Remember SuperShuttle? Time was their blue vans with the yellow lettering were omnipresent. In Los Angeles, where I live and work, it seemed like every other vehicle on the road was a SuperShuttle. Now, not so much.
SuperShuttle is still around, still in business, still billing itself as the nation’s largest airport shuttle service. But judging from its presence on the streets, it’s barely a shell of its former self. No doubt rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have taken their toll on SuperShuttle’s popularity, just as they have decimated the traditional taxi business.
So how does a struggling company keep itself from fading into irrelevance? In SuperShuttle’s case, the strategy is known by business consultants as brand extension: using a known brand to market a product or service in a different category.
Introducing Hotels by SuperShuttle.
Beginning this week, SuperShuttle is “offering customers the opportunity to book group or individual hotel reservations.” While the site promises discounted rates for both individuals and groups, there is a decided emphasis on group rates, for associations, reunions, tour groups, weddings, and the like. That’s because the new service is based on a partnership with HotelPlanner.com, “the leading online provider of group hotel sales.”
According to a SuperShuttle rep, “This partnership with allow our customers to access better hotel rates when making their travel plans with us. It’s a seamless and convenient way to meet their travel needs through one dynamic portal.”
Long story short, SuperShuttle has slapped its logo onto the front end of the HotelPlanner.com booking site, hoping some of its airport-transfer customers will a) be in the market for group hotel stays, and b) be inclined to book those stays via SuperShuttle’s site.
Never mind that group-travel bookers aren’t likely to stumble upon the SuperShuttle hotel-booking site in the course of booking a ride to the airport. Compared to airport transfers, which are an afterthought, hotel accommodations are a primary focus of travel planning, together with flight arrangements. Travelers might expect to make a SuperShuttle booking while reserving rooms on a hotel website. But not the reverse.
Sure, there is a superficial synergy between airport transfers and hotel stays. But packaging them together under the SuperShuttle brand isn’t a winning strategy. It’s ill-conceived and doomed to fail.
Reader Reality Check
What can SuperShuttle do to reverse its declining prospects?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.