Royal Excursion buys with purpose and vision
CH Bus Sales responds with world-class TEMSA coaches and attentive aftermarket care
By David Hubbard
Fresh out of college in 1998, Shannon Kaser had no experience with motorcoaches, but he knew that he wanted to run his own business. Kaser could see a likely niche for a few vans in his hometown of Mishawaka, IN. He trusted his solid work ethic engrained since childhood when he worked weekend auctions with his father. Relying on his sense of creativity and imagination, he took a calculated risk and founded Royal Excursion with one 12-passenger van.
One year later he added a minibus to meet growing demand for his service. In 2000, Shannon purchased his first motorcoach. By 2002, Kaser and his team were operating as a full-fledged charter tour company.
“Never have I tried to estimate how big our operation should be,” Kaser says. “Royal Excursion has always been about being absolutely certain we are doing the best we can for the customers we already have.”
That said, customers were coming back and Royal Excursion continued to grow. Today, Kaser’s transportation company operates a mixed fleet of 60 assorted automobiles, limos, vans and motorcoaches, and employs 130 team members in three divisions — charter and tour, shuttle and fixed route, as well as a transit management component.
Shortly after CH Bus Sales, Faribault, MN, launched in 2011 to represent the Turkish bus builder TEMSA in North America, it connected with Royal Excursion.
“My relationship with CH Bus Sales goes back even further than 2011,” Kaser says. “When I first entertained purchasing TEMSA coaches, I knew the people who founded the company from their previous positions, and trusted their opinions and commitment. I also knew several operators running TEMSA vehicles, and valued their comments and reviews. Together, they gave me faith to try TEMSA coaches myself.”
Randy Angell, account executive – Midwest Region at CH Bus Sales, says he enjoys a friendship with Kaser that has lasted for years – and he has been selling Kaser coaches since 2007.
“What I know of Shannon, he’s the kind of person who likes to think about things before making a move. He has always taken a long hard look before purchasing one more coach,” Angell says. “He didn’t just jump into his first TEMSA. First, he had to see a specific use.”
Kaser says he wasn’t necessarily considering a shorter coach when he elected to give the 30-foot TEMSA TS 30 a try, conceding that he could see the positive benefits it could offer some customers.
“We made the buy only after this coach had passed muster not only with our customers, but our drivers and mechanics as well,” he says. “I was pleased that all three groups gave the TS 30 their approval.”
Shortly after, Kaser found a better fit with the 38 passenger TS 35, which allowed for more guest seating and ample luggage space for longer trips. Angell says Royal Excursion is one of many TEMSA operators to have experienced the entire Northern American offering of the 30-foot TS 30, 35-foot TS 35 and 45-foot TS 45 models. Presently, the TEMSA wing of Royal Excursion’s fleet stands at three TS 35s and two TS 45s, with possibly a few additional 35-footers to be added this year.
“Our shorter coaches have turned out to be a big hit,” Angell says. “The message we hear from customers is that, for just a little more money, they feel the TS 35s are a better value. They offer far more comfort and a better experience than other minibuses – and they accommodate more passengers.”
In comparison, Kaser finds the practical differences between 30 and 35 feet less significant than those of the TS 35 compared with the TS 45. Kaser says, with the TS 35 model also available, he’d need a very specific use for a 30-foot vehicle before re-purchasing one. He says, in most cases, smaller groups that are moving short distances and don’t need much luggage space, are satisfied with one of Royal Excursion’s cutaways.
“We can’t book a group of 35 when we’re able to only seat 30,” he says. “But, we can certainly put a group of 25 in a 38-passenger coach and still have them not feel the bus is half empty.”
“Have we ruled out purchasing another TS 30?” he adds. “Absolutely not. It’s the perfect motorcoach for small groups going long distance that need more comfort, amenities, and luggage space than the cutaway user. We just need the market for it.”
He attributes the recent gains in TEMSA market share to the TS 35 model. Kaser notes that while they were a unique offering during their first year, Royal Excursion business clients are now requesting the 35-foot coaches as part of their contract renewals for the coming year.
“It hasn’t taken them long to catch on,” he says. “Our customers were quick to realize that the TS 35 offers the same benefits as a 45-foot coach — it’s just 10 feet shorter.”
“The TS 35s are the most utilized vehicle in the entire Royal Excursion fleet,” Kaser says. “They are far and away the most chartered and the most profitable.”
With the new TEMSA buses in the fold, Royal Excursion drivers weighed in. As they are the employees who spend the most time with the rolling stock, the company wants them to feel comfortable and secure with their coach, and pays close attention to their observations and feedback.
Kaser says drivers often voice their approval of the vehicles’ easy handling in cities and high traffic, along with the simplicity of the controls. He says they are “absolutely bonkers” over the extremely tight turning radius.
Timing is everything
Looking back, Kaser says Royal Excursion was in the market for new coaches when CH Bus Sales formed to distribute TEMSA coaches in North America.
“At the time, I was hesitant to mix my fleet any more than I had already,” Kaser says. “That, of course, all changed when I found out who the people were running the company. Combined with the opinions I was hearing from my colleagues, I jumped right in.”
The road forward
“I am comfortable in knowing most of the CH Bus Sales staff from before as diligent and courteous professionals who stand behind their products,” Kaser says. “They most recently helped us with an emissions issue when our TEMSA coaches started re-generating a little too often. Our CH Bus Sales tech responded immediately when we called. He gave us a to-do list to try; he overnighted a part; and we had the problem resolved the next day. Those are the kinds of people we want to buy from. CH Bus Sales has assembled a solid team that’s been in the industry for a long time. They get it – and that goes a long way.”
According to Angell, the number one commodity CH Bus Sales brings to the table, after its line of TEMSA coaches, is, of course, superior aftermarket service, led by Marvin Borntrager.
“I absolutely believe our company defines itself by how we answer the phone anytime, 24/7, when our operators have issues,” Angell says. “We always take the calls when there is any sort of a problem or breakdown with a coach, regardless of the OEM.”
“What I enjoy most about working with Shannon and Royal Excursion is that they always come to us with a strategy,” he adds. “That’s why they work well together. He never buys a bus just to buy a bus. He has a reason, and that reason is his vision for a successful, competitive operation. He is always focused on providing the best service and coach experiences possible for his customers.”