5 Group Transportation Trends You Need to Know About

From ridesharing to interactivity, these transportation trends are moving groups forward in more ways than one

Transportation is often the catalyst of world change. When Europeans colonized the New World, for instance, they did so traveling on great ships. When the Industrial Revolution turned agrarian economies into industrial ones, steam-powered trains likewise were major players. And when the United States became a global power in the 20th century, automobiles and commercial air travel were big reasons why.

Given its transformative power, it's astonishing that of all the various components of meetings and events, transportation is the one that has probably changed the least. Whether your meeting took place in 2015, 2005, or 1995, your choices for moving attendees from point A to point B looked remarkably similar. And while you're just as likely now as you were then to rely on old standbys like limousines and motorcoaches, shifts in technology, current events, and consumer preferences mean meeting professionals are witnessing some of the biggest evolutions in group transportation in recent memory.

Here are five trends that are leading the way:

1. Fleet Diversity

Groups have more transportation choices than ever, according to Patrick Sullivan, president of New York-based destination management company AlliedPRA New York. 

"If a client brings a large program of, say, 500 guests or more, they often ask that we manage airport arrival and departure transfers, utilizing sedans, sprinters, mini-coaches, and coaches," Sullivan says. "We have used branded pedicabs for clients going from hotels to, say, a Broadway show. We utilize double-decker coaches, bicycles, boats, yachts, and walking tours."

2. Risk Management

Because transportation companies are so busy, they often sub-contract work out to affiliates. Unfortunately, that could leave groups exposed, according to Cosimo Bruzzese, vice president of business development at New York-based destination management company Briggs Inc. In an era of increased gun violence, potential terrorism, and other criminal threats, he's seeing an increased focus on due diligence. 

"Because of the reality of the world we live in, risk management has become a major protocol," Bruzzese says. "More people are going through a vetting process to determine who companies sub-contract to, who's driving their vehicles, and where liability falls if something happens."

3. Experiential Transportation

"Fun, interactive travel has become a huge part of the industry," explains Bruzzese, who says groups increasingly covet transportation that is not just utilitarian (i.e., it gets them to where they're going), but also experiential (i.e., it's engaging and stimulating). "People want to emotionally connect with their transportation."

To that end, meeting planners are now able to customize not only the vehicles in which their attendees travel, but also everything else about their ride. "They're selecting everything from the drivers -- including how they're dressed -- to the types of foods on the vehicles. There is no more one-size-fits-all. It's all personal," continues Bruzzese, who says groups increasingly are requesting experiences like the one aboard New York's The Ride, a custom-built theater bus that combines a tour of Manhattan with interactive live entertainment.

Echoes Sullivan, "Transportation companies are getting newer vehicles that include outlets, monitors, and kitchenettes for snacks for those clients who wish to use coaches that can accommodate food and beverage for longer trips…We are also able to outfit coaches with décor and entertainment."

Some motorcoaches are even hosting meetings from the road. "The newest luxury vehicles are amazing. We're talking state of-the-art Wi-Fi, full connectivity, leather couches -- they have full-blown offices in them, so some people are now having board meetings aboard vehicles on the way from the airport to the hotel," Bruzzese says.

4. Ridesharing

Thanks to companies like Uber and Lyft, perhaps the greatest influence on transportation in the past couple years has been the sharing economy, according to Bruzzese. For liability reasons, his company doesn't offer ridesharing services; however, clients undeniably are requesting them, he says. In fact, both Uber and Lyft now offer services for corporate users and events. The latter, for instance, has a "Lyft for Work" service, while the former recently unveiled UberEVENTS. In both cases, event organizers can pre-pay for rides that can be used by event attendees to travel between venues; rides can even be restricted to certain days, times, locations, and dollar amounts to ensure they're used only for event-related transfers.

While there's a major upside -- attendees no longer have to wait for a motorcoach to take them back to their hotel; instead, they can just hop in an Uber when they're ready to go -- there are a few potential downsides, as well. Because ridesharing companies aren't as heavily regulated as traditional taxi services, one is potential legal risk. Another is reputation risk.

"You might be trying to design a high-level experience and event for your attendees, then end up with a driver who doesn't speak English and doesn't know where to go," Bruzzese explains. "In New York, for instance, we get a lot of drivers coming from Pennsylvania because they know they can make more money here. What happens when you ask that driver to go to Wall Street and they don't know how to get there, and their GPS isn't getting a signal? It's a big problem."

5. Push Notifications

Ridesharing is so popular that it has spawned another, final major trend, according to Bruzzese: push notifications. "You can now utilize push notifications in virtually any conference app you might use," he says. "When there's mass group transportation, for example, all your attendees can receive a message on their phones that says, 'The CEO awaits you at X venue; your motorcoach will be departing at 6:15.' Before, everyone would receive hard copies and you just had to know to be downstairs by 6 o'clock … Push notifications have impacted dramatically how we're transferring and how we're communicating to attendees."