Vision Award-Large Fleet: Dixieland Tours

Family-owned charter company’s growth built on safety, service

Award recipients Norman Augusta and Lori Guyton accept award from UMA’s Stacy Tetchner (left) and Gladys Gillis, UMA Board Chair (right).

At a Glance

Company vision: “First and foremost, we’re focused on safety and customer service.”

Strategy: “Be willing to take a hard look at operations by finding out the root cause of why things didn’t go as planned.”

Smart bottom-line move: “To better control repairs and maintenance costs, we replace our coaches every five years.”

The sleek, ebony buses of Dixieland Tours stand out from the competition’s traditional white vehicles.

The coaches have very little signage, just the name on the back that says Limo Series Green Coach, letting people know the vehicles are also fuel efficient—which is important to customers.

“People would say, ‘Golly, you can’t even tell that it’s Dixieland,’ but that’s okay. We do not have a problem with that. We wanted to set ourselves apart,” said President Lori Guyton. “People would notice them going down the street and get the phone number off the back and call us. They would mention they saw one of those fine-looking buses and wanted to charter that bus.”

Guyton is the second generation to helm the business purchased in 1995 by her father, Norman Augusta Jr., who wanted to diversify his longtime travel business. At that time he convinced his daughter to leave her American Airlines job in Texas of 10 years to join him and help with the businesses. Eventually, she shifted over to Dixieland operations in Baton Rouge.

The family’s efforts were recognized in January when Dixieland was honored with the Large Fleet Operator Vision Award at the 2019 UMA EXPO.

The next level

When Guyton’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, Guyton’s role increased so he could step back from the business. She took over as president in 2010, bringing on her brother, Norman “Bubbie” Augusta III, to oversee operations in 2013. He transitioned from his 17-year career in the insurance industry, where he worked in property and casualty claims.  Today they run the company together.

The brother-and-sister team has taken their dad’s vision to the next level. The elder Augusta, who died in 2015, entered the travel industry in the 1970s after a career in banking.

With a 21-bus fleet—mostly of Motor Coach Industries vehicles— Dixieland serves a wide customer base, including custom charters, military, school and university, convention and airport/cruise transfers.

While focused on travel in the Dixieland region of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida, the company is willing to travel where tour companies need them—from the Northeast and Canada to the West Coast—especially during the slow summer months.

Reliability is key

With a staff of about 40 full- and part-time employees, the company’s steady growth has been built on emphasizing safety, reliability and customer service.

Priority is given to taking care of regular customers and not pushing them off to other companies. That’s why, during the busy times, Dixieland is careful not to overbid on projects that are beyond its capacity.

The company began transitioning to all black vehicles in 2010. The interiors are just as sharp, with three-point seatbelts, Wi-Fi, satellite television and eight live cameras on board each coach. Most are MCI J4500s. The company’s relationship with MCI began with Guyton’s father. In the last five years, Dixieland began transitioning the fleet to new vehicles.

“It has helped with our repairs and maintenance costs because everything is pretty much under warranty,” said Guyton. “I found that to be marketable to all types of business, we had to start renewing our fleet on an annual basis.  It’s worked out very nicely for many reasons.”

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