The car rental industry seems to attract special taxes like Jennifer Lopez attracts marriage proposals. And with each new tax and surcharge, the gap between rate charges and total price grows wider — and so does the likelihood of customer sticker shock at the counter.
Online travel sites such as Travelocity and Orbitz have responded by requiring car rental partners to provide total pricing information, taking local taxes and surcharges into account. With total pricing displayed on the screen, online travel shoppers know before booking how much they’d ultimately spend.
When Orbitz imposed its total-pricing requirement, VIP International Corp. accelerated its plans to adopt this technology. For VIP’s car rental clients, the upgrade helps protect relationships with both online customers and online travel sites.
The new technology platform, made possible through a partnership with TSD Inc., gives VIP clients the same total-pricing capabilities as the major national car rental brands. What’s more, VIP clients can use TSD’s seamless connectivity to the global distribution systems (GDSes) and leading Internet travel sites.
Car rental operators connect to the GDSes through an advanced ASP system. They can access the system themselves to adjust selling strategies and offer “accurate last-rate, last-car availability,” says Jerry Martin, VIP’s vice president of car rental sales and operations.
TSD’s XML technology supports this real-time inventory availability. Inventory information is updated every five seconds.
TSD’s XML Remote reservation system automatically sends rate and inventory updates from VIP’s car rental clients to travel agents and Internet travel sites. Rates and availability remain current across all booking channels.
VIP clients receive instant notification of each new reservation. In addition, their rental customers receive quick confirmation of the booking.
The total pricing capability markedly cuts down on customer complaints arising from unexpected charges, Martin says.
“Now the customer has an accurate idea of what his rental is going to cost,” he says. “Previously, a customer might walk up to a rental counter in Phoenix, for example, and by the time he got through paying the stadium tax, the licensing fee, the airport access fee and the fuel charge, the rental might be 30% or 40% higher than he had anticipated. This technology basically gets rid of that problem.”
As a VIP affiliate, car rental operators can also dual-brand using one of VIP’s brand names: RentRite, New Frontier, VIP Cars and Independent Auto Rental. This approach can increase an independent rental car company’s Web presence and create more opportunity for search engine marketing.
“The more points of sale that we can create for our client base, the more bottom-line dollars that we can drive for them,” Martin says.
Before coming to VIP, Martin operated Resort Rent-A-Car in Phoenix. Since leaving the company three years ago, he’s seen how the popularity of online travel sites has transformed the rental industry’s approach to channel marketing and reservations.
“When I left Resort Rent-A-Car, we were only receiving 20% of our business through the Internet,” Martin says. “About 80% of our reservations were still generated by travel agents through traditional GDS channels. But in three years’ time, that’s flip-flopped for many operators.”