Several Hawaii car rental companies are subscribing to the theory
that “getting there is half the fun,” and they’re promoting
specialty vehicles as a way of staying competitive in these
Big Island Exotic Cars, which opened in Kona in February 2003,
is the only exotic car rental company on Big Island. “Our cars are
the ultimate way to see the island,” said Tim Kuglin, who calls
himself the company’s “director of fun.” “Our products are for the
discriminating traveler, who wants only the best, and who can
Travel agents who visit Big Island can spend a day in a 1957
Porsche Speedster at 50 percent off the regular daily rate of $299.
Along with Speedsters, Big Island Exotic Cars rents 2003 Hummer
H2s, which can handle terrain inaccessible to regular rental cars.
“Our Hummers are the only way to get to some of the island’s most
beautiful attractions, like South Point, Waipio Valley and the
summit of Mauna Kea volcano,” Kuglin said. The one-day rate for a
Hummer is $499, commissionable at 10 percent. The fleet will soon
add a 1966 Cobra, late-’40s Woody and ’60s GTO, he said.
808-331-1997; www.bigislandexotic cars.com.
Dollar Rent A Car’s most popular products in Hawaii are
higher-priced, fun-in-the-sun vehicles like Jeeps and convertibles,
said Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group’s Jim Bowen. “Our SUVs and PT
Cruisers also do very well,” he said. Specialty vehicles comprise
25 percent of Dollar’s Hawaii fleet, he said.
To help agents book its products, Dollar is offering free
upgrades and waived overtime. “Sixty-five percent of our business
comes from tour operators,” said Bowen, “who pass our promotions on
to the travel agents.” Such marketing initiatives help to combat
the challenges faced by all of Hawaii’s car rental companies. “Due
to the current economy, our local airlines have reduced the number
of flights and raised rates on interisland travel,” Bowen said,
which adversely affects the demand for rental cars. But Hawaii does
enjoy advantages over mainland companies, Bowen said: “Clients
can’t drive to Hawaii, and there’s no public transportation, except
Budget Rent A Car sales and marketing director Gordon Kai said
that the high cost of shipping cars to the islands creates an
additional challenge for rental companies in Hawaii. “We’re
weighing higher vehicle acquisition costs against the competitive
rental rates, which affect profitability margins,” Kai said.
On the other hand, “because of the gentle climate in the
islands, we can carry a wider selection of vehicles than many
destinations on the mainland,” said Kai. “Our Mustang convertible
and Jeep Wrangler are the most fun and popular cars to drive in
Hawaii’s warm weather. They can really enhance a vacation
experience for customers.” Budget’s Hawaii fleet is also heavy on
SUVs, sports cars and minivans.
To streamline reservations, Budget Rent A Car provides
wholesalers and agents with calendars that indicate Budget’s peak
periods at its Hawaii rental locations. Through its Unlimited
Budget loyalty program, agents can accrue points on a debit card,
when they make actualized bookings. The points can be redeemed for
awards like free car rentals and merchandise.