In The News

Transportation for Medical Workers in Texas

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Village Travel has been providing transportation for medical first responders in high-risk areas. First, in New York City for more than 3 months as they battled rising COVID numbers. Now, our business has moved to southern Texas. KAKE News, in Wichita, did a feature story on our work in Texas.

“This job has certainly helped the Village drivers and the company as well. It has come at a great time and at a time that we needed it,” said Rusty Handy, General Manager of the Village Travel OKC Office.

There are currently 52 coaches throughout Texas, providing transportation for medical first responders. Our fleet consists of more than 125 seated coaches. We have drivers from all of our locations (in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas) who have volunteered to be part of this important mission.

“Village was fortunate enough to be able to answer the call to move large numbers of medical personnel,” said Handy.

Our country has typically relied on the charter bus industry to move large numbers of people. Normally, the crisis is a hurricane or flooding, but this time it is a pandemic.

Providing paying jobs for employees to support their families and helping in the fight against COVID makes all the difference.

“There’s no better feeling than knowing that every day your efforts are helping those that are in need, down in Texas,” said Handy.

KAKE News aired a video story on our Texas charter efforts, which you can watch here.

We are so proud of all our drivers who have sacrificed time away from home and their families to help out with this important cause. Want to learn more about our heros on the frontlines transporting medical workers? Several of our drivers have been featured by local news outlets!

  • Read about our Arkansas Driver, Gregg O’Bryan here.
  • Read about our Wichita Driver, Renee Moraine here.
  • Read about our Salina Driver, Richard Holmgren here.

Richard Holmgren “Giving Miles of Smiles” During NYC COVID-19 Charter

FROM SALINA JOURNAL IN SALINA, KS

Read the full article here.

Richard Holmgren, well known for his Flying Debris comedy and juggling shows, took his act to Broadway every morning and night for nearly 3 months, as a bus driver for nurses during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

“They poured their heart and soul into it under stressful conditions,” said Holmgren, who is back home in Salina, where he completed a 14-day quarantine. “They worked 84 hours a week. They were exhausted when they got back on the bus and there was no hiding it.”

Holmgren was in Baltimore driving a bus of Fort Hays State students when the pandemic brought the country to a halt. He drove them back to Kansas and his employer at Village Travel called to say he had a possible job for Richard. That was good news, because during the pandemic his juggling shows and bus tours would be shut down.

The job was in New York transporting medical staff from around the country from hotels to hospitals and back. It was supposed to last three weeks to 45 days. Holmgren started April 1 and came home June 17. They must have liked his humor. Did they know he was a performer?

“They did,” admitted Holmgren, who juggles bowling balls and machetes, as part of his act. “I joke a lot. I brought my basketball and did some spinning, did some juggling, did all the tricks my mom said I would never need.”

On the Flying Debris Facebook page, there is a thank-you card from one of the Coney Island crew.

“Richard, you were so much more than our driver. You made us laugh when we had reasons to cry. Thank you for being a friend and a fantastic human being. You are an unforgettable part of our Coney crew and we love you. We were lucky to have you! Thank you!”

“I really had a good time with them all. They were fun to joke with,” said Holmgren, who has been performing since 1994.

Holmgren never felt he was part of history while he was in the pandemic epicenter that the world was watching on the news each day. And, he was a floater, so he went to all of the boroughs and many different hospitals. And, he experienced a different New York.

’I drove through a well-lit, but empty, Times Square four times a day,” Richard remembered. “Every evening at 7 p.m., there were the sounds of appreciation, people banging pots and pans, applause, singing, police and fire sirens.”

 

Continue reading on the Salina Journal website. 


Charter Buses Roll on to Washington D.C.

The charter bus industry has slowed to a complete stop during the coronavirus pandemic, and they need major help to restart and recover.

A local company told KOCO 5 about its Rolling Awareness initiative that has charter buses heading to Washington, D.C.

“The goal of that is to raise awareness of the critical and vital role that the charter bus industry plays in the transportation industry of this country,” said Rusty Handy, general manager of Village Travel in Oklahoma City.

