Car Rental and the World Cup

The World Cup match between Belgium and Algeria. Photo courtesy of Len Henderson-Maclennan.
The World Cup match between Belgium and Algeria. Photo courtesy of Len Henderson-Maclennan.

With the World Cup in full swing, tourists from around the world have traveled to Brazil to cheer on their country’s national soccer team. With stadiums dispersed across thousands of miles, many of these international visitors are using rental cars.

Of the 32 countries represented, the U.S. took the top spot for car rental bookings in Brazil with an 829% increase from a year ago, according to an “Early Travel Indicators for World Cup 2014” list by CarTrawler, an online global car rental platform.

Through the first week in April, Germany took second place for bookings with a 1,140% increase in car rental bookings year over year. Rounding out the top five, England, Colombia and Uruguay took third, fourth and fifth for the most reservations, according to CarTrawler.

From June 12 to July 13, World Cup fans should help produce a 10% to 15% increase in rentals for Localiza Rent A Car SA, the largest car rental company in Brazil, according to a March report by Moody’s Investors Service.

Location will likely play a large role in the number of rentals. Paul Nemer, president of the National Council of Brazilian Association of Vehicle Rental Companies (ABLA), told Blog das Locadoras — a blog by EuroIT Technology, a Brazilian-based car rental software company — that an increase of up to 15% in rentals should only occur in World Cup host cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janiero and Salvador.

To find out how the Brazilian rental car industry prepared for World Cup travelers, Auto Rental News talked to four car rental operators as of May 30 to learn more about their reservation process, the types of rental vehicles offered and how the World Cup could affect their business.

Early Reservations

One rental company started taking reservations as far as a year in advance. Hugo Costa, CEO of Foco Rent a Car, said that most of his company’s bookings have come from Europe — a majority from Italy, Spain and Germany. Foco’s 2,500-vehicle fleet serves 12 cities in 14 locations, including Sao Paulo, Natal, Salvador and Porto Alegre.

“The biggest challenge was increasing our fleet,” said Costa. “We have never seen such big numbers of reservations in advance.” Costa said that the company was virtually sold out for the World Cup from the beginning of the year and added fleet in Brazil’s second trimester to meet demand.

Nonetheless, Costa reported that business leading up to the World Cup has been uneven, with a 30% improvement in April, followed by an unexpected lull in May. Costa reasoned that a spike in plane ticket prices and decreasing business travel were causes.

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