BY ROB SMENTEK
In June 2011, electronic music festival Electric Daisy Carnival moved from Los Angeles to its new home at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Attracting thousands of fans, the event organizers came to AWG Ambassador looking for transportation for the various DJs, entertainers, and influencers to the site, located 25 miles outside of the Las Vegas city limits.
“It was soon discovered that the bigger issue was they didn’t have a solution for moving the attendees (i.e., co-stars) to and from the venue,” says AWG Ambassador President & CEO Alan Waxler. “The event was new, and they simply didn’t have a plan. They estimated in the first year they would have approximately 18,000 people who needed to be moved. We discussed the situation with them further and worked with them on a transportation plan. We developed a shuttle service from the various area hotels and it worked out.” AWG has continued work with the Electric Daisy Carnival on an annual basis. Waxler can even be found onsite, driving his golf cart and assisting attendees to get to various locations throughout the venue.
“We’ve worked with them for years on the co-star shuttles,” says Waxler “The first year we moved 17,500 people, the second year was 25,000, the third year was 35,000, and the following years maxed out at 50,000 people. That’s going to and from the speedway three nights in a row. I wasn’t using my own equipment—we sourced buses from all over the West Coast. It had never been done in the state of Nevada, but we did it and we’re proud. It’s a daunting experience to move tens of thousands of people throughout the evening. Then, when the music goes off at 5:30 a.m., you’d see 20,000 people coming toward you. But the job, really, was managing the buses, not so much the people. With drivers allowed 10 hours of drive time, and 15 hours on duty per federal regulations, you really had to manage their hours. That’s what a transportation management company does, which has been our calling card.”
With its early roots as a destination management company, AWG Ambassador has become one of Las Vegas’ most recognized luxury ground transportation companies—particularly for group moves.
This type of creative problem solving is what AWG Ambassador is known for. With its early roots as a destination management company, AWG Ambassador has become one of Las Vegas’ most recognized luxury ground transportation companies—particularly for group moves. While many operators begin as a one-car operation, moving clients to airports or weddings, Waxler’s trajectory began much differently.
“I started in the transportation industry in 1998, when I introduced the first limobus in Las Vegas. No one had anything remotely close to it. At the time I was running a destination management company, and I was facilitating transportation for corporate clients going to various hotels. I was doing a program for Toyota, and they had a very large VIP group coming in from Japan—about 5,000 people or so. I called up a competitor to see if there was something I could use that would be an upgraded opportunity for these VIPs. He said, ‘I don’t—but coincidently I had a guy come by to show me a bus that was outfitted as a limo.’ It was from Krystal, Ed Grech’s former company. So, I went and looked at it, and thought it was extremely cool.”
Realizing that his group of VIPs was looking for more than the Lincoln Town Cars and basic buses of the time, Waxler connected with the dealer and ultimately purchased the vehicle. The limousine bus proved to be a major success with the group move.
“For years, we would ask our transportation vendors ‘what else can we offer?’ and there really wasn’t anything,” says Waxler. “I bought that limobus and found success with it, and then I bought a second one. Then I realized that there was an opportunity to build out a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel with a limo-type environment that allowed attendees to communicate face to face and would transport their bags with them. So, I bought two more; then I bought four more. Once I got down the road a bit, I think we had the largest fleet of limobuses on the planet. I was able to give clients a good option for their round-trip airport transfers. With corporate events, there is always an opening reception. Attendees are urged to arrive on time for typically a 6 p.m. reception. Once we started doing round-trip transfers in a limobus, it was a big hit, and everyone was impressed with the service and style. It was a real conversation starter at these events.”
After two years of expanding his limobus fleet, Waxler made the move into sedan work. “While we were doing the shuttle work, we would occasionally get one or two stragglers where it didn’t make sense to send a bus. So, I made an application to get into sedan work. We put five S-Class Mercedes to work—which no one else at the time had. We started using those to move smaller numbers, and then got into the individual transfers.”
Soon Waxler added more cars to AWG’s expanding fleet, changing the landscape of Vegas’s streets.
“When you sit at a restaurant, you’re always looking at choices. Everyone likes to look at a menu and make a choice. So, now that I put two firsts on the table, with the limobus and then the Mercedes, I said let’s try something where you have a selection. I peppered the fleet with a Lexus, BMW, and Audi. We’ve always tried to keep it at a high level.”
Initially AWG attracted strictly corporate clients, while many of their competitors were solely working on handling the lucrative hotel/casino market.
“Mostly because I was serving corporate clientele—I didn’t have a hotel—so everyone was wondering how I was getting business. Most transportation companies were trying to get the casino or front door business. I was traveling with the convention bureau all over the world; whenever they would go anywhere to sell Las Vegas, I would tag along. And through those opportunities, I became known as the transportation management guy. The difference for us was that we were working in an area that no one else really understood. At the time, people weren’t calling a transportation company to manage a big move.”
Fast forward to today: AWG now serves numerous hotels, which Waxler says are mostly 5-star properties.
