“Avoid public transport” - could lockdown rules drive rental demand?

“Avoid public transport” - could lockdown rules drive rental demand?

On Sunday 10th May, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, revealed the first stage of gradually reducing the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Among the measures designed to help the country return to some kind of normality included an instruction to avoid using public transport unless absolutely necessary. Johnson asked people in the UK to instead travel by car or “even better, by walking or bicycle”.

Could this signal an increase in car rental demand for those who don’t have their own vehicle but don't wish to travel on foot or by bicycle? It would be a fair assumption to make: those people (particularly key workers) still need to travel, and if a car is the only acceptable way from their perspective, they may go the rental route.

There’s precedence for this - but we should be cautious

Clearly, we’re hypothesising here, and the proof will be revealed over the next few weeks and months, but there is some precedence to lean on.

Travel company Kayak recently revealed that it had experienced more demand for car rentals during the pandemic. The demand has been so great, in fact, that it has overtaken air travel (although, that perhaps shouldn’t be surprising at this time).

Despite this relatively good news for car rental firms, we do have to keep things in perspective. Some of the biggest names in the sector have made it known publicly that they need financial support in order to emerge from the pandemic in the best possible shape. Some have even considered de-fleeting in order to weather the storm.

It’s still tough out there, and the ‘new normal’ - whatever that might turn out to be - still feels some way off. There have been other fascinating trends emerging, too. For instance, Enterprise has revealed that the length of rental climbed significantly during April. As it stands, the average billed rental period is now 13.5 days - up 1.7 on 2019, according to Enterprise.

One can only guess the exact reasons for this, but it’s likely that the increased demand for rental cars and key workers requiring vehicles for longer periods of time during lockdown might have played a role.

How you can adapt to the pandemic as a car rental firm

If you’re anticipating a surge in rental demand, it’s important to remember that we’re operating in a vastly different environment at the moment, and will be for the foreseeable future.

That means the rental industry needs to adapt and provide a service that is both safe and efficient. It’s a tricky balance, but one that many rental firms are managing to strike as their operations begin to return to some form of normality. Fleet News recently ran a story on how some of the industry’s biggest names are adapting to life under COVID-19. Here’s some key takeaways:

  • vehicle cleanliness must be placed under greater scrutiny than ever before;
  • short-term de-fleets for companies that have temporarily closed down should be addressed;
  • an increased demand from particular sectors (notably, those in the public sector and key working positions) should be expected; and
  • customers will probably expect greater flexibility when it comes to prepaid rental periods and the waiving of cancellation and change fees.

It’s probably also wise to take a leaf out of Reflex Vehicle’s book, who are proactively contacting customers to discuss their rental requirements during the pandemic. This is a great way to remind potential customers that you’re still open while ensuring you have the stock available to meet demand.

Conclusion

The same Fleet News article notes that some rental firms have seen a 90% increase in transactions performed online, demonstrating the importance of your business’s online profile both now and in the future.

Nothing is certain at the moment, but as lockdown restrictions are gradually removed and the industry continues to fire up its engines, are you ready to cope with demand?

About Thermeon

Thermeon's 30 years of global experience in car rental software gives us the skills to understand your requirements, building systems that suit. CARS+ is the complete software solution to link your rental business directly to customers, partners and brokers. Call us today at: Europe, Middle East & Africa: +44 1293 864 334 / Americas: +1 (714) 731-9191 / Australia/Asia: +61 2 9846 0860 / New Zealand: +64 22 177 6242 or email us at sales@thermeon.com

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