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Tips for Coordinating Event Shuttle Transportation

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Shuttle bus to transfer event attendees to hotel.

Image © flickr.com/wohinauswandern

Using shuttle buses to help attendees reach events has grown increasingly popular over recent years. As convention centers expand in size and the number of venue options increase, the likelihood that your guests will need to travel between their hotel and your event is pretty good. If you want to keep everyone happy, and avoid late arrivals, then it makes sense to provide shuttle transportation.

Coordinating shuttle service for an event can be a big job, which is why it is important to plan exactly what you need before contacting a provider. You should know your event itinerary, partner hotels and the estimated amount of riders before soliciting bids. Most transportation services calculate their fees based on the number of vehicles and the length of time they will be used. Thus, it will be difficult to get an accurate bid unless you know the basic parameters of your event.

The size of the bus you choose will determine how many people you can transport at one time. Offering continuous service is always the most flexible option for attendees. To do this effectively, use smaller vehicles that cost less per hour. Extend registration and reception times to provide a wider window for guests to arrive, which will prevent everyone trying to hop on the same bus. An added bonus with offering extended registration time is that it will help reduce long lines and stress on your registration staff.

Route planning is an essential task for maintaining a predictable schedule that your attendees can count on. Ideally you’ll be able to map out a circular route that avoids congested traffic. Use Google Maps to develop a handful of options, and then drive the routes yourself to time them. Test drives should be done at the same time the shuttle buses will run to gauge traffic conditions, and don’t forget to incorporate five or ten minutes at each stop for loading and unloading.

All of your buses will need easily-recognizable signage to attract riders who may be distracted by their cell phones or competing buses lined up outside the hotel. Coach buses typically have programmable sign boards built-in, but many of the smaller shuttles do not. In this case, you’ll want to use poster-sized signs that display your conference logo as well as the written name of your group. Place one sign each on the front, back, and passenger side of the bus for the most exposure.

Having a conference staff member ride along in the shuttle bus is recommended for at least the first day of operation. Remember, the shuttle drivers are not paid to answer conference-related questions, and the first day will likely bring quite a few. The great thing about including staff members on your shuttles is that they can often troubleshoot problems right away, which will take some of the load off the registration table.

Last but not least, include an attendee “help number” on the bus and inside your conference materials. You don’t want anyone to get stranded in an unsafe area, and people tend to get nervous when they don’t see the shuttle waiting for them right when they walk outside. Yes, this will create an additional communication channel to supervise, but the problems it can prevent make it worth the trouble.

Adding shuttle bus service to your event is something that can add a lot of value for your attendees. Even if the majority of your guests are staying on-site, you might still consider offering shuttle excursions to nightlife destinations and tourist attractions. Those who fly into an event are often left alone after-hours, and a group-sponsored outing can make for some fantastic memories.

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