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The RV rental business had another strong spring/summer season in 2003 with major carriers reporting 8% to 20% increases in business in the first nine months of the year, with sharp increases in domestic demand again offsetting declines in international bookings.
El Monte RV, a Santa Fe Springs, Calif., chain with about 50 rental locations for Class A and C motorhomes, reported a 20% increase in its rental business in the first nine months of the year.
A 20% increase in rental traffic also was posted by Zurich, Switzerland-based Moturis LTD, which offers every category of motorized RV rental at nine locations across the U.S., company spokesman Mike Castro said.
Las Vegas, Nev.-based Bates International Motor Home Rental Systems, Inc. experienced a 15% hike in its rentals of Class A and C motorhomes.
CanaDream Corp., Calgary, Canada enjoyed an 8% increase in summer bookings through its 10 locations in Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon Territories, Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, despite negative publicity from the SARS epidemic in Toronto in early 2003, according to CanaDream President and CEO Brian Gronberg. The company rents Class B and C motorhomes as well as fifth-wheel trailers, campers and camper vans.
Cruise America, with 146 Class C motorhome rental outlets in the United States and Canada, also reported all segments of its business were positive this fall and that the company’s forecast for 2004 was favorable for both domestic and international rentals, according to Bob Caldarone, director of marketing.
Many RV rental companies predict even stronger business next year.
“We believe the entire tourism sector is going to see a stronger 2004 because of the weakening dollar,” said Joe Laing, director of marketing for El Monte RV. He added that international travel to the United States already was declining before 9-11, largely because of the strong dollar. Now that the dollar is weakening, he maintained, the U.S. will become a more affordable destination for foreign tourists, and that will stimulate demand for RV rentals and other tourist activities here.
“We’ve seen a very strong booking trend from Europe for next year,” said Laing, whose company currently derives 80% of its business from domestic travelers. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”
Laing added that El Monte RV plans to expand with five new company-owned and franchise locations next year.
Bates is seeing similar trends.
“We’ve always had a base market from Western Europe, but after 9-11, it’s really dropped off,” said President Sandra Bate. “But since 9-11, we’ve really seen a tremendous increase in domestic travel, and that trend seems to be continuing.”
Bates International, which operates 15 rental locations in 12 states and three provinces in Canada, also plans to expand next year with two rental stores each in Michigan, Washington and Illinois and a new location in Nova Scotia.
“We’ve already started taking advance reservations all over our network,” Bate said, adding, “I really see it looking very prosperous.”
Cruise America, meanwhile, plans to open new rental locations in 2004 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
At the same time, smaller independent RV rental firms contacted by RVBUSINESS.COM also reported strong performance in 2003, including The Trail Center, Inc., of Charleston, S.C., which saw its rental business increase by 30%, said company President Gloria Morgan.
The Trail Center’s rentals include two motorhomes and three tent campers.
“The demand is huge for local NASCAR races,” Morgan said, “but I find that this year we are getting lots of new inquiries and are starting to see new faces.”