I started my career at Bobit in 2002 as a freelancer and was hired full time in 2004. I became editor of Auto Rental News in 2006. (This was the birth year of the new American Car Rental Association, and we’ve been blood brothers and sisters ever since.) My first Car Rental Show (not “International” yet) was 2007. It was baptism by fire; I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing, but as the editor of the trade publication serving the industry, I had better figure it out.
I just kept on shaking a lot of hands, and more hands. People were there to help me out and help me learn. That’s what I’ve always loved about this side of fleet — car rental — the people. Especially the entrepreneurs. They’d speak the truth, the rest be damned. Then the Recession hit. I remember introducing speakers, jumping off stage to take pictures, and then jumping back on stage for Q&A. We put on a couple of shows where we’d tell the exhibitors, “The operators that did show up, they’re super motivated!” We survived, and we grew. We brought in more international attendees and changed the show title as a result.
The 20-teens were good growth years. We added International to the name in 2015 to reflect its growing global presence. But it was under the cloud of “better” business models, from carsharing to the growth of Uber and Lyft. Fast forward to the pandemic, where we all held on for dear life. We hosted a webinar in Q2 2020 that drew the most attendees we’ll ever get. No one quite knew what was going on, but we needed to at least be there and link arms, virtually. Many rental companies didn’t survive. The entrepreneurs, they prevailed.
Think about the roller coaster we all just went through — travel standstill, ferocious return to demand but only in certain sectors, no fleet allocation whatsoever, crazy returns on used cars, a few irate customers, and a forced-yet-needed reassessment of every business nook and cranny. Whew! So many business models got disrupted during the pandemic. What about car rental? The 2020 show went virtual and to accommodate covid we moved the return to an in-person event to later in 2021. It was a good reset, but with virtually no international attendees. ICRS 2022 was in April, a quick turnaround. We frankly didn’t expect how good the attendance would be. We were back!
Car rental is alive and well. People need personal mobility. The entrepreneur mindset is alive and well. But we can do better — we can always do better. And if you don’t have that mindset, especially today, it’s time to hang it up. This is why we go to the ICRS. We always come out of ICRS better, and that’s how and why the show survives. This year is no different. And this year, show attendance will be the best in my 17 years. We’ve increased our numbers over last year and we’re no done yet. There’s still time to register.
BTW, Scott Painter is keynoting. Scott is an entrepreneur, or actually the top of the heap of entrepreneurs in automotive. Scott speaks the truth. See you in Vegas in a few days.
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