Last week, Auto Rental News held the virtual International Car Rental Show (ICRS) Experience. Despite not having to travel, wait in line to check in at a hotel, or run around to different conferences, the week was tiring but rewarding.
Throughout the five days, seminars and discussions focused on a variety of issues, from the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, to the battle over independent contractors and customer engagement.
Jennifer Corwin and Michael Taylor of J.D. Power launched the ICRS with some interesting facts about car rental. Did you know that of all the surveys J.D. Power deploys in the travel spectrum — that includes hotels, airlines, and cruises — that car rental has the highest rated satisfaction?
J.D. Power was able to query 60,000 airport travelers to ascertain their concerns over contracting COVID-19. In terms of rating the part of the travel experience in which they’re most concerned, onboard aircraft scored the highest in concern at 37%; cabs, rideshare, and trains scored 13%; while car rental was at 2%.
Additionally, American Car Rental Association President Sharky Laguana said: “If you’re watching this, you’re already a legendary survivor of the most disruptive event in our business lifetimes. It’s indicative of a membership that is extraordinary. If you’ve made it this far, there’s no reason you can’t make it the rest of the way. Next year, the opportunity will never be greater, and the danger will never be greater.”
Day two kicked off with the seminar “Assessing the Big Picture: Financial, Wholesale, and Travel Markets.” The panel featured equity research analyst John Healy, travel industry analyst Mark Sharoff, and automotive economist Tom Kontos.
- “Car Rental’s Digital Transformation in a Post COVID-19 World,” with Shawn Concannon of TSD and Brian Garcia, director of global franchise support for Enterprise Holdings.
- “Going Contactless: Preparing Your Rental Business for a Frictionless Future” with Richard Laughton of Move Mee.
- “An Operator's Perspective: Car Rental & Telematics in the New Normal.”
The day’s first seminar brought together fleet experts from sales (Mike Muehlenfeld of Walser Fleet), operations (Juan Rivera of Sixt), and remarketing (consultant Joe Lyons) perspectives. A key takeaway was that fleet allocation will be tight for the next few quarters.
- “Understanding New Platforms to Grow Utilization,” with Ludwig Schoenack of Kyte, Richard Lowden of Move Mee, and Brian Allan of Hyrecar.
- COVID-19 and renters' views of vehicle hygiene, led by Dr. Pratik Patel, president and founder of RideKleen.
Thursday began with a conversation between Kirk Browning, president of the Auto Truck and Specialty Vehicle Fleet division at 1st Source Bank and Rick Eddy, former VP of operations for Budget San Diego. Both Browning and Eddy made the point that communication with lenders is even more critical in these times of economic shock.
“Communicate with your lenders on the good, bad, and ugly,” Browning said. “If we know what the problems are, we can be part of the solution. But we can only help people who are willing to be helped.”
- Attorneys Leslie Pujo of Plave Koch and Wes Hurst of Polsinelli delivered a virtual examination of the legal landscape during the pandemic.
- An examination of the ride-hailing independent contractor situation and Prop 22 in California by Matt Daus of Windels, Marx.
- “Weather the Storm — How to Strengthen Your Natural Catastrophe Plan,” by Zurich’s Nathan Hickson, Brent Baxter, and Daryl Allegree.
Frontline Performance Group's Ken Stellon kicked off the final day with “Managing the Next Stage of Travel Recovery: Inspire Productivity, Engage New Talent.”
Stellon discussed the uncertainty of 2020, and the fear that comes with not knowing when business will start to return to normal. The outlook isn't great, and many forecasts show that the travel sector won’t fully rebound until 2024. However, Stellon belives that the hardest part has passed. Why? “We know what the (immediate) future looks like, and we can prepare.”
- “Exploiting Your Local Market,” with Solomon Cramer of Budget Harrisburg, Ian Kusinitz of Empire Rent A Car, Mike Kulp of Kulp Car Rentals, and Gary Tucker, CEO of Zubie, a telematics provider.
- “Innovations to Drive Utilization and Rental Customer Engagement,” by Alex Fraser of Pivet, a division of Cox Automotive Mobility.