Increased oil revenues, greater travel within the region and the new stability in some parts of the region following the Iraq war mean that business in 2004 could exceed all expectations for the Thrifty Automotive Group, say company officials.
This follows on the heels of an excellent 2003, says Sam Eltibi, regional director, Dollar-Thrifty Automotive Group, for Mena. Post the Iraq war in March last year, he says, business in the region picked-up at a very fast pace.
The primary factor contributing to this increased growth was improved licensee facilities, fleet and operations, thus allowing the company a greater share of the business pie. The war also meant that the region has learnt to live with war, and people are back to business as soon as the dust clears, as was also seen with the Afghanistan war in 2001.
The new action in the region will be in Kuwait and Qatar, the boom markets following the dismissal of the Iraqi threat and the presence of the US Army. Encouraging signs are also visible in Jordan, he says.
Eltibi also tracks the growth to the fallouts of September 11 - the travel restrictions imposed on Mena nationals meant that a majority of nationals of the GCC and other countries in the region decided to spend their holidays regionally, spurred, in part at least, by the simultaneous improvement in tourism infrastructure in Dubai and such other key destinations as Lebanon, Oman and Syria. Destinations such as Dubai and Lebanon have seen their best summer ever.
While oil revenues have left more GCC economies in a sound budgetary situation, travel to Europe was also more expensive in 2003 due to the increase of the euro and the pound sterling, especially since most regional currencies are pegged to the US dollar.
The company believes that the fundamentals are right for 2004. Its licensees have updated their fleet to meet the increasing demand and more Europeans are being driven by the favorable exchange rate to holiday in the region. Additionally, the region’s governments continue to pour funds into the upgrading infrastructure. One regional destination that might benefit from this trend in 2004 is Turkey, which although hit by terrorist explosions at the end of last year, is heavily marketing itself to the region.
Thrifty believes growth patterns in the region are set to follow European trends, what with more and more customers booking business at the last minute and choosing to take shorter, more impulsive breaks rather than the traditional long holidays.
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