“We’re a preferred vendor across the board in town. Nothing’s exclusive, but let’s just say we’re often the first call. I’ve been at the Wynn since they’ve opened; they’re an outstanding partner. We were recently awarded the Fontainebleau, which is a new property for the area. We work with the Four Seasons, the Waldorf, and all the MGM properties. We’re pretty much available to everyone. But people know, when it comes to moving large groups, we’re the ones to call.”
Waxler claims that the last four months of 2023 were “nothing short of spectacular,” largely thanks to events held in Las Vegas. Case in point: the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix. Held November 16-18, 2023, the streets of the city were transformed into a 6.2-kilometer loop, deftly navigated by Formula 1 drivers. The event attracted a reported 315,000 fans from around the world.
“The Formula 1 Grand Prix was so new ... we never had anything of that nature, let alone something that carved out the heart of the city into a racetrack. Everything inside the track was a little difficult to get to and from. On Thursday (November 16), which was the day most of the arrivals happened, we had a hotel that needed a group move of 6,000 people starting at 4 a.m. They planned things a bit late and there were no vehicles left in Vegas. When I got involved, I was able to reach out to some of my contacts to get coaches from out of town. The guests were out of that hotel by 2 p.m.”
Other recent events noted by Waxler include the mid-December opening of the Fontainebleau Las Vegas resort and casino, and of course, Las Vegas Raiders games.
“While we enjoyed a significant uptick in November business due to Formula 1 Grand Prix, based on our reservations, it’s looking like the upcoming Super Bowl LVIII, which is scheduled for February 11 in Las Vegas’ new Allegiant Stadium, we will surpass the Formula 1 numbers. We were especially grateful for all our affiliates that trusted us with their best clients. That segment of our business has exploded. And we all know that when you hand off your best customers to an affiliate and they knock it out of the park, there’s a better than fair chance they’re coming back again and again.
“With Super Bowl anticipated to be bigger than Formula 1, quite frankly, the private aircraft have a huge issue with capacity. There’s literally going to be a difficult time to find landing and parking slots. If you don’t make pre-arrangements with a FBO, you won’t get a slot. Even then, you might be able to get in, but you’ll have a problem getting out of the city—since everyone’s going to leave at the same time,” says Waxler. “Plus, during Super Bowl there’ll be a 300-foot barrier around the venue, so we’ll have to figure out a new way to take care of our most valued guests. The hotels have the same issue. There’s no opportunity to drop curbside. But we’ll work through it.”
AWG has had to balance the increase in workload with changes at the airport during these major events. Fortunately, Waxler is able to plan ahead and go with the flow. “With Formula 1, it was crazy. The number of private jets and commercial flights had increased quite a bit. And then the whole process changed: We couldn’t park our cars at the airport and go up to the baggage claim to meet guests. So, we had to have greeters meet people and call the cars up. All the chauffeurs could do was pull up, load up, and go because there was such a high demand. The airport did a great job, and this was new to us too, but it went smoothly.”
Without any hesitation, Waxler is quick to credit his team when things go to plan. Chief among his staff is what he calls the Three Ds of AWG Ambassador: Debi, Daniela, and Donna.
“Daniela Chan’s been with me for over 25 years. She’s my vice president & general manager. She’s a rock; she’s been at my side and is a driving force. Debi Paige comes out of the hotel business. She was a vice president of sales and worked for Caesars, the Aladdin, and Planet Hollywood, and she brought Donna Lehmann who was the CFO for Planet Hollywood. We have a high level of skill and professionalism that is very hard to find.”
Also on staff is Waxler’s best friend from seventh grade John Azzolino, who serves as associate director of the company.
“I don’t care how big your character is, you must deliver on your promise. And I believe my team overachieves; they underpromise and overdeliver.” – Alan Waxler, President & CEO of AWG Ambassador
“My team does an incredible job and has allowed me to work AT it and not IN it. They know what I want and like. They know I want a fast response to requests, the type of vehicle I want out there, and the caliber of professionalism I want the driver to have when interacting with clients. I just get in the way;” laughs Waxler. “I’m better off letting them do what they do while I do what I do. I’m very, very proud of my staff because it’s such a hard industry to navigate without a strong team behind you. I don’t care how big your character is, you must deliver on your promise. And I believe my team overachieves; they underpromise and overdeliver. As a result, it’s allowed me to get my handicap down.”
Outside of being an operator, Waxler enjoys spending time with his children, 15-year-old Ava and 11-year-old Maxton. Golf is a passion for Waxler, and one he shares with his son, who he says exhibits great promise with the game.
“I think Max is going to take golf to another level as he’s been playing since he’s been 3 years old. He works on his game, and we won a parent/junior tournament together at Southern Highlands, our country club. That was unequivocally the greatest joy in my life,” says Waxler.
As AWG has been recognized six times with honors from the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association, Waxler has a great deal of pride in his company. He believes that his clients know that AWG Ambassador cares and has their best interests at heart.
“When you do business with anybody, there’s only one thing you can hope for, and that’s if they really care about your business. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. I want people to be treated the way I want to be treated. If you can do that, people feel it and they’re not so quick to try to replace you. You don’t change your dentist or hairdresser very often: It’s that kind of loyalty that I want to instill.” [CD0124]