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Premium Car Rentals Complement Luxury Getaways

September 18, 2007 By: David Eisen Travel Agent

Premium Car Rentals Complement Luxury Getaways
Sell benefits and functionality for increased commissions

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So you just booked your clients on a first-class flight to
northern California
and into a signature suite for a week at the swank Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
& Spa. You’ve arranged wine tours and meals at some of the most desirable
restaurants wine country has to offer. Congratulations on your hearty
commission. But one thing you or any agent can do to sweeten the return is to
pair the experience with a vehicle befitting the tone of the trip. In this
instance, why not sell up your clients’ car rental?

“Who wants to pull up to a five-star hotel in a Kia?” asks
Amanda Klimak, vice president of Largay Travel, noting that many clients may
feel embarrassed to arrive at a posh hotel in an inferior vehicle. So how does
a travel agent impress upon a client the importance of renting a premium
vehicle, without pressing the issue too hard or making the client feel
obligated? It’s not that difficult, says Klimak. “We sell the benefits and
functionality of the upgraded car, not just that it’s nicer or better looking,”
she says, while pointing out that clients on average want the added space a
premium car provides for items such as golf clubs or cumbersome luggage. “Nine
times out of 10 the client will take the recommendation. They want the whole
experience when on a vacation and the car is part of that.”

Calls for a luxury experience have pricked the ears of car
rental agencies, which have quickly initiated programs to tap into the luxury
travel market. “We recognized the growing trend for luxury travel,” says Frank
Camacho, staff vice president of marketing for Hertz,
who also asks why someone vacationing in a chic destination would want to drive
anything less than a premium automobile. While the luxury travel market was
stymied after 9/11, Camacho says it came back strong soon thereafter. “There
are luxury travelers back into the market and they want these types of

Hertz company president and CEO Craig Koch noted this
growing attention given to luxury travel, prompting Hertz to launch the
Prestige Collection, an assortment of luxury cars matched with premium service.
The collection includes such makes as the Mercedes 230C, Infiniti M35, Volvo
XC90 and two newer vehicles in the Audi Q7 and Lincoln MK7. Drivers wanting
that rugged-yet-refined edge can also rent the Hummer H2. The program’s
success, primarily due to the various types of vehicles offered, hinges on its
ability to promise customers that the make they reserve will be available upon pickup.
“People who want luxury are specific about their wants,” says Camacho. “We let
them reserve makes and models.” Specific codes are available to travel agents
to book these models via the GDS. The incentive to book a Prestige Collection
vehicle rests mainly in price, as cars in the set usually cost as much as two
times that of a standard.

The success of the Prestige Collection begot Hertz’s Fun
Collection in 2005, which comprises vehicles one level down from Prestige, but
upscale nonetheless (PT Cruisers, Chrysler Sebrings, assorted SUVs, etc.). Avis Rent A Car countered with its own version
of upscale driving with its Cool Car collection, which it launched in May 2006.
The purpose of the collection is to heighten a guest’s driving experience and
make it as memorable as the vacation itself. Customers opting to rent from this
collection can choose from such makes as the Cadillac CTS, Volvo S60 and the
Hummer H3.

The addition of these types of vehicles by car rental companies
shows how cognizant they are of the expanding luxury market. However, they
aren’t the only ones getting into the game.

The affluent traveler’s hankering for special cars and
special service has spawned an assortment of specialty car rental companies,
which deal in high-end, head-spinning vehicles. Steve Bandovich is the owner of
Chicago-based Cloud 9 Specialty Car
, where you can drive out in a Lamborghini Gallardo for just $2,380
per day. Bandoich says that demand for premium cars has risen 10 to 15 percent
from year to year.

Shadowing Cloud 9 is California-based Specialty Rentals, a licensee of
National Car Rental, which rents out everything from the nimble Lotus Elise
convertible to the sleek Porsche Cayenne SUV. The company’s web site enables
shoppers to select any make and model, and there is also a section devoted to
discounts and specials.

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