[IMAGE]LeBus-.jpg[/IMAGE]Sixty years ago, Mike and Marjorie Zanetti decided to start "Vet's Taxi," using one car and bus to transport mining employees between Rock Springs and Green River, Wyo. The family business has since grown into Le Bus, a Salt Lake City-based charter and tour operation that now serves the tri-state area of Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.
Acquiring new software and embracing online technology has allowed the carrier to thrive in tough economic times, says GM Dennis Copyak.
Last year, the customized software that Le Bus had used for the past 15 years stopped working following a computer upgrade. The operator then switched to the Motorcoach Manager software program, which keeps track of passenger information, including how many trips they have taken; trip scheduling; drivers' medical records and licenses; incidents, liabilities and positive feedback; and fleet maintenance records, enabling more efficient and productive job scheduling and coach maintenance.
Scheduling in particular has become much simpler as a result of the new software. "We used to have these great big boards in our office filled with tape, numbers, little squares and buses going everywhere to keep track of the buses and how many were available on a daily basis," says Copyak about the previously used system. The new software, however, displays all of that information in one spreadsheet that spans a 21-day period, allows for color-coding of different types of tours and breaks down the list of drivers on a graph.
Now Copyak says, one coach can be sent out for an airport transfer or a four-hour city tour in the morning; do a 1:30 p.m. local student ski run; finish at 5 p.m.; and join a fourth, fifth or sixth add-on bus for a Nevada casino night. "We never had that capability before this new software came out...it makes sense to do a $300 or $400 move in the morning, a $400 ski run in the afternoon and a $900 charter to Nevada in the evening [with the] same bus...that's good revenue for one day," adds Copyak.
The added flexibility in managing both time and equipment also sparked inspiration for new domestic tours when overseas travelers from Asia temporarily stopped visiting in the early part of the summer, due to concerns about the H1N1 virus. Those visitors represented at least 25 percent to 30 percent of national parks visitation over the last several years, says Copyak. LeBus coordinated its unused vehicles and created its own local programs directed toward some of the nearby church activity in Martin's Cove, Wyo., an important point of interest rich with Mormon history. As a result, more locals hopped onboard. Meanwhile, the Asian tourist market started rebounding in September.
Le Bus also became more involved with their local convention and visitors bureau to fill in those slower months. "We had all of this equipment due to all the [overseas tourist] cancellations, so we devised some three-hour city tours of the highlights of Salt Lake City, [since] a lot of conventions don't have the time. Those became very popular...in September, things started taking off, and we had our second-best October ever," Copyak says.
In the office, Copyak points out that they have adapted the use of social networking tools, including LinkedIn and Facebook, to their advantage. Not too long ago, he explains, using them was condemned in their office. However, they soon realized that having a presence on the popular Websites made them even more accessible to customers. "If somebody needs a bus, they know Jennifer [in sales], or Brian, the operations manager at Le Bus," Copyak says. "They all belong to these social networks."