Revving up for expansion
Car rental majors are forging ahead with expansion plans and bigger and better fleets and services throughout the Gulf and Middle East.And while many companies say business was hit in the later part of the year by the crisis sparked by the September 11 terror attacks in the US, there are encouraging signs of recovery at the beginning of this year. One of the biggest operator in the region, Hertz opened its 31st outlet in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi late last year, continuing its regional expansion. The Abu Dhabi outlet was also the eighth Hertz branch to open in the UAE. Another global major, Avis says it is continuing to look for areas of further expansion in the Middle East after opening new outlets in Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon. US-based Thrifty is also on expansion trail in the Middle East after opening its regional office in Dubai last year. It says it plans to extend its presence in Syria and Tunisia this year. Germany's Sixt Rent-A-Car has moved into the market with two offices in Dubai and the company says it plans to extend its services to customers throughout the UAE. It says it will open a branch at Abu Dhabi airport before April. Dubai-based luxury car operator Sapo has also declared its intentions to extend its presence in the Gulf with plans for offices in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar. While the major companies are chalking out expansion plans, concerns remain over the unchecked growth of small operators. Non-payment of rentals has added to the problems of what one industry player says is a low budget, high investment industry.