The Current State of Business Travel
If you’ve traveled recently, whether for business or leisure, you’re no stranger to the obstacles travelers face in a post-pandemic world. As companies have adapted to life with COVID and company travel restrictions have been loosened, road warriors have officially logged off Zoom and returned to face-to-face interactions with customers. Corporate travel is still nowhere near 2019 levels, but it is steadily increasing. With supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and inflation at an all-time high, travel is going to look a lot different than it has in the past. That’s why planning and being flexible is more important now than ever.
Same day last-minute round-trip flights are a thing of the past. Due to staff issues, specifically a massive shortage of pilots, flights are being cancelled or delayed daily. One reason for this shortage is the high cost and even higher demand of pilot training. Because of the unpredictability of flights, those who rely on travel frequently for work might find it advantageous to consider driving. Whether that means renting a car or using your own vehicle to make the visits, you will be in control of your trip. Typically, renting a car is more cost effective than putting the miles on your own vehicle. That’s not to say that the rental car industry hasn’t faced its own challenges as well.
The rental car industry was one of the hardest hit markets during the pandemic. When the coronavirus made its appearance in the US, business travel came to a halt. This disruption happened at a time when rental car companies were already seeing a decrease in volume due to the popularity of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. Rental car providers reacted to this major decrease by selling off large portions of their fleet and only retaining a fraction of their workforce as the industry reeled to increase profit. When consumers were finally ready to start traveling again, the rental car companies faced additional dilemmas due to chip shortages and staffing issues. Even as the travel industry continues to rebound, rental car fleets are still only a portion of the size they were in 2019.
Best Practices for Travel Category Managers in a Challenging
Rental Car Market
While Travel Category Managers are tasked with finding savings in a tough rental car market, there are several ways to address some of these industry challenges for employees and the company’s bottom line.
1. Ensure there is a preferred rental car program in place
- Locking in national car rental programs also protects an organization from a fluctuating market with high retail rates.
2. Offer a secondary rental car provider
- In cases where your primary provider is unavailable, this will protect an organization from a fluctuating market with high retail rates.
3. Book rental cars in as far advance as possible
4. Avoid one-way rentals
- Round trip rentals will be much cheaper and there is a greater chance of availability.
5. Encourage all travelers to enroll in rewards programs
- Rewards programs will allow travelers to skip the counter, avoiding long lines, and in some cases they’ll be guaranteed a car – depending on the traveler’s status.
6. Partner with a car rental provider that offers a diverse fleet of vehicles
- This mitigates car shortage issues and offers a broader selection of vehicles.
- Hertz has opted into partnering with Tesla to now offer electric vehicles, while bumping up their inventory and appealing to company’s sustainability efforts.
- AVIS partners with 16 diverse OEMs to ensure adequate fleet levels.
7. Get better insights into data
- Global reporting capabilities allow Travel Managers to identify compliance gaps, better indication of projected travel costs and budgets.
- Ensure your contract includes clauses requiring regular detailed reporting from the car rental provider(s).
8. Make safety a priority
- Hertz implemented a new Hertz Gold Standard Clean program to ensure all vehicles are cleaned and disinfected to follow CDC Guidelines with their 15-point cleaning process.
- AVIS exclusively partnered with Lysol to assist in outlining their disinfection and cleaning protocols.
All Things Considered
Be prepared for business travel to look different than it has in the past. Planning ahead and leaving flexibility in your schedule is the best tactical approach for business travelers in the post-pandemic world. Things are dynamic and changing every day, and we need to make sure we’re ready to deal with any issues that arise while traveling. Travel Category Managers should do their best to educate travelers on how things have changed post-pandemic, what to expect, and how to proactively minimize potential issues by ensuring a national car rental provider and even a secondary provider are in place.
Want to learn more about our car rental programs for CoVest Members? Contact us to learn more.
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