Online bookings to make up 40pc of car rental market

Andrews ... geared up

ARAB travellers are increasingly using the Internet to make car rental bookings, say industry insiders.

“Over the next five years we will see a total swing to online bookings, by perhaps to much as 35 to 40 per cent of total bookings,” said John Andrews, director, associations, GSA and Middle East, Hertz Europe. Currently, online bookings only make up about eight per cent of total business.
“As the availability of access to the Internet increases, the number of people using the web for all kinds of functions is multiplying,” said Andrews. “Everyone is taking to the Net to explore various possible destinations and activities, travel possibilities and more.”
Hertz believes it is uniquely poised to take advantage of that trend with a newly-relaunched website that gives the user an instant quote with a minimum of clickthroughs. The ability to convert that instant quote into an immediate booking is perfect for the Arab customer, said Andrews.
Online bookings, he added, allow consumers as much time as they want to browse through the company’s range and examine every kind of vehicle. If one so choose, the information is downloadable and can be perused in the peace of one’s own home. Once the customer has made a choice, the reservation is instantaneous. “Arabs, with their penchant for overnight planning, love that kind of instant decision-making, they appreciate being able to print out a confirmation that allows them to get off a flight and have their car ready and waiting for them.”
To cater to local clients, Hertz now features online bookings quoted in dollars and payable in local currency.
Another factor increasing online booking in this region is the increased use of cars on holiday. “Travellers from this region are sort of shopped out and are spreading their wings. Gulf citizens are not just going to London now, they’re ending up as far afield as Glasgow, Blackpool, Newcastle and York.”
And to cater to that demand, the company constantly upgrades its fleet. The average age of its fleet in the UAE is four months, in Europe five months.
And to promote Internet usage, the company is working with a greater number of Internet travel providers, such as Expedia, Apollo and Travellocity. “A lot of users go to these major providers, and it makes sense to tie up,” said Andrews.