The BUZZ: Riegel Grows ‘Airstream 2 Go’ Niche
Now entering its fourth year of operation, Airstream 2 Go – the exclusive, factory-authorized source in North America to rent current model Airstream trailers, custom-matched to a dedicated Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ tow vehicle – enjoyed a 70% jump in year-over-year revenue in 2015 and continues to track up this year, said company founder and former Airstream Inc. President and CEO Dicky Riegel.
“We began operations in May 2013 so the fact that we’re still going is kind of saying something. The original idea that I had leading up to founding the company four years ago is really playing out according to that vision,” Riegel said.
The business now has locations in Bozeman, Mont., and El Paso, Texas, as well as the original outlets in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Also, Airstream 2 Go recently entered into two partnerships that should further drive clients to its doorstep where they can expect a unique and stylish way to explore the United States in a turnkey Airstream vacation experience.
The “travel journeys experience” represents about 90% of Airstream 2 Go’s business, Riegel said, with the remainder being what the company refers to as “Take It & Go” unit rental only.
“So that’s a big difference between what we do and what other RV rental operators will do, or somebody who’s going to rent you their Airstream and you stay in their backyard,” he explained.
Riegel, who resigned from Airstream parent Thor Industries Inc. on Sept. 30, 2012, to start Airstream 2 Go, took time out of the Airstream Dealer Meeting last June in Columbus to provide an update on his company for RVBUSINESS.com.
RVB: What makes Airstream 2 Go fully planned travel journey, as you called it, so different from other RV rental outfits?
Riegel: Airstream 2 Go is a travel company – we’re not an RV rental company. The thing that has made magic for us is the intersection of those wonderful vehicles and all the accessories and the outfitting we provide and the venues we serve. We have four locations in El Paso, Texas, Boseman, Mont., which are seasonal, and in L.A. and Las Vegas. They’re serving national parks and California coastlines and iconic American venues.
So you’ve got the vehicles, the venues, and then – as I said, we’re a travel company – the third element is all the travel planning that goes into it.
Our partner is a group called Off the Beaten Path in Bozeman. They’re a legendary 30- to 35-year-old travel planner and outfitter. They’re creating custom journey plans for our clients, so everybody has a planned itinerary. They know all their stopover points and turn-by-turn directions, and then we also plan their activities, too.
So a rock-climbing guide meets you at your campsite on Tuesday at 8 o’clock in the morning. You may have a custom barbecue on Wednesday night. You may go fly-fishing on Thursday. It’s whatever our clients want to do.
RVB: Is the key to company growth as simple as making more people aware of Airstream 2 Go?
Riegel: Yes. It’s an awareness build that hopefully leads to utilization. It’s a process to get people through the funnel into actually making a booking with us. I think it takes a lot of different touch points along the way, including through a magazine article – and we’ve had a lot of great coverage in Travel & Leisure, Town & Country Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. We’ve probably had outsized coverage for our little offering.
Beyond that, then, we have to reach somebody via social media or through a friend. Ultimately, the word of mouth is what we seek; having a friend tell about their wonderful experience. Because, when all is said and done, you have these combinations of vehicles, venues and the services – that’s the intersection of the ‘Great American Road Trip’ and the ‘Silver Standard.’ That’s sort of our lingo.
But we do that and it creates a phenomenal experience for the consumer. I’m most proud that we enjoy a 100% customer satisfaction with what we’ve done. I just have a marketing challenge to get more people to do it. And then my financial challenge is to fund the fleet acquisition to grow the company. So I’m focused on those two things.
RVB: So, with your 70% growth, were you able to add to your fleet for 2016?
Riegel: Last year our fleet remained relatively static. We added some fleet units and we got rid of some fleet units as well. We have added some units this year, but our fleet is still relatively small. We have 27 units in the fleet. We’re no Cruise America in our size, but nor do we aspire to be that kind of size.
We’re a premium offering. Our rigs are roughly $1,000 a day with the planning services. Some people would hear that figure and think, ‘Geez! You know, I can rent something for $200 a day. Why would I pay that much more money?’ Well, you’ve got these wonderful vehicles, and our clients are going out and having these wonderful planned trips. They tell us what great value they’re getting for that. It’s unique; you’re staying in a national park, not outside of it. You’re participating in these great activities in the venues.
RVB: Besides your long-standing partnership with Off the Beaten Path, you also mentioned two more recent partnerships. What can you tell us about them?
Riegel: As a small company we value partnerships. A year and a half ago we established a partnership with a group called Exclusive Resorts, which is owned by Steve Case of AOL. He founded that company about 10 or 12 years ago, and they have about 5,000 members who have all paid a significant initiation fee, and then they purchase membership days that they can deploy each year at any one of hundreds of resort properties. These are houses in Jackson Hole, Wyo., or Vail, Colo., or Florida – internationally as well; wherever it might be.
A year and a half ago we became a property of Exclusive Resorts. It’s just a partnership; they don’t own us, and they’re not a shareholder. But what was great for Airstream 2 Go is those Exclusive Resort members can now use their days to travel with Airstream 2 Go. That was a good thing.
Most recently, just a week and a half ago, we announced a partnership with Road Adventures Inc., which is through Haydocy Airstream & RV in Columbus. We just spent the day with them yesterday. Road Adventures is launching a wonderful rental service here out of Columbus using their fleet of vehicles, which include Little Guy trailers, Gulf Stream Vintage Cruisers, and some motorized product, plus Airstream. Because Haydocy is also a GMC dealer, they can provide a tow vehicle, and they’re working with AAA to provide custom journeys.
So they’re doing a lot of the same things that we’re doing, but they’re doing it in the Midwest and we’re doing it in the West. We’ve established an agreement where we’re helping serve each other’s market. So if a Road Adventures client wants to travel in the West, he’s going to do so in an Airstream 2 Go vehicle – a Road Adventures trip powered by Airstream 2 Go. And vice versa. If our clients want to travel and see the Bourbon Trail or Great Smoky Mountains, they can do so in a Road Adventures vehicle.
I think it’s a partnership with a lot of legs, and a lot of opportunities down the road. (Road Adventures co-founders) Chris Haydocy and John Ehmann are innovative guys. They’ve invested a lot into the systems to drive people into that opportunity, so hopefully we can participate along the way with them.
RVB: Any other future plans, such as additional locations?
Riegel: We’re working on opportunities on the East Coast right now. We’d love to expand there, but as I mentioned earlier one of the keys is, ‘How do I expand? How do you gain funding to increase the fleet size?’ Those are the tricks that I’m working on now.