- March: 132,033
- February: 106,399
- January: 119,468
- December: 80,777
- November: 96,604
- October: 100,052
- September: 107,961
- August: 107,771
- July: 113,090
- June: 107,509
DID YOU KNOW?
84% of Americans are influenced by online customer reviews, according to an Opinion Research Corp. survey.