In this web-exclusive Q&A with Ivomir Stanchev of Top Rent A Car in Bulgaria, we get an inside look at how this company has grown from 20 vehicles to more than 300 since opening in 2003.
We provide nationwide services in Bulgaria with offices and we provide deliveries to all locations in Bulgaria and deliveries to all main airports on the Balkans (Turkey, Greece and Romania).
We are the largest car fleet in Bulgaria with 300+ new vehicles from different car classes including a big number of 9-seat passenger vans.
Sofia Airport, Bulgaria
Office with parking lot. We provide meet & greet service/shuttle.
Varna Airport, Bulgaria
Car rental counter in Terminal 1.
Varna Downtown, Bulgaria
17 Tsar Osvoboditel str.
Bourgas Airport, Bulgaria
In terminal in the Arrivals Hall.
How did the business start?
The company was founded in 2003 by Mr. Milen Marinov. It started with a small fleet of 20 vehicles operating in the summer resorts around Varna. We saw a niche in the market realizing the need of a big, domestic car rental company and seized the opportunity.
With a lot of hard work, right decisions and key partnerships through the years we succeeded to become the biggest national car rental company. Nowadays we are working successfully with a wide range of businesses like hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, real estate agencies, etc.
What are your primary sources of rental customers?
We rely on our online presence and authority as our main customer source. Of course, it’s very important for us to have some global reservation system, global distribution systems, tour operators, travel agencies and local businesses.
Are you pursuing new sources of business/customers? What are they?
We never stop pursuing new partnerships, mainly online-based companies and local businesses. Along with the car rental we are developing additional services like operating leases.
How has the car rental market in Bulgaria evolved in the past 10 years? 20 years?
The car rental market has rapid growth though the last 10 years due to the growing number of the incoming tourists every year in Bulgaria. There was no car rental business 20 years before. Recent years the competition became more severe due to the Recession.
Describe your affiliation with Payless and how is it helping with your company?
We are proud to be an exclusive partner of Payless for Bulgaria and to provide car rental service to all Payless customers visiting Bulgaria. Payless is a good way for us to be part of the U.S. market even though there are not a lot of American travelers in Bulgaria. It’s been several years of a successful partnership and we are striving to continue the good affiliation in the incoming years. We commit ourselves to keep the good partnership and improve the provided service.
How do you buy cars (lease, repurchase, buy)?
Most of our car fleet consists of brand new cars bought in the past 2-3 years. We are negotiating with manufacturers and official dealers to get the best price for big corporate clients.
How do you sell your cars? (sell back to dealers, used car lot, auction?)
We have used car lots where we sell our cars. We also sell cars online and to other businesses. Because of the good maintenance of the fleet, we have corporate clients who are buying cars for their businesses.[PAGEBREAK]
What are your biggest challenges with fleet?
Generally it is a challenge every year to make the right choice in the number of large vehicles like sedans and estates, because the demand of these vehicles is different every year.
What are your popular rental vehicles?
Most popular vehicles are VW Polo, VW Golf, Chevrolet Aveo, Opel Astra, Opel Zafira, Renault Clio and Renault Megane.
Which car rental companies are your competition?
We are competing with the international companies like Hertz, Thrifty and Avis Budget. These companies have huge resources because of the global incomes, so we count on other advantages like better knowing the market, added value to the customers and flexibility in decision making.
Are there a lot of independent car rental companies in Bulgaria?
This is a major problem for the local market. There are a lot of small companies (more like family businesses) operating in one location with car fleet of 5-15 cars. The problem is that such companies can’t keep their cars up to date, in good technical condition and a lot of customers are disappointed of the service they provide. This makes it harder for us to persuade the customers that we are a company they can rely on.
How do you market/advertise your business?
We put a lot of efforts in online advertising and digital marketing (search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, business listings, etc.). Also, we do some print advertising, billboards and rarely radio ads.
What types of counter products are popular?
Additional insurances, GPS devices, child/baby seats and boosters, and snow chains.
How long do you keep cars in fleet?
Two to three years. There is a small percentage that we keep more than three years: SUVs and 9-seat passenger vans which are more expensive and also designed to get more mileage. The most popular Economy/Compact class we renew almost every season.
How did you survive the Recession?
By lowering our prices and giving more benefits to the customers than our competitors.
What are your biggest challenges right now in the business?
The biggest challenge right now is to keep all the cars busy year round. It’s very difficult due to the short seasons. It’s about two-and-a-half months of high summer season and two months of winter season and a short spring season too (for Easter Holiday), so we relocate part of the fleet between our summer and winter offices during the year.
What does the car rental market in Bulgaria look like?
It’s like the 10/90 rule, about 10 car rental companies (one of which we are) service 90% of the market. There are a lot of small, local companies and big rivalry among the main players.
Do you have any legal threats that are challenging how you do business?
The main legal problem is the huge number of speeding tickets caught by speed cameras on the roads of Bulgaria and the complicated legal procedure. We hope the government will take care of that soon. Other problems are the insurance companies when there are accidents with our cars and of course the cases of car stealing by customers (few cases per year mostly done by foreign customers).
Any new laws or rules you must abide by?
A law since the beginning of the year: All businesses should connect their cash registers with the system of the National Revenue Agency. This is actually good for us because small local companies are trying to cheat the law by not giving accurate data for their revenue to the government.
Where do you think the biggest growth potential is in your business?
We have to keep the answer of this question private — the rivalry is too severe!