Edgar Ricardo, managing director of Boric Car Rental in Curacao, explains in this web-exclusive Q&A how he started his car rental company by purchasing three vehicles off auction in Miami, and then added vehicles from local dealers one-by-one since starting the company in 2002.
What's your fleet size?
Our fleet has now grown to 100 vehicles. We started in 2002 with three vehicles bought from an auction in Miami. Now we are a full-grown car rental company.
How many locations do you have and in what types of areas?
We have two locations: The Head office in the commercial area in Saliña and one at the Holiday Beach Hotel Curacao.
How did the business start?
It started in February 2002 buying three damaged cars from the States (Miami Florida), shipped them to Curacao, repaired them and made them ready to rent to customers. All these started at home — very simple — renting with local people who were in a need of an affordable vehicle. We purchased and added more vehicles one by one and the company started to grow without any help from the bank.
We got help from the bank, I believe, in 2008, when I got my first loan to purchase three additional vehicles by the RBTT Bank (now called the RBC). I hereby take the opportunity to thank my account manager Sandra Gonçalves do Estreito, she is an excellent account manager.
My aim is to keep growing and to be one of the biggest car rental companies in Curacao. Today our company consists of 11 employees.
Why did you decide to bring vehicles in from Miami?
Because at that time is was very cheap to buy a damaged vehicle in auction. At the end, when the vehicle is ready (repaired), it costs me less money than to buy a new one.
What are your primary sources of rental customers?
Our primary source was local people but that has changed. Nowadays most of our customers are tourists from the hotels on the island of Curacao. We receive online reservation as well and customers that have to be picked up at the airport. Our online booking percentage is 28% out of all our reservations.
Are you an affiliate of any kind?
We have just signed the affiliate program with Fox Rental Car and we are planned to start next week June 11, 2012.
Are you pursuing new sources of business/customers? What are they?
Yes, besides working with insurance companies, we are trying to gain customers that visit curacao for their business trip and give them a special service, where we give personal attention like “deliver go.” That service takes less than two minutes. We have the necessary information from the customer already, so that these customers do not have to spend time filling out the paperwork. They want to walk out of the airport, get in the vehicle and go. In leaving the island, they want to get out on the drop off lane and walk to the check-in counter. The invoice will be sent via email to the customer.
Describe your specific marketing efforts and what the payback has been so far.
Tourism has grown in the last few years in Curacao, so the need of more car rental is a must. To promote our company we have made folders and flyers; we promote special offers on our website as well. Our special offers are like “rent a week and get one day free,” special rates, special discounts, etc.
How do you market your website – have you had a company work on SEO for you?
No, we do not have a company working on SEO for us, we are planning to try Pay Per Click from Google to get more revenue. The intention is to seek for an SEO company after we renew/build a new website.[PAGEBREAK]
How do you buy cars?
Now we buy our new cars from the car dealers in Curacao.
How do you sell your cars?
We bring our cars to the used car dealer to sell them in Curacao.
How long do you keep cars in fleet?
We keep our vehicles up to three years.
What are your biggest challenges with fleet?
To keep the fleet in great condition for our customers. Renting a vehicle will bring damages, scratches and dirtiness with it, and the next customer needs to get this vehicle nice and clean. There are some bad roads as well that can damage the wheel and wheel suspension.
What are your popular rental vehicles?
The most popular rental vehicle is the Kia Picanto, followed by the Kia Rio and the Hyundai Accent.
What types of counter products are popular?
What car rental companies are your competition?
My competition companies are Hertz, National, Budget and Avis.
Are there a lot of independent car rental companies in Curacao?
Yes, there are about 80 registered and unregistered car rentals in Curacao. I have no problem with the unregistered car rental companies because we all have to survive. I consider my company a very qualified and very responsible car rental company. Our customer satisfaction survey has shown that we are providing a great service and that’s what I am working for.
What legal parameters must you follow as a car rental company in Curacao?
To start a rental company you have to be registered at the Chamber of Commerce. A yearly fee will be applied. You can make a choice between sole proprietorship and a Limited Liability Company.
How did you survive the Recession? And what is that economic climate like currently for you in Curacao?
We try to make special offers and we are selling low rates as well to survive.
What are your biggest challenges right now in the business?
Our biggest challenge right now is to gain more hotels and resorts to work with and find more strategic locations. Having more locations sometimes leads to more revenue, and working together with a hotel or resort means that they will call you when their customers need a vehicle for rent. They will then receive a commission.
What does the car rental market over the next five years in Curacao look like?
Tourism is still growing; new hotels are rising, so I think that the car rental market will increase to support the demand.
Do you have any legal threats that are challenging how you do business?
No, our government tax is reasonable. We pay only 6% tax on rented vehicles (on the total amount).
Where do you think the biggest growth potential is in your business?
Well my business depends mainly on the tourism, as long as the tourism keeps growing we will be happy.
What would you like to see change in the industry in Curacao?
I would like to see more night life and more tourist attractions in Curacao.
Any other comments about your staff or daily operations that make your company unique?
My staff loves their job. They are well dressed in uniforms and are customer oriented. They are always on time by our customers. What makes the company unique is that we deliver the vehicle directly on the spot where the customers is to make it easier for our customers, so they don’t need to use a shuttle bus to our office. We bring the desired vehicle to our customers.