The Leisure Car Rental team includes Jimmy Fitzpatrick, general manager; Jacqueline Joseph Fitzpatrick, marketing executive; Carlos Joseph, yard manager.
Starting with fewer than five used vehicles, Leisure Car Rental opened its doors in St. Maarten on March 1, 2007. Today, the independent rental company has grown to 50 vehicles at its main office located near Princess Juliana International Airport.
Serving tourists in St. Maarten, Leisure Car Rental hopes to expand its fleet to 75 cars by 2015.
General Manager Jimmy Fitzpatrick talks about how his company has grown the past seven years and how it competes against the franchises and other independent rental companies in the highly competitive rental market on the island of St. Maarten.
What’s your total fleet size?
At this time, we have 50 vehicles.
How many locations do you have and in what types of areas?
Our location is near the Princess Juliana International Airport, the larger of the two airports in St. Maarten. For now, we deliver cars island-wide (on both Dutch and French sides on the island). We deliver to the airports, cruise ports, hotels, resorts, villas, marinas, and even private residences.
How did the business start?
Leisure Car Rental started operating on March 1, 2007. The business was a one-man operation with fewer than five used cars. I only served the local market at that time, since most tourists preferred newer cars. There was very little chance of leisure competing in the tourist market when most car rental agencies had a newer fleet.
By 2009, our fleet doubled to 10 cars. We had about three employees and made a bold move to begin competing in the tourist market. I still remember our first tourist client. His name is Mr. Steve Marcello. He still rents from us to this day. He single-handedly convinced most of his friends to rent from us, too, and they return to us year-after-year for their car-rental needs.
What are your primary sources of rental customers?
Tourism is without a doubt the primary source of rental customers. Most of our customers come from the United States, followed by Europe and Canada.
Are you an affiliate of any kind?
Are you pursuing new sources of business/customers?
Yes, absolutely. We are always trying to find new sources of business and increase productivity of existing sources. We plan to expand our fleet to 75 cars by 2015, so we definitely need to attract more customers to maintain and/or increase our fleet utilization rate.
How has the car rental market in your area evolved in the past 10 years?
Ten years ago, many tourists would have been happy to have arrived on the island and rent any car. Dings and dents did not matter too much. The age of the car also didn’t matter too much, as long as the car had air conditioning and could get renters from point A to point B. And price wasn’t too important, since there were few car rental agencies operating at that time on our island.
Today, the number of car rental agencies operating in St. Maarten has more than quadrupled. Now, both locals and tourists are demanding more for their money. The car needs to be new and in excellent condition. Service must be on par with international companies. Today, renters want all of this and more for roughly half the price of a rental car 10 years ago.
Describe your specific marketing efforts and what the payback has been so far?
We partner with many travel agents and also invest in online advertising, but the payback has not been as expected. Marketing accounts for less than 40% of our clients. The rest is purely repeat customers and word of mouth referrals.
Over the years, we have come to the realization that most visitors to St. Maarten book an entire vacation package through booking sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, etc. We have tried numerous times to have Leisure listed on at least one of these sites, but to no avail. It seems that they only list the international companies such as Hertz and Payless. I believe it would be a great boost for us, if we could be listed on one of these booking sites.