The Hemphill Brothers Coach Company knows a thing or two about how celebrities live on the road. The Nashville-based mobile home company, run by brothers Joey and Trent Hemphill, has been building and outfitting luxury tour buses for 40 years, touting a list of top-of-the-line customers ranging from mega stars like Taylor Swift, Oprah , Dolly Parton and Beyonce to former Presidents of the United States.
“2020 was going to be our best year yet. It was already booked as our most important year in the history of our company,” said Trent Hemphill, when CNBC first met with Hemphill in October.
But when the coronavirus pandemic triggered abrupt cancellations of concerts across the country in early March 2020, they withdrew with them $ 30 million in RV rentals reserved for touring musicians. “My brother and I, we’ve been through a lot together in this business, but nothing like this,” said Trent Hemphill.
Data from the American Bus Association estimate that a 75% to 80% decline in tour bus trips was canceled since mid-March 2020 due to the pandemic, a loss of nearly $ 5 billion for the US entertainment coach industry, which includes coach operators and tour companies.
The Hemphills grew up touring as a successful gospel family group before borrowing money from their father in 1980 to purchase their first rental bus. Now, they have more than 100 buses. The Hemphill Brothers Coach Company is located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Brothers Joey and Trent Hemphill entered the RV business in 1980 with just one bus. Its Nashville-based fleet now includes more than 100 coaches and more than 200 employees and has a long list of top-notch celebrity clients.
Hemphill Brothers Bus Company
For the first five months of 2019, business was booming – 95% of Hemphill’s fleet was on the road. But in early 2020, “not a single RV left the lot for three months,” said Joey Hemphill. “We were considered an essential means of transportation for the government. But there was nothing to do.”
“The most painful thing we’ve had to do is lay off employees. We had to be very nimble and cut costs right away and find a way through this to get to the other side.”
So the brothers put their heads together and decided to do something they had never done before: create a social media presence and start marketing their buses to the masses.
“We dealt with touring managers. Dealing with the general public is something we’ve never done in our 40s. So it was all new to us,” said Joey Hemphill.
“We said our equipment can be used by the general public who don’t even know we exist. We just have to get the message across,” added Trent Hemphill.
To generate excitement, the brothers invented the phrase “travel like a rock star” to market their luxury motorhomes to American tourists and travelers seeking an alternative to air travel during the pandemic.
“It was a way of generating revenue not only for the company, but also for our employees and drivers,” said Trent Hemphill. The “rock star experience” went viral, with the Hemphills saying they completed dozens of tourist road trip rentals last year and through 2021.
The buses are a lot like being in a five-star hotel and passengers can choose from several floor plans. The “star bus” can accommodate up to 12 people and even pets, and each part of the bus can be closed for privacy. The brothers said each bus is “extremely personalized” and “no two buses are the same.”
The famous Hemphill Brothers RVs are outfitted with top-of-the-line materials and trim such as genuine leather, hardwood floors, granite, marble and quartz. The elaborate buses cater to luxury travelers seeking maximum comfort on the road.
Hemphill Brothers Bus Company
In true celebrity fashion, Hemphill buses offer travelers a ride in the lap of luxury – each RV is outfitted with luxury finishes, including genuine leather, hardwood floors, granite, marble, and quartz.
The cost of renting the caravans starts at $ 1,200 to $ 1,500 per day, depending on the mileage. Drivers, fuel, and incidentals are included, and drivers can meet travelers at their homes anywhere in the US.
Trent Hemphill said the benefits of traveling by road compared to a plane are plentiful. “You only have to pack once,” and passengers wake up at their next destination in the morning while the bus travels through the night, “he added.” Our drivers are so good at giving you such a smooth ride. You don’t even know you’re moving. “
“Personally, I sleep better on a bus than at home,” said Joey Hemphill.
So who else has slept on a Hemphill bus? The same company that made the first tour bus for superstar Taylor Swift created the last one for country legend Merle Haggard.
Coaches are sterilized before each trip and drivers undergo Covid tests before any trip and are housed in pre-arranged accommodations between destinations. Prices can vary based on a person’s schedule and itinerary, or travelers can choose to have a travel route tailor-made for them.
The Calderón family said that when their trip to South Africa was derailed due to the pandemic, renting a Hemphill bus for the same amount of money and touring the entire country was one of the best decisions they made.
“We have been all over the world and we have had an amazing vacation. I think we had no idea that we would go back and we would say of all the trips we have done in our lives, this was our favorite,” Karla Calderon said.
Karla, her husband Rafael, and their two young children took their Hemphill bus west for a 12-day trip, starting in Nashville and ending in Yosemite National Park. “We always want to travel outside of the US and see all these things. [trip] It reminded me that this country is incredible, ”said Rafael Calderón.
The Hemphill Brothers said they have also increased other sources of income by selling used equipment and doing custom interior modifications and conversions for outside customers. The company said this has helped make up for a portion of the rental income loss during the pandemic and allowed employees to return to work.
Even when live concerts return, the Hemphills said they plan to keep a portion of their fleet for tourists.
“We ran into a storm and we had to regain control of the company. And we realized that we can still do it.” Said Trent Hemphill. “It has been challenging, but it has also been a bit inspiring for him and me to see that the decisions we make on a daily basis can affect the bottom line of our business. Just like they did at the beginning. Feeling young again.”