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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 5 months ago

Hotel group trades traditional hotel shuttle for Uber

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Scarlett Hotel Group started an Uber program for guests first in Omaha, then in Sarasota in late summer 2018.

Soon after Scarlett Hotel Group acquired a property in downtown Omaha, Neb., the group’s partners went there for a visit.

Zio Pekovic, principal and co-founder of Scarlett, with offices in Chicago and Nashville, tells Coffee Talk the group arrived at the airport and asked for the hotel shuttle to pick them up. “We ended up waiting about 40 minutes in pretty frigid temperatures,” he says.

The group, which also owns the Hampton Inn & Suites at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, started talking and decided there had to be a better way. “We’re in the hospitality business, not the transportation business,” he says. So Pekovic, familiar with using Uber, reached out to the company to see if they could work together on a solution.

The result is a system that relies on Uber rather than the traditional airport shuttle to get people back and forth. “We’re one of the pioneers to work with them,” Pekovic says.

They rolled out the program first in Omaha, then in Sarasota in late summer 2018. The reaction from guests has been positive, he says. “The convenience of it — waiting two or three minutes — has been really helpful.”

When guests arrive at the airport, they call the hotel. Employees at the front desk have an Uber app on their desktop and request a ride for the guests. Guests then receive a text message telling them who will pick them up.

“Our thought was let’s have this as a bonus to guests,” Pekovic says. “We still pick up the expense. It’s our cost." Using Uber provides 40% to 50% savings compared to using the hotel shuttle for all airport transportation, he adds. 

But most importantly, he says, it’s client-focused, since guests don’t have to wait as long for a ride.

The hotel still keeps its shuttle on hand for certain situations, such as when a wedding group or large family reunion group stays at the hotel and wants to travel together. 

Other hotel owners are now interested in starting Uber programs. Pekovic says when he and his partners attend industry conferences, owners ask to meet with them to learn about their experiences. He says, “We’re very optimistic that this is a viable option for smaller hotels.”

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