The industry brings in $237 billion every year. But right now, you wouldn’t know it as Village Travel’s trips are taking a back seat to the coronavirus.

“It’s literally decimated our industry,” Handy said. “The cancellations started coming in around the last week of February.”

Now, no one is using Village Travel’s services. According to Handy, church groups, military members and entertainers are normally on the go.

“March is one of the busiest months,” Handy said. “If you are in the charter bus industry, March is your busiest month because it’s spring break.”

A typical cross country trip on a charter bus can hold 56 people, taking them to popular places such as Branson, Missouri, and the Grand Canyon.

“As of right now, we have nothing on the books for the next three months,” Handy said.

So, buses with Village Travel are rolling on to Washington, D.C., as a last resort, hoping for help from the government.

“What the industry is asking for, right now, is a $10 billion bailout to be divided around the industry as a whole,” Handy said.

According to Handy, they don’t have any meetings scheduled with any government officials as of now, but they want to explain that their industry employs hundreds of thousands of people while impacting millions.

The full article and accompanying video can be found on KOCO News Channel 5 ABC.


Motorcoach Businesses Set to Rally in U.S. Capitol This Wednesday

FROM KY3 IN SPRINGFIELD, Mo.

Motorcoach buses from all over the country are headed to Washington D.C. this week. Hundreds of bus companies will rally on capitol hill over the harsh impact the pandemic has had on the industry.

“I like getting behind the wheel and going,” said John Rusk.

John Rusk is a bus driver for Village Travel, driving all over the country for sports games, vacations, and school trips for 15 years. However, since the pandemic hit in March, the bus has been parked.

“There was absolutely no business going on, everything canceled,” said Rusk.

Rusk says March and April are usually two of their busiest months, but with people not traveling, there has been nowhere to go causing him to be laid off, among many others. He says this will especially hurt all of the smaller motor coach companies.

“If this thing goes for a year, and people aren’t traveling there won’t be any of the bus companies left,” said Rusk.

Rusk will join hundreds of other bus companies from all 50 states to bring awareness to the financial struggles brought on by COVID-19 at a rally in Washington D.C. A rally, Village Travel Owner, Jeff Arensdorf says is necessary.

Read the full article at KY3.com


Wichitan Helps Transport Nurses to Hospitals in New York City

FROM KAKE NEWS IN WICHITA, Ks

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, a Wichita resident has answered the call of service.

“Well that’s always been Renee, because before this she was a paramedic and she’s always taken care of people,” Mark Moraine said.

Mark’s wife, Renee Moraine is a bus driver for Village Travel. She’s been in New York City the last month helping transport nurses to hospitals in the area.

“I felt like it was a way I could give back and help in the process of getting through this,” Renee told KAKE by phone on Monday.

The health care workers she drives are from all over the country. They’ve already formed a bond with Renee and the other drivers.

“You know the very first day I could see the fear in their eyes,” Moraine said. “You know what are they walking in to? What are they going to anticipate seeing and on my part too there was a little bit of that fear.”

Fighting a pandemic in one of the nation’s hot spots is serious business, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t found ways to have fun. Renee and the nurses on her bus have made various dance videos to help pass the time.

“I have both day and night shifts and they were both very excited to get in and show what they can do and have a little friendly competition,” Renee explained.

Pitching in during a time like this has also shown Renee what her fellow citizens are capable of doing.

“I think as Americans it’s really brought America together and bonded us as to what we can truly do as Americans,” Moraine stated.

View the full article and news coverage here.


Northwest Arkansas Nurse and Bus Driver Helping in NYC During COVID-19 Pandemic

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — A Northwest Arkansas nurse and bus driver are now in New York answering the call for help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arkansas has been less affected by the pandemic than many other states in this country. New York has been one of the hardest hit and when cases began to spike, local nurse Erin Courtway and bus driver Gregg Obryan headed there to help.

“It’s our way of giving back to the country that’s been so good to us,” Obryan said.

Fayetteville native Courtway was finishing up her nurse practitioner program when the outbreak began. She was furloughed because her clinic was deemed nonessential.

