Alongside Hyderabad, Sao Paulo and Cape Town, Portland, USA welcomed the E-Prix for the first time this season after renovations to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal prevented a race from taking place there in 2023. The switch to the West coast meant the championship could retain its presence in the USA this year. And with its wide motorsport fan-base, there was much excitement around the event.
Portland’s well-established racetrack for Indycar and NASCAR meant the city was a well-fitting location, with the snowcapped Mount Hood and the Tualatin Mountains providing a scenic backdrop that complimented Formula E’s sustainable and climate-conscious focus, and highlighting the natural beauty that is so importantly driven to be preserved by the innovative technologies developed for GEN3 Electric.
But whilst it was a perfect host for the E-Prix, the new location did bring a range of challenges from a travel logistics perspective.
Tasked with managing the movements of around 200 people, our team navigated a series of complex flight, hotel and ground transport obstacles ahead of the race.
One key challenge was around the management of connecting flights (known as ‘Transits’), which presented potential issues around arrival times. With border security checks completed at first point of entry in the USA rather than the final destination, a traveller arriving from Heathrow has their passport checked in Seattle, for example, rather than their end destination of Portland. This can pose a higher risk of connecting flights being missed.
While a minimum connection time is provided by airports when booking, it became quickly apparent that these connections were impossible during the peak season at such busy airports.
Once travellers arrived at Portland, onward transport also proved tricky. Along with many other US cities, Portland faces a shortage of ground transportation and chauffeured drivers. With the leisure industry grinding to a halt during the pandemic, many professional drivers reskilled or relocated, meaning the local supply of chauffeured transfer services has been playing catch up to meet the recent increasing demand.
Finding accommodation also presented some challenges. When sourcing hotels in Portland, we were made aware of various challenges around accessibility and safety, with local sources advising caution in particular areas of the city. As with all new race destinations, it can difficult to identify localised issues prior to arrival, whilst also ensuring that a hotel will deliver the top-quality service we require for our clients.
Despite the challenges that presented us when managing travel to Portland, our dedicated staff leant on their years of experience, expertise and valued partnerships, to ensure that our clients’ individual roles in the complex machine of Formula E were successfully fulfilled.
With knowledge of potential issues around flight connection times, we utilised our team of GDS-trained flight bookers who are capable of amending, rebooking and reissuing tickets booked with us. We ensured our flights specialists travelled on-site with us to Portland, allowing us to adapt travel routings accordingly and - where connection times were impossible - clients were rebooked onto next available flights, or more optimum times and routes that ensured an arrival in line with their important schedules ahead of the race.
During our planning for this event we identified the availability challenges around ground transport, and many of our clients took our advice to utilise self-drive vehicles, booked through our agency and managed by ourselves. With hire car branches at the airport and in the city centre, we were there in person to oversee our client’s arrival into Portland, while simultaneously supporting with hire car collection and delivery, securing their ability to travel from airport, to hotel, and to the track.
As a new location for the race, we spoke directly to the local tourism board for Portland before our arrival to ensure we were well informed about safe areas to stay. We then utilised our partnerships with our global hotel chain account managers, securing a large room block at a trusted chain hotel. This gave us confidence about the hotel’s service delivery and ensured our clients check-in, stay and departure were seamless, whilst also ensuring precautionary measures were taken to guarantee the safety of our clients. We placed three groups in one hotel, and two group in another close by, which enabled us to be physically on hand to resolve any hotel challenges, should they arise.
We pride ourselves on being there for our clients when it matters most, and by having our team onsite throughout the race in Portland, we were able to adapt to the ever-evolving changes that the world of travel brings, updating and informing hire car companies, hotels and transfers ahead of any reschedules and ensure that booked services such as vehicles and hotel rooms were held open and reserved despite any late arrivals.
Whilst a new location provided a series of challenges from a travel logistics perspective, our team handled these with their usual flexible, dynamic, and motivated approach. By planning ahead as much as possible for issues that could arise, liaising with our key partners and being there for our clients on site to manage the unexpected, our team delivered seamless transport logistics in a brand-new destination.
We look forward to returning next year!
It makes my life much easier with the whole travel situation, getting to and from the airport and the racetrack. It's great to be involved with the partnership and long may it continue!