Danny W.L. Tang pictured in front of his Tai Pan Tours motorcoach.
To help modernize their fleet, cut down on maintenance costs and attract customers, Tai Pan Tours recently invested $5 million in 10 brand new Setra S417s. The company hopes the new additions will help their aspirations of “the art of living, respecting the uniqueness of people and places, and the appreciation of life.”
“The European brand has a big appeal to a majority of our customer base,” says Danny W.L. Tang, vice president, finance and operations. “It was definitely the right time to move to more innovative coaches.”
Tai Pan’s new Setras feature the Top Sky roof — a favorite among its customers — scenic view cameras, leather headrests and Nimbus seats with magazine nets. What Tai Pan really likes about its new coaches, however, are the reduced emissions, HVAC system and multiplex electrical system with self diagnostics, which help them extend maintenance intervals and show their commitment to being environmentally aware.
The operation uses its new Setras for its Casino Rama runs, which runs 50 routes 24/7, with pickup locations throughout the greater Toronto area. To help increase that arm of its already successful business, the operation recently ran a well received “Ride 5 Get 1 Free” campaign. Tang says that promotions such as these are important because of the area’s large Asian population, who have a culture of searching for value. Still, Tang adds that his operation’s client base is about 50/50, so that search for value is universal, especially during the current, difficult economic times.
Aside from its luxury coaches, Tai Pan also boasts a strong commitment to safety training and was recently awarded an Outstanding Achievement Certificate from the Transportation Health & Safety Association of Ontario for attaining a higher safety standard among other companies of its same kind over a three year period.
“Safety training is embedded into our whole philosophy, policies and procedures,” says Tang, who adds that there are still many obstacles that Tai Pan faces, including declining business during the cold Toronto winters.
“It’s not an easy business, it’s very tough, and the reason is because you don’t have a smooth demand throughout the whole year. So, you have to smooth out your capacity and take advantage of the busy months to help get you through the slower ones,” he says.
To help increase business during the cold months, Tai Pan is concentrating on ski trips and staying competitive with its pricing, while also opening its garage to service trucks and coaches from other local businesses.
But, the operations’ biggest challenge, Tang says, is retaining mechanics and drivers during these slower months and building a succession plan should these skilled laborers leave. To help remedy that issue, Tai Pan keeps all of its mechanics and drivers well trained, so that if somebody does leave, there is somebody fully capable available to step in.
“If one or two of your drivers or mechanics leave, it could really cause a lot of chaos,” he explains. “That’s why you develop training programs and a succession plan to fill those positions, because those people are so important. As long as you have fully staffed and certified personnel, you’ll always be fine.”
FLEET MIX: Prevost and Setra
DRIVERS: 100 (80 full time, 20 part time)
SERVICE AREA: Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, and Northeastern & Southeastern U.S.
SERVICES OFFERED: charter, shuttle, tour, airport and local transfer
YEAR STARTED: 1998
AVERAGE ANNUAL MILEAGE: 4.5 million (estimate)
VICE PRESIDENT: Danny W.L. Tang