“Whenever I started seeing the big need for nurses on the news and just healthcare providers to step forward I really felt the calling,” Courtway said.

She says she’s been in the city for over a week now and will be there for another eight weeks. Her assignment is in the emergency department and she works 12 hours shifts four nights a week.

“I’ve never dealt with any kind of disease or virus or anything in my seven-year of my nursing career that can compare to this virus,” Courtway said.

She says her hospital has enough PPE, but the ICU is holding way over its capacity of patients.

“I’ve got double to patients per room and they’re just completely overloaded,” Courtway said.

Obryan works for Village Travel in Springdale and says a fleet of bus drivers is in New York helping transport nurses and medical workers.

“It’s extremely stressful for them it’s a long hard hours and really tough working conditions,” Obryan said. “We’re transporting nurses back-and-forth to their work at the hospitals.”

Obryan says he has responded to many emergency situations in the past with Village Travel.

“We have worked disaster relief all over the country for him, we were down in Hurricane Katrina,” he said.

Obryan says it’s tough to be away from his family and Courtway agrees.

She says her kids are still young, but thankfully they understand the work she is doing.

“I just got off a FaceTime call with my youngest kid and said he missed me but he knew mommy was taking care of people and getting them better,” Courtway said.

Obryan says he’s been in New York since the outbreak began. He says that his daughter is having her wedding next month and if it is still permitted, there’s no way he’s missing it.

Read the full article here.


UMA Award Winners Drive Innovation On and Off the Road

FROM BUS AND MOTORCOACH NEWS

Village Travel marked its 40th anniversary by rebranding its entire fleet, driver uniforms and buildings with a fresh, modern look. The Wichita-based motorcoach and tour bus company also launched an extensive marketing campaign focused on current and potential customers. As a result, email subscriptions increased by 4,000, tour databases increased and annual sales jumped 18 percent.

Michaela Tye, Village Travel’s marketing director, accepted the award and explained, “The theme [of the 2020 UMA conference] is embracing change and innovation, which is certainly something that we did this year. Of course, we kept with a lot of traditional marketing tactics that have proven successful for us in the past, but we also definitely leaned into some new things, including our rebrand.”

Read the full article here.


Metro Magazine: Rebrand & Expansion

Heading into his 20th year of ownership, Arensdorf is poised to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary in 2020. In anticipation of the event, as well as looking at a way to re-establish its identity, Village recently completed a rebrand of its company and fleet.
“The company started out as Alpine Village Tours, but when it bought its first bus, they painted Village Charters on it and the company operated primarily as Village Charters in the public eye for several years,” explains Arensdorf. “Then, they started using Village Tours for all their advertising and by the mid-’90s had some buses running around branded as Village Charters, while some other buses had the Village Tours branding.”
Continue Reading…


Village Accepted Into IMG Network

We are thrilled to announce that Village Travel has joined the International Motorcoach Group (IMG). Formed in 1998, IMG began as a group of independent charter bus rental companies working together to form a North American network of operators that shared a commitment to excellence in customer service, safety, training and maintenance. Today, IMG members offer a wide range and selection of charter bus rental vehicles to meet customer needs. Bus charters, luxury motorcoaches, school buses, limousines, and shuttle services are all part of the prestigious IMG network that serves more than 21 million passengers. IMG pride itself on “Setting the Standard” in the transportation industry.
Continue Reading…


Village Travel celebrates 40 years

Keeping a travel-focused company running for four decades is no easy feat. Jeff Arensdorf, the current owner of Village Travel, credits his tour business success to hiring good people and offering quality service at a fair price.

“That’s what gets good results,” he said. “Also, I’m not risk averse, and I’ll take one if it looks healthy to me.”

Although the actual 40-year-anniversary celebrations for Village Travel won’t take place until next year, the Wichita-based company has already marked the occasion with major changes. A new name, a fresh logo and a state-of-the-art corporate headquarters building contribute to the rebranding of this bus and motorcoach company. Continue Reading…