Rental vehicle shortage set to impact holidaymakers in South Africa

There is a significant shortage of rental vehicles in South Africa and holidaymakers hoping to travel in December and January should be booking immediately if they have not already secured a vehicle.

This is according to Drive South Africa, who conducted a survey among their suppliers about the status of their fleets, as local tourists gear up for the holiday and demand rises.

Ellena van Tonder, sales and product manager for Drive South Africa, said that car hire companies were forced to downscale their fleets in 2020 as rentals plummeted due to restrictions on travel locally, and with the complete halt to international visitors to South Africa.

“Demand has picked up considerably in recent months and the rental companies are working to replenish their fleets, but this will take time and we will not be able to keep up with demand,” she says.

Van Tonder said the difficulty with supply is also impacted by the shorter lead times they are experiencing with bookings: “Due to Covid, people are reluctant to book far in advance because they don’t know if travel restrictions may be implemented or a new level of lockdown may be announced, so we find the lead times are much shorter than they used to be.

“This may lead to disappointment though, as we are already 99% booked for December and people looking for January rentals should be booking now.”

The shortage extends to 4×4 and Campervan hire, where fleets were slashed as these categories are mostly used by international travellers.

In December 2019 there were just under 1,200 4x4s available via Drive South Africa, but stock went down as low as 330 by December 2020. This number has now risen to 360, but is far from the stock levels of 2019.

Mark Matheson, from Bushlore Africa, said that Covid led to the company reducing its fleet size throughout the year of 2020 – by around 40%. “As travel resumed in late 2020 and early 2021 we held our fleet at this level due to continued uncertainty and limited demand.

“The second half of 2021 saw a big increase in demand and it is clear there is a strong desire to travel. Our occupancies were excellent right through to the end of November and this led to us starting to increase fleet size.

“The demand is there but rental fleets are likely to remain smaller while there is still some uncertainty. Despite some concerns around the new variant and latest developments we are still optimistic 2022 should be a good year.”

Read: The busiest and most dangerous roads during South Africa’s December holidays

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Rental vehicle shortage set to impact holidaymakers in South Africa