By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
With the advent of COVID-19 and a halt in tourism, several local car rental companies are experiencing a major decline in operational activity.
Some owners of these rental companies on Tortola and Virgin Gorda reported in recent interviews with BVI News that only less than 10 percent of their vehicle fleet is currently being utilised.
As a result, they have had to institute new strategies, which include marketing to attract more local clients, selling some of the vehicles in their rental fleet, and offering discounted prices for rentals.
These businesses included VI Motors, International Motors, Road Kings Rentals and Mahogany Car Rentals.
At VI Motors, owner Allan Parker said tourists usually utilise more than 85 percent of his rentals. But, COVID-19 has since put a stop to that hive of activity.
“There is very little at this time, maybe we have 10 percent of our cars on rent today,” he told BVI News.
“Our plans for the rentals going forward is to retool, see what local business we can get, see what other business there are locally, see what leasing business there is and try and retool and see if there is any car and drive business in the market,” he added.
‘The worst is yet to come’
As COVID-19 continues to impact several of the countries where tourists usually travel from, Parker said he does not believe the vehicle rental sector will return to normal until late-2021, early-2022.
The automotive business owner further said he believes the real impact of COVID-19 will be felt in the next few months.
“I don’t think that we’ll have a boost this summer because the borders are closed. We have no festival, we didn’t have a Poker Run where people come in for that time. Summer students didn’t come from the United States, so I think the worst is yet to come. I think the worse is going to be August, September, November,” he stated.
Mahogany Car Rentals
Over on Virgin Gorda, Mahogany Car Rentals also has less than 10 percent of its fleet being rented at this time.
“We do have local customers but the majority of business is based on tourism, so that’s based on arrivals to the country and arrivals on Virgin Gorda — specifically those that take day trips from Anegada or Tortola — and that business is basically non-existent right now,” owner of that car rental, Clennell Vanterpool explained.
Vanterpool also said he had lowered the rates of rentals, and recently instituted a Summer Run special that will run until October.
Additionally, his business will be selling a few of its rental vehicles, which will be replaced once activity resumes.
“We normally sell out vehicles at the end of the season and then you replace them with new ones so that would be the same approach. Hopefully, there will be a point where we’ll get back to some normalcy, we’ll have some tourists coming in and then we can go ahead with the replacement aspect of it,” he stated.
Road Kings Rentals
In the meantime, small business owner Leonardo Todman Jr, who owns Road Kings Rentals, said his business, too, is experiencing the negative effects from COVID-19. He explained that rental activity has been slower than usual.
“I still do get one or two customers from locals who usually come to me, but things are a little slow,” he stated.
Todman has also been putting measures in place to attract more locals; a measure he hopes will keep the business afloat until tourism resumes in the BVI. One of those measures is reduced prices, he told BVI News.
“I try to be more flexible, bring down my prices a little bit so the locals can afford. Everybody isn’t working right now so I just try to be affordable and understanding to people.”
“I’m just trying to keep advertising as I do right now running ads, giving people specials because the weekends mostly are the hot times when people want rentals,” Todman added.
Car rentals drop by 30% at International Motors
Director at International Motors, Peter Sorrentino said that while business is down, his establishment has still been able to attract enough clientele to have more than half of its fleet in service.
“Immediately after the lockdown, our International Car Rentals business was almost nonexistent for new contracts. Since then, business has improved and we now have about 55 percent of our fleet out on rental which if you compare with the same period last year, we are down about 30 percent,” he stated.
Sorrentino also said that International Motors had implemented their regular discounted off-season summer rates to attract more business, and will also be selling a number of their fleet until tourism activity resumes.
“We are selling some of our rental fleet to help with cash flow as we don’t know what to expect for the upcoming tourist rental season. We can always build the fleet back up at the end of the year if we need to,” Sorento stated.
Currently, the BVI borders remain closed to all inbound flights carrying visitors. The government is yet to announce when the borders will reopen to welcome tourist activity.
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