Holidays in Europe: complicated and expensive car rentals

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PARIS: After long months of closures and curfews, Europeans can’t wait to soak up some sun and sand – only to find their dream vacation may turn into a nightmare as no rental cars are available .
In many popular tourist areas, cars are simply not available or subcompacts cost 500 euros ($ 600 per week).
Car rental comparison sites show how expensive car rental has become for tourists this summer.
According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will cost tourists an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.
For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer against 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has fallen from 185 euros to 263 euros.
According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have almost doubled on the French island of Corsica. In the resort of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have almost tripled.
Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the near absence of customers, selling vehicles to raise funds made a lot of sense to the car rental companies struggling to survive.
“Everyone has drastically reduced their fleet,” said Europcar manager Caroline Parot.
Until spring, most companies still had fleets about a third smaller than in 2019, she said.
Car rental companies are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so replenishing their inventory shouldn’t have been a problem.
With the exception of the pandemic, demand for consumer electronics has increased, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, which are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.
“A key driver of the current challenge is the global chip shortage, which has impacted the availability of new vehicles in the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said an Enterprise spokesperson.
He said he was working on acquiring new vehicles, but in the meantime he is moving cars to better meet demand.
– No cars, try a van – “We started warning people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and book in advance”, said the head of the car rental association Italians, Massimiliano Archiapatti.
He said they were working hard to meet the increased demand for vacation spots.
“But we have two big islands which are major international tourist destinations,” he said, making it difficult for cars to move, especially since the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.
“The ferries are already full of people bringing their cars,” he added.
“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk that this will impact prices,” Archiapatti said.
The increase in demand is also observed for rentals between individuals.
GetAround, a web platform that organizes such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increase in searches and rentals” in European markets.
As of May, more than 90% of the cars available on the platform have been hired on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.
GetAround has used the increased demand to increase the number of cities it serves.
For some, their arrival cannot come quickly enough.
51-year-old aviation technician Bruno Riondet rents cars to attend matches at his favorite British football club Brighton.
“Before, to rent a car, I paid between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it is more than 90 euros, it is three times more expensive”, he declared.
In the United States, where prices skyrocketed in the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii have turned to pickup truck rentals.
In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who deals with shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.
“Customers tend to book at the last minute, especially in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.
They often wait a few days before their trip, which means car rental companies don’t have a full picture of the demand ahead, he added.
He said business was picking up, but income had not yet reached pre-pandemic levels as travel was not yet completely free.
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