Nearly 5 years ago, Royal Coach Tours saw an opportunity to move into the Las Vegas market, and the gamble paid off in more ways than expected.
Greg Gallup, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, credits the company’s successful expansion to timing.
The company moved quickly after learning two longtime operators – Utah-based Lewis Bros. Stages and Showtime Tours – were closing, leaving a void in the marketplace and a pool of skilled workers to recruit.
“The timing was really, really perfect,” Gallup said. The expansion proved helpful in weathering the pandemic, with Las Vegas bouncing back faster than Royal Coach’s longtime market of Silicon Valley.
NFL move offered opportunity
Another good omen in 2017 was the Oakland Raiders’ announcement of plans to relocate its National Football League franchise to Vegas.
“We do a lot of work with the NFL,” said Gallup, who is careful to note the company didn’t follow professional football to Nevada. “We didn’t have any kind of arrangement to provide service for the team in Las Vegas. We’ve been working with the NFL for many years, so a lot of the NFL teams know us from the service we provide in San Jose. When we opened up shop in Las Vegas, they were already familiar with us, so it really helped us get established with the NFL in Las Vegas.”
The Raiders didn’t start playing in Vegas until 2019, so Royal Coaches spent the first two years building a diverse client base.
“We do a lot of work with a lot of the destination management companies that put on a lot of the conventions and large group events in Vegas. We work a lot with college athletics and do a lot of over-the-road tours,” Gallup said. “We also do a lot with the local school districts, so we have a wide range of customers and customer base in Las Vegas.”
The company also scored a bus yard in a strategic location.
“We were really lucky to find that location when we did so because it’s just perfect,” Gallup said. “We are less than 10 minutes from the airport and five minutes from the Strip.”
Positioned for growth
Gallup, who has been with the company for nine years, lives in San Jose but routinely comes to Vegas. He says he feels fortunate the owners, siblings Dan Smith and Sandy Allen, trusted his judgment. Smith and Allen have been running the family business started by their parents since the 1980s. Royal Coach began as Smith’s Charter Bus Service in 1960 before changing its name to Royal Coach Lines in 1977.
“Right now, as long as Vegas keeps growing, we will grow with the city,” said Gallup, who describes the market as similar to San Jose but with more significant pieces of business.
“These giant conventions come into town, and they need upwards of 200 to 300 motorcoaches to help with shuttling through the convention center and all local hotels,” said Gallup.
He said the city, known for its casinos, restaurants, and entertainment venues, has bounced back faster than other cities.
“Vegas has come back in a very, very big way,” Gallup said, noting that at the height of the shutdown, casinos essentially were boarded up. “It was a really eerie place.”
When operations reopened in August, the company had a big demand.
“It was like 12 months of conventions in five months,” said Gallup.
Additionally, Las Vegas is experiencing high levels of Covid-19 transmission, and masks are required indoors. “A lot of companies still are using more motor coaches because they want to be very respectful of social distancing, so we’re still seeing one group requesting two coaches,” he said.
Vegas roars back
Many major events are coming to Las Vegas in 2022, from the NFL Pro Bowl in February to the NFL Draft in April. Allegiant Stadium, which opened in 2020, also is a draw for large-scale events.
“I wasn’t worried, because I knew at some point Vegas was going to come back because it’s geared towards hospitality and conventions and things like that,” Gallup said. “I wasn’t expecting to come back as fast as it did, though.”
Serving two completely different markets is paying off.
“California, especially in the Bay Area, is really geared toward the tech industry,” Gallup said. “The tech industry is not going back to the office. It’s not really moving forward like Las Vegas.”