UAE car rental sector on the fast lane |
Gulf Today - 14 July, 2012
There has been an upsurge in the car rental industry in the UAE following the Arab Spring and also the Euro crisis, according to players in the sector.
The Arab Spring though has certainly been a challenge last year, it no doubt benefited the business entrepreneurs in the UAE, due to the political stability that attracted both Arabs and foreign investors to conduct business here, says Sam Eltibi, executive director, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Mena & Asia Pacific.
Thrifty Car Rental is one of the largest car rental companies in the Middle East region with its headquarters in the US and a network across the globe.
It is also a licensee of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group. The company has been present in the UAE for over a decade now.
Speaking to The Gulf Today on Thursday, Eltibi said that the first half of this year witnessed a strong beginning for Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group (DTAG) Mena region, adding that the company also opened new outlets across the UAE, Qatar and Turkey.
He noted that beyond the Middle East, DTAG is keen to boost its presence in emerging markets including Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tunisia.
In April this year, DTAG announced its offering of high-end sports cars to customers with the addition of the 2012 model Ford Mustang 5.0 and the 2012 Dodge Charger.
Eltibi says that the company constantly retires its old fleet and replaces with modern vehicles to suit the demands of customers. This year the company expanded its fleet by 20 per cent.
Currently the company has 17000 vehicles under Thrifty, and an additional 5000 under Dollar and anticipates to continue expanding.
Asked about competition in the market, Eltibi said that it is tough adding that competition for any business is healthy and challenging.
'We don't fear competition as we concentrate on a niche market. We have our loyal customers or what we call ‘repeat customers', who have remained with us over the years and are not deterred by lower prices in the market, hence we have an established clientele and also attract more,' explains Eltibi.
We will continue to offer our customers the finest cars at unmatchable rental rates, said the director.
He explained that Thrifty sees tremendous opportunity in the region, especially in the UAE as the tourism industry continues to grow.
The discounted packages being offered by hoteliers in the UAE, has also led to a rise in the in-bound tourist traffic, resulting in the business growth for Thrifty Car Rental by over 35 per cent at the end of Q1 2012 compared to the same period last year, says Eltibi. There are seasonal ups and downs in the sector but we are bullish about the car rental business in the UAE, having been here for over a decade, disclosed Eltibi.
He said that though it is summer season, the car leasing business here has hit a boom time presently, adding that most of their vehicles have been booked in advance for the Eid season.
This he said has been attributed by both domestic and foreign customers who are visiting the UAE from other parts of the world.
Thrifty has one of the biggest networks in the UAE with over 36 full-service outlets in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Al Ain. The company enjoys an impressive and varied fleet of vehicles which are available in every location in the UAE.
With rental locations at all major shopping malls, airports, free zones and hotels, Thrifty is able to provide convenient and cost-effective service to all of its customers in the UAE.
Asked about the mushrooming of car rental firms in Dubai, Eltibi said he is unshaken about their presence as they are only short-term players in the market. He noted that such companies will phase out and the market will be like what Europe and US did, that is consolidation in the market.
He is optimistic about the growth of the industry in this part of the Arab world, adding that of late there has been a lot of influx of tourists visiting the UAE, who prefer to rent a car for their entire stay here.
2012 will also see Dollar and Thrifty franchisees boost fleet and upgrade their vehicles to the current year. 'By now, most of our car models will be 2012. Countries like Jordan, Qatar and UAE has increased their fleet size due to increasing demand' he added.