Outlook for summer travel: shortage of rental cars, rising airfares forcing many to change their business plans

Jawaskie Deal and his wife, Brittany, have gone pro in finding the best value in travel accommodation.

There was this trip they took to Toronto that involved flying into Ohio and crossing the border. They often find cheaper plane tickets when leaving Dallas-Fort Worth or Houston instead of Lafayette. Next month, they will go on vacation to Jamaica but will fly to Fort Lauderdale first. On the way back, they will leave a day early and fly to Tampa for one night before returning to Lafayette.

Travel Points cover most if not all of their accommodation costs. And there will be no car rental. It will be all Uber or Lyft.

“We actually saved $ 300 to $ 400 a night to stay in Tampa,” said Deal, a licensed professional counselor at New Iberia. “We don’t do anything that others can’t. Because of the costs, we like to travel efficiently. We could pay so much a month (in advance), and that way the trip will be paid maybe a month or two in advance. We won’t have to worry about anything other than spending money. “

Given the rising costs of travel as Americans head into the summer months, this is a good strategy. Those cheap plane tickets from the start of the pandemic are gone, and the turmoil in the rental car industry has skyrocketed prices.

The national travel outlook for 2021 is one that returns to pre-coronavirus figures as more Americans are vaccinated, but still by ear due to the pandemic shortage. Americans will spend 20% more on travel this year than a year ago, but still far from the 2019 total, according to the US Travel Association.

You can attribute the predicted increase in travel to pent-up demand from any canceled trips from last year and more money in people’s pockets thanks to stimulus checks. In Lafayette, that means more trips to Hawaii or Mexico or the Caribbean, according to travel agents.

“It will probably be 2023 before you hit the level of recreation that we’ve seen, but that could change one way or another,” Robbie Bush, longtime owner of Associated Travel, told Lafayette. . “A lot of people drive away. We see people flying to the west coast from the east coast. Car rentals were ridiculously expensive. A customer was on his way to Austin and the car rental would cost over $ 600 – twice as much as an individual plane ticket. “

The shortage of rental cars in the United States, and particularly in southern cities, has either driven up the daily price of a car or squeezed customers out of a vehicle for their trip. In Hawaii, people have resorted to UHaul car rentals ever since the cheapest rental car price rose to $ 722 per day in Maui, according to a CNN report.

The problems started last year when agencies sold vehicles to generate income in the early months of the pandemic. Next, automakers had to slow down production due to the global microchip shortage, leaving the rental car industry with no way to replenish its fleet.

This led to a price hike 30% in the United States and 50% in Hawaii and Florida compared to 2019, according to CheapCarRental.com. At Auto Rental Etc., which has four branches in Acadiana, cars that rented between $ 28 and $ 38 per day now cost $ 58 per day, said general manager Eric Stroderd.

“As soon as the stimulus, the unemployment money and the first quarter tax (refunds) started, the demand was extremely high,” he said. “Especially in the southern Gulf states. A lot of people are traveling south, which creates even more demand. We are at the mercy of what we have, so we have to keep these cars. Nobody has enough cars and this creates a serious problem of supply and demand. “

This has forced people to modify their vacations, he noted, like some who have to travel to Tampa for their Disneyworld vacations. Some travel experts encourage people to choose a destination where they can rent a car.

We will keep you posted on the Acadian economy. Register today.

Otherwise, as Maegan Sonnier, owner of Travel Machine, pointed out, the trip could turn sour.

“Another thing with car rental is that a lot of people go there and they don’t have a car,” Sonnier said. “They had a reservation but it was not confirmed. We take a lot of clients like that. They were booking online and one of their friends got stuck. It happens all the time. “

If you need to hire a car while on vacation, you have to queue first, Stroderd noted. Reservations are so backed up at his company’s New Orleans office that they stopped taking them “because I can’t buy cars anymore,” he said.

Then add in the staffing issues that the agency is facing, and that means the crisis could linger for a while.

“The shortage will continue through the summer months,” Stroderd said. “Our bookings have tripled from the previous year due to demand issues. People are booking very quickly now because they know there is a shortage. If you wait too long, there will be no inventory to rent. “

More people will be flying into and out of Lafayette Regional Airport this summer as passenger traffic tends more toward pre-pandemic numbers. Traffic, although it dropped this time a year ago, has tilted higher than most airports across the country, manager Steve Picou said.

Embarkations and landings each exceeded 16,000 in April, the highest number since before the pandemic. Daily flights to Charlotte that started on April 2 have been popular, he said.

“Some days of the week we’re going over the pre-COVID numbers, and some days we’re a little lower,” Picou said. “We were always ahead of the national average. When they were at 25% at the worst of the worst, we were going 30 to 33% of normal traffic. We have always been ahead of the national average for some reason. I don’t know why, but I’m glad we are.

The Hopper travel website said Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami were the most popular vacation destinations this summer. Others, including Honolulu, which have been hit hardest by the pandemic, will gain the largest share of travelers.

At Travel Machine in Lafayette, travel to Hawaii is a hot topic.

“We sold more Hawaii (trips) this year than ever in a year,” Sonnier said. “People go to Hawaii. We are building many national parks. We are doing a lot for Mexico. Were busy. We have sold more in the last four months than in the last 18. Business is going well. “

Much of this is simply pent-up demand for not being able to travel last year, she said. In Deal’s case, he and his wife had trips to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival canceled, as did their trip to South Africa later in the year. But since then, they’ve visited Las Vegas and Cancun.

“Traveling is like a recharge for us,” Deal said. “Every time we fall low, we have to recharge our battery. What better way to do that than to travel, you know? “

About Jermaine Chase

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