Best Tours & Travel’s recent reopening saw sellout tours and a continuing recovery in its private charter operations, thanks to nonstop outreach throughout 2020’s shutdown months that continues today.
With COVID-19, the Fresno, California, motorcoach company faced the rockiest road ever in its 43-year history. But a successful community outreach program has rebuilt customer confidence, and a brand relaunch featuring safe leisure tour packages is now attracting riders from every demographic.
Working throughout the pandemic with staff intact, Best Tours & Travel was prepared to rise quickly when statewide restrictions — some of the strictest in the country — ended in June.
And it has.
Jasmine Sayah, Director of Operations and next-generation leadership of the company founded by her parents, credits constant communication during the lockdown. A big social media push during the shutdown helped win back existing customers and attract new ones.
“Our private charter business started coming back in the spring of 2021, when California opened up. Many of the tours sold out within 20 days of opening,” she said, noting that charter capacity stands at 100%, keeping all of its 10 motorcoaches on the road in use.
Even after 23 years of experience in her family business, Sayah didn’t anticipate the COVID-19 shutdown’s impact on staff, families and the community.
“Everything came to a standstill. We refunded everyone and were hit hard with a deep revenue loss in 2020,” she said. “We filed for (the U.S. Small Business Association’s) Paycheck Protection Program and sold our oldest equipment, which helped keep staff and their benefits in place.”
A member of the United Motorcoach Association, Sayah has been a regular attendee at the organization’s weekly Town Hall sessions, where she stays up to date on programs available to help operators.
Health and safety first
Today, the company is ready to hire new team members.
“We see opportunity and want to hire and train new drivers and technicians,” Sayah said.
During the lockdown, and even today, Best Tours’ staff spent many hours on Zoom and telephone calls with buyers at corporations, colleges and national parks, offering updates on the care and operations of its coach fleet, including the latest sanitizing practices and safety mandates.
Sayah said, “We know that COVID-19 will always be the first thing on passengers’ and clients’ minds before making a travel commitment for some time. But by requiring that all passengers wear masks now, our riders can feel at ease and have confidence in the ability to travel by motorcoach.”
The company will continue to provide hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes onboard.
On most trips, passengers are allowed to choose their seats so groups get the kind of travel experience they’re comfortable with.
“We are seeing some smaller groups of 30 or less still wanting a 56-passenger coach, and that’s fine. We can accommodate most requests.”
As the economy reopens, domestic leisure travel leads business travel nationwide as families reunite and vacation plans return. That’s great news for Best Tours & Travel, which creates one-of-a-kind trips from one-day outings to overnight stays at popular destinations.
“Our tours are guided, and we always have a hostess on board,” said Sayah, who often plans the trips herself and polls customers to learn their preferences. “We take the tour beforehand so we know the exact itinerary we want to promote. If it’s good for me, I am confident it will be enjoyed by others.”
Green and clean
With safety precautions in place, Sayah thinks it’s time to restart the discussion about motorcoach travel’s traditional strengths.
“We have a newer fleet of coaches powered by clean diesel engines,” she explains. “Travel by motorcoach is by far the greenest way to travel per passenger mile among planes, trains and cars.”
Motorcoaches also beat the competition by checking all the boxes of what travelers want today: safety, savings and convenience. These features are also part of Best Tours’ longtime messaging to the community and clients it serves.
As a board member of the California Bus Association (CBA), Sayah supports CBA’s work on behalf of its members. When California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) required fleet renewal registration even though coaches were parked during the COVID-19 shutdown, Sayah worked in cooperation with other CBA members, contacting her local representatives, to successfully convince the California Assembly to refund 2020 registration fees.
With future coffee dates planned with her local Assembly members, Sayah says operators can benefit by getting involved and building rapport with their representatives and regulators at the local, state and federal level.
“We are family-owned small businesses in a niche market. But our motorcoaches have a big impact. We are green, clean, and necessary for leisure, corporate, athletic and school travel, and to move groups of people in emergency situations.”