Vaggelis Vernadakis from Europeo Car Rentals in Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, talks in this web-exclusive about how customer retention has become increasingly important in the region’s down economy, and how finding those customers has shifted online.
Europeo's fleet size is about 165 cars at a total of four locations.
What's your total fleet size?
Our fleet size is now 165 cars and every year the demand surpasses our fleet potential, therefore for the past five years we have been expanding our fleet size by almost 20%. Europeo Car Rental is a steady force in the market of car rental for the past 20 years. We operate in Crete (Greece) and deliver in all major cities, airports and hotels.
How many locations do you have and in what types of areas?
Our main office is located in Heraklion. We relocated after almost 19 years in the prefecture of Rethimnon. We decided to relocate at the “capital” of Crete, the biggest town all over the island. However, we continue to serve all our clients in the four prefectures of the island and all over Crete.
Once relying on tourists walking by, Europeo says that this is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
How did the business start?
The owner of the company was working in the tourism sector for years, and in the last few years before he started our company worked in the area of car rental. The idea of creating a company of his own was born during a business trip, where he saw the name “Europeo” on an Italian magazine and decided to create a startup car rental agency with that name.
What are your primary sources of rental customers?
The main source of our customers for years was the “chase” of tourists that were passers from our office. The last few years, a new era has begun and we have initiated constant online advertising, which is now the biggest source of our reservations.
Are you an affiliate of any kind?
About 90% of the fleet are new purchases, while the remaining vehicles are bought used.
No, we are totally independent. In fact, as we have a great number of reservations that our fleet cannot serve, we have one or two partners that we rent cars from in order to serve our clients.
Are you pursuing new sources of business/customers? What are they?
Yes, as an ambitious company that always tries to evolve, we are looking for any kind of partnership that can have a positive effect on our company’s brand name. New customers are always a bet that we have set ourselves to win day by day and we are always looking for ways to attract them to our company.
How has the car rental market in Crete evolved in the past 10 years? 20 years?
Car rental in Crete is now in a transitional phase. The time that every car rental agency worked mainly through luring new customers “from the street,” which was the main source of reservations, is fading. Tour operators, the other big source of reservations, seem to lose a big part of the market as more and more companies seem to understand that the future for their companies is online marketing, where the advertisement of each company can surpass the borders of its country (or continent) and that’s why they are looking to expand their businesses toward that sector.
Describe your specific marketing efforts and what the payback has been so far.
We have begun a big online campaign in order to advertise our company. Mainly through social media and secondly with paid advertisement, we try to evolve and make a strong brand name on the market of car rental in Crete. So far the efforts are totally successful and the next steps are the creation of a blog, with its main topic to be car rental in Crete, and the creation of one or two websites for the Russian and the Dutch market.
How do you buy cars?
90% of our fleet come from new purchases and only a 10% from repurchases. Leasing is not a very profitable business with the current tax regime so we never tried it.
How do you sell your cars?
Most of the cars that we sell are going back to dealers and a few to individuals.
How long do you keep cars in fleet?
The maximum time that we can keep a car in our fleet due to Greek legislation is 6 years. However, on the 90% of the cases, we don’t keep any car above 5 years except in some cases in which the car is in perfect condition.