GoPegasus President Fernando Pereira and VP Claudia Menezes were on hand to accept the Innovative Operator of the Year Award from METRO's Associate Publisher Mark Hollenbeck at ABA Marketplace. Photos courtesy ABA/GoPegasus
Begun 25 years ago with just one man and one van, Orlando, Fla.’s GoPegasus has grown into a full-service travel and transportation company, with a focus on simplifying processes for both its customers and employees, as well as giving back to the community.
The family business was started by Fernando Pereira, who today serves as president of the company. He was joined by his wife Claudia Menezes in 2001, who now serves as VP and began her career as a travel agent, with their daughter, Fernanda Vanetta, now serving as CFO.
After adding its first motorcoach, the company soon saw a downturn in business due to 9/11, which impacted international tourism and business as a whole.
“We knew we had to be creative to drum up business, so we decided to run our empty buses all around the city — tourist spots, airports, and everywhere in between,” explains Menezes. “Our buses covered so much ground, that it actually appeared like we had a large fleet, and soon we began to start getting phone calls from local businesses, schools, churches, and meeting planners.”
From those humble beginnings, GoPegasus now offers a wide range of services and products from its offices in Orlando and Miami, including attraction tickets, hotel and restaurant reservations, meet-and-greet, and formal event planning. The company is a one-stop-shop for travel destination and prides itself on providing the best deals for domestic and international clients, while also providing stress-free travel experiences.
Only 'live voices' allowed
Boasting a fleet that includes 30 motorcoaches with amenities including free 4G Wi-Fi and audio/visual technology, GoPegasus’ clients are mainly groups in the areas of tour operators, schools, corporations, seniors, and free independent travelers (FIT), both foreign and domestic.
“The way our business is set up is that we have three departments that serve our leisure, conventions and meeting planners, and sports customers, which make up about 70% of our annual business. We also generate our own business on a day-to-day basis,” Menezes says. “We believe that all of this diversification really sets us apart from the competition in the area, and there is a lot of it here in Orlando.”
The operation has also grown to include over 80 employees, who are trained to deliver the best quality customer service. For example, all phone calls are answered by a live voice, with the company emphasizing that there are no answering machines anywhere throughout their offices. The company also has a multilingual staff, with some of its sales team and drivers onboard able to speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German.
Client packages, service software
Staying ahead of the curve, the company recently introduced a web platform called Pegasus Marketplace, which allows international clients and travel agents, who work specifically with FIT, to have the same all-inclusive experience as group travelers do.
Pegasus Marketplace allows the operation’s clients to find and reserve pre-built packages or compare hotel rates. Pegasus Marketplace also shows attraction prices and itineraries, giving groups the opportunity to build their own packages for their customers, if they prefer. The system allows GoPegasus to have a faster and more efficient response for these types of requests. Since the launch of the Pegasus Marketplace, the company has experienced an increase in sales and client satisfaction, while also providing another revenue stream for GoPegasus, which continues to grow.
The team at GoPegasus also created a software system that improves internal processes, as well as the client’s experience, dubbed W.I.N.G.S (web integrated network group services).
Available on mobile devices, W.I.N.G.S. allows GoPegasus clients to track their services and transportation in real time; to make modifications or additions to existing reservations; and conduct boarding checks and view dining reservations and hotel accommodations. The system also helps tour operators who work with student travel groups to remain calm, since it allows them to make room changes, change seats, and count the number of students getting back on the bus — all from a handheld device.
W.I.N.G.S. has also improved the efficiency of internal processes, allowing GoPegasus to find all client information quickly in one window. The program not only integrates the sales information and processes, but also combines the work of all departments, allowing better communication between departments, making it easy for everyone within the organization to know what is going on with their group at all times, while also offering a broader view of the operation.
“We find it important to invest in technology and over the course of about two years built the W.I.N.G.S. management platform from scratch, which today is really the backbone of our operation,” Menezes explains. “Now, we are in the process of refining the system to include our parts and maintenance operations. That is the only thing missing from the system, and we will soon be adding the capabilities to either track the maintenance of the motorcoaches or our parts inventory.”
Practice 'airplane maintenance'
Traveling more than one million miles while carrying 100,000-plus passengers per year, GoPegasus boasts incident-free travel each and every year.
Menezes credits her operation’s safety, in part, to its maintenance team, who are on staff and available 24 hours a day.
“It sets us apart in the industry to have our own maintenance, but in addition to that we practice what we call ‘airplane maintenance,’ where we replace the part based on the lifecycle established by the manufacturer whether it’s good or bad,” she says. “This preventive maintenance practice, we believe, is a big reason that we have a very low rate for both parts failures and breakdowns.”
Menezes adds that the company’s year-round training program keeps drivers up to date throughout the year versus providing once-a-year refreshers. She also says that the company does all they can to take the guesswork out of driving for the company.
“An example of something we do is that we always include a hard copy of the itinerary and directions for each trip in case something were to happen, like the GPS isn’t working or they drop and break their phone, for instance,” she says. “We also work with our clients to get any of their questions answered ahead of their trip, so the drivers can just concentrate on what they need to do, which is get our customers to and from their destinations safely.”
Boy Scouts and Santa Claus
The last key piece to GoPegasus is the company’s focus on philanthropy and volunteerism in the communities they serve in Central Florida.
“I think it’s important not only in the motorcoach industry but for all businesses to be actively involved in the communities they work and live in,” Menezes says. “Through those interactions is how the community can begin to fall in love with your business and opens the door to form great partnerships.”
Some of the local charities and groups GoPegasus has forged partnerships with include SYTA’s Student Youth Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, and Ronald McDonald House Charities. In fact, for several years around 500 children from Orange County’s Head Start program have been able to enjoy breakfast and meet Santa Claus at the Hard Rock Cafe because GoPegasus provided the transportation for free.
“We’re not the largest company, so we can’t always support charities and organizations with a financial donation,” Menezes explains. “But we have equipment, so we can volunteer that equipment to help move people safely and efficiently, which ends up being a win-win situation for all involved.”