Todd and Leslie Foss started Grace Bay Car Rentals and Sales Ltd. in Turks and Caicos in 2006.
With no experience in car rental and looking to move to a warmer climate, Todd and Leslie Foss left their teaching jobs in Western Canada, moved to Turks and Caicos and decided to enter the rental car business.
Starting with only 11 vehicles in 2006, the couple’s independently owned Grace Bay Car Rentals and Sales Ltd. has grown to approximately 300 vehicles with locations on the islands of Providencials and Grand Turk.
Named as a Thrifty franchisee in 2011, Grace Bay Car Rentals received the Thrifty Franchisee of the Year for the Americas and Caribbean in 2013.
Owner Todd Foss talks about how his company has grown and the hardships it has faced to become the largest car rental agency in Turks and Caicos.
What’s your total fleet size?
We began with 11 units in 2006 and now have approximately 300 vehicles.
How many locations do you have and in what types of areas?
The Turks and Caicos Islands are made up of 40 islands and cays, with only five islands inhabited. We are the only rental car company in the country to operate on multiple islands — Providencials, the largest populated island, and the capital island of Grand Turk.
On Providencials, we are the only agency with our own facility at the international airport and have locations on Leeward Highway and the tourism area of Grace Bay.
How did the business start?
My wife Leslie had taught for 18 years and I was a teacher and principal for 15 years. We were looking to take a temporary timeout from teaching. And originally from Western Canada, we were hoping to experience life in another country — one that had a warm climate with white sand instead of white snow.
Our high school friend was living in Japan and exporting cars around the world. He had just started getting inquiries from this tiny country called the Turks and Caicos Islands. We flew there to check it out and ended up falling in love with the islands’ beauty.
Without any plan, experience and little capital investment, the three of us purchased one of the original rental agencies on the island, which was not even in operation at the time.
Leslie and I quit our teaching jobs, moved to Turks and Caicos and entered the rental car business. Most people thought we were crazy, and we were not sure if they were wrong.
What are your primary sources of rental customers?
Our main source of business is the tourist industry, which is made up of about 90% North American travelers. We have the majority of the commercial market segment, as well.
Are you an affiliate of any kind?
Our independent brand Grace Bay Car Rentals was successful in acquiring the Thrifty brand in 2011. The Thrifty team has been extremely supportive and helped us grow the brand in Turks and Caicos to one of the largest agencies in the country.
In 2013, Grace Bay Car Rentals was awarded the Thrifty Franchisee of the Year for the Americas and Caribbean. We expect our Thrifty operations to triple in size by the fourth quarter of 2014.
Are you pursuing new sources of business/customers?
We are always interested in new sources of business and work hard at partnerships with both traditional and online travel agency partners. However, we spend the majority of our marketing efforts and budget on our existing customers. Repeat business accounts for 68% of our annual revenues. The relationships we have with these customers are strong and on a first-name basis.
How has the car rental market in your area evolved in the past 10 years?
When we first traveled to Turks and Caicos nine years ago, most of the roads were not even paved. The original car rental operators tell stories of keeping containers filled with shocks and front-end parts, which were needed just to keep the vehicles operating due to the terrible conditions of the roads and trails.
Currently, most of the main roads are paved and the number of resorts has tripled since we rented our first car back in 2006.