< PrevNext > 2020 Business Travel Buyer's Handbook Working with Car Rental Firms Covid-19 Update: Car Rental Category May Gain More Biz Travel Traction By Dawit Habtemariam / July 27, 2020 / Contact Reporter Share Download ChapterCar rental providers suffered immensely in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many saw revenues plummet by more than 70 percent year over year. Some have had to furlough and lay off staff, sell off or return their rented fleets or, in Hertz's case, declare bankruptcy. As the crisis escalated and carriers canceled flights, however, car rental suppliers became invaluable to corporates as they provided an immediate transportation option to business travelers. This may offer a preview into how business travelers choose to conduct business trips in the near term. Shorter trips, in particular may call for increased use of rental cars instead of planes. As airlines and airports implement safety and health protocols, they may slow down their screening and boarding processes in a way that makes a drive-to option more attractive from a time savings perspective.Some companies are lifting travel policy restrictions regarding how far individuals may drive to conduct a business meeting. In the past, 200 miles was perhaps an acceptable limit, beyond which the traveler would be required to fly. With some travelers wanting to maintain social distance—and, therefore, wanting to avoid potentially crowded flights—longer drives may become a viable option, particularly in the U.S. where train travel isn't readily accessible to most business travelers. That said, deeper relationships with car rental providers will come with deeper questions about hygiene standards and distancing protocols. Car rental companies are striving to answer these questions with branded hygiene programs and increased attention to building traveler confidence. They've indicated certain protocols will be in place for the foreseeable future.Avis Budget Group has implemented the "Avis Safety Pledge" which outlines a rigorous 15-point protocol and commitment to cleanliness. It has partnered with the maker of Lysol and with medical advisors from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and New York University for sanitation products and protocols. The company has partnered with Hip Hop Public Health for employee training. Enterprise Holdings has not announced major partnerships to date but has outlined on its website a similar rededication to hygiene, with a focus on providing protections to employees and building confidence in travelers throughout the rental process—not only while in the car. Hertz has included a delivery option for vehicles. With the reduction of airline capacity and overall traffic within the airport, moving resources out of airport locations and into vehicle delivery to offsite locations makes sense. It also reduces the need to welcome customers into rental locations, which allows for better social distancing protocol. German mobility company Sixt has also implemented a delivery strategy. Buyers will need to consider all these factors as well as how technology can assist in keeping the car rental journey as touch-free as possible. Buyers should test drive car rental apps to for information exchange between the supplier and the traveler as well as vehicle choice, payment, pickup and drop-off transactions.Still, buyers will need to codify their own hygiene and sanitation requirements and make sure car rental suppliers are meeting them. Hungry to grow their revenue again and capture corporate volume, suppliers likely will work to accommodate them. Buyers may consider implementing service level agreements to hold suppliers to the standards. Buyers may also consider including car rental cleanliness and sanitation questions in future traveler satisfaction surveys and reviewing those results with suppliers or setting thresholds under which suppliers will be subject to additional review and/or exclusion from the program. The biggest competition for rental car companies may be business travelers' personal cars, according to buyer feedback gathered in May. That means travel buyers may need to look at their mileage policies for personal car use and at what point it makes sense to require a rental car in terms of cost. On the other hand, cost may not be the deciding factor in the end. Like most travel categories right now, cleanliness concerns and the ability to boost traveler confidence and accommodate traveler needs is paramount when determining travel policy or sourcing and managing car rental partners.