Transportation & Logistics

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Sports Tourism Still Driving Car Rentals, Even in the Age of Uber

29 Jun, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Sports Travelers Prefer Flexibility, Control of Personal Rented Car

In this summer of sports – between Copa, multi-sport festivals, MLB and parents following travel teams, it would  be easy to think that Uber is driving the car business for tourists.

In fact, it’s not – at least not yet. According to an article in USA Today, rental car companies are enjoying a bump in business, despite the rise of ride-hailing services.

Avis Budget Group reported in its 2015 fourth-quarter earnings call that in cities where ride-hailing services are most popular — Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. — rental day volumes increased 2%. Meanwhile, Enterprise Holdings said in October that its airport car rental revenue in the U.S. jumped 10% as compared to the prior fiscal year.

For athletes who lack a team bus, or for whom shuttles and public transit won’t cut it, rental cars offer distinct advantages. Key among these are flexibility and independence throughout the event. Rentals also don’t have the horror stories that periodically pop up about rideshare drivers.

“Typically, auto rental is lumped into the general category of ground transportation, including taxi and livery services,"  Neil Abrams, an auto rental industry consultant, told USA Today. “However, whereas taxi and livery are of shorter duration and mileage, the rental customer normally has a different requirement, which demands more time and distance.”

So clearly, rental companies are still flourishing for the right demographic. However, industry pundits warn, the market does stand to see some shrinkage, based on a few key trends:

  • Parking: Individuals or families who need to use hotel parking or municipal parking, and who are being charged at least on a daily basis to use parking facilities, often find that ride-share services (as well as hotel shuttles, taxis and so forth) will allow a savings on these fees. Event planners who are able to negotiate with hotels who have an agreement with a given rental car company may find they can bargain for reduced, or even waived, parking fees.
  • Gas: Fuel costs are one more thing to add into the total bottom line. However, savvy athletes, parents and sports planners can use apps such as GasBuddy to find the gas stations in the area with the lowest costs.
  • Convenience: There isn’t much easier than using an app on one’s smartphone to hail a ride from an Uber or Lyft driver.

At the end of the day, say the experts, it’s all about evolution.

“The car rental industry really needs to be on a continuous improvement program when it comes to making access to rental cars more convenient," says Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News. “Uber is kind of a wake-up call. ... I think there’s opportunity for car rental (companies) here. It’s just a question of whether the industry can take advantage.’’

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