October 24, 2007
Hornblower lands Oklahoma City ferry contract
As though to demonstrate that anywhere there's a river, there's an opportunity, Hornblower Marine Services (HMS) is about to launch a new U.S. tour and ferry operation in Oklahoma City.
Beginning November 2007, Hornblower Marine will begin managing the first of three new tour boat/cruisers that will travel a 7-mile stretch of the Oklahoma River running through Downtown Oklahoma City. The HMS contract with Oklahoma City runs for three years.
"To be perfectly honest, a few years ago while we were planning our strategies for future expansion, the thought would not have occurred to us that someday we would be operating ferry boats in Oklahoma City," says John Waggoner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hornblower Marine Services. "However, since we first became involved over three months ago, we have been highly impressed with the dynamic but carefully planned transformation that Oklahoma City is undergoing, to become a world-class visitor destination, with the Oklahoma River as its center piece."
The vessels are currently undergoing a phased delivery to Oklahoma City's Transit Authority. Scarano Boats of Port Albany, New York, the builder of the 65 feet long, 49-passenger tour style classic looking vessels, has included unique premium level onboard passenger features, such as two flat screen presentation monitors and state-of-the-art audio equipment, at a cost about $1 million each.
"Working with officials in Oklahoma City, the goal at HMS is to design and deliver superior river transportation services and hospitality while stimulating tourism in the area, improving transportation in the river corridor and reducing the demand for parking in certain city areas," says Waggoner.
The three so called "Oklahoma River Cruisers" will link directly with the city's Oklahoma Spirit Trolley lines, making the 'cruisers' an integral part of the regional transit system and a new way for non-riders to be introduced to transit. Current and future planned river sites and destinations will include the city's Bricktown entertainment area, a planned American Indian Cultural Center, the linking of outlying hotels, meeting and convention facilities and serving individual drive-in travelers.
HMS has appointed cruise, tour and travel industry veteran, Michael Lomax as its General Manager to open the project in Oklahoma City. Lomax has worked with Hornblower Marine on a number of previous business development projects, including Hawaii and East Coast ferry operations in addition to assisting in expanding the company's reach into the small-ship overnight cruise segment. Michael Bennett, an expert in both the business and operational facets the ferry and cruise industries, has been appointed Director of Marine Operations.