Car rental 'shortfall' could dampen big summer for P.E.I. tourism
Industry group estimates nearly 9,000 customers looking for rental won't be able to get one
P.E.I. tourism officials are concerned that a shortage of rental cars could pose a significant problem this summer as the Island anticipates a big jump in visitors flying to the Island.
"There's a shortfall of cars. We're not going to be able to meet the demand," said Kirk Nicholson, the agency owner of Avis Budget P.E.I., and transportation committee chair with the Island's tourism industry association (TIAPEI).
"There's increased capacity at the Charlottetown Airport, and well in advance of that, a lot of the companies, ours included, are currently sold out for most of the summer already."
Nicholson says at the onset of the pandemic, the car rental business took a big hit, and companies around the world sold off much of their fleet.
Now, supply chain issues in the auto manufacturing industry are making it impossible to replace them. As a result, P.E.I. car rental agencies have 50-65 per cent fewer vehicles than they did in 2019, Nicholson said.
He estimates that could leave nearly 9,000 customers and their travel groups unable to get vehicles.
"Unlike someone travelling and making their vacation in Toronto, where there are a half dozen options to get around, we are a travel destination," said Nicholson.
"To get to the golf courses, and to get to restaurants and the beaches, [rental cars] are an important piece of the puzzle ... Will people cancel their vacations to come here because of this? Some yes, some no. But it's certainly a hit."
Car-sharing the answer?
Nicholson says TIAPEI is counting on a car-sharing company called Turo to fill at least some of the void.
Turo allows users to rent out their personal vehicles through an online platform, similar to Airbnb.
The company is up and running in a handful of Canadian provinces, and is aiming to launch on P.E.I. before summer.
"We think it's a perfect time for Turo to launch there, and local car owners to unlock this economic opportunity," said Cedric Mathieu, the company's vice-president.
"As you can imagine, this can go a long way in offsetting the cost of car ownership. And I think the people of P.E.I. will see an economic opportunity here, especially in the high season this summer."
Mathieu said his company is currently working with P.E.I. insurance regulators to get a special type of insurance approved that protects cars while they're rented out through the platform.
"You know, we can't communicate a precise timeline and it's not entirely in our hands. But I'm very confident we'll be able to provide some relief to the Island in terms of the car rental shortage, and the whole team is working hard towards that," he said.
Nicholson said TIAPEI is also working with Island taxi and ride sharing companies with hopes they'll be able to scale up their operations to help meet the demand.