Car hire looks set to become the next major online battleground as retailers and airlines look to increase their income from ancillary sales.
However, travel firms will need access to a greater range of car hire suppliers as the sector faces a capacity shortage this summer, it has been warned.
Greg Turley, CarTrawler chief executive, described the car hire sector as the “unpolished gem” of the online travel sector but one which is facing huge supply challenges.
He cited the recent acquisition of Travel Jigsaw by US giant Priceline as evidence that the big online players are now taking car hire seriously.
“Car hire is a pure commodity. The purchasing decision comes down to price and that’s where we can bring huge value to OTAs or anyone selling online,” he said.
“Car rental has been neglected in a huge way but it is the new frontier. It’s an unpolished gem which has not been captured in any way. It’s about having the tools to do it.”
The economic downturn and collapse in the second had car market, as well as manufacturers in the US being able to get out of old union deals, means there is restricted availability of vehicles.
Turley said in the last two years the contraction in the number of vehicles in the market has risen from 30% to 50%.
Last year there were reports of Majorca running out of vehicles in the peak holiday period and Turley warned it will be no different this year in peak times in popular destinations like Spain and Portugal.
This has pushed up prices, and as car hire generally has a shorter lead in time than other holiday components has led to a problem overbookings leaving customers without cars.
CarTrawler claims to be the only GDS for car hire offering its technology for free to retailers and access to over 550 suppliers, mostly through XML feeds.