Tourism hotspots across Australia are expecting a surge in demand over the Easter break but good luck getting a rental car.
Cheap domestic flights and international border closures have encouraged Aussies to holiday in their own backyards, including in the regions.
But hire cars are in short supply, forcing travellers to consider alternatives such as car-sharing companies.
NRMA, which owns car hire company Thrifty as well as holiday parks and resorts, is among the companies experiencing nationwide shortages.
Spokesman Peter Khoury says demand for car hires had plummeted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia.
“To be able to adjust to that climate, we and other car rental companies had to sell off a portion of our fleet,” Mr Khoury said.
“Because the domestic market rebounded a lot quicker than we expected, we now find ourselves in a situation where we all want to rejuvenate the fleet and bring more cars online but the challenge, of course, is getting them.
“It’s just difficult getting cars now – so many of the parts from all of the manufacturers come from parts of the world that are still heavily affected by COVID, so it’s had a massive impact on supply.”
Mr Khoury expects more stock will be available to the Australian market later in the year, allowing Thrifty to rejuvenate its fleet.
In the meantime, car-share platforms are cashing in.
Car Next Door chief executive Will Davies says business is booming with 15,000 people joining the platform in February.
Demand has surged in holiday hotspots such as Cairns and Gold Coast and in new markets such as Tasmania which launched the service in December.
“Traditional car sharing hasn’t been able to get off the ground outside of urban centres because of the significant overheads involved with buying and maintaining a fleet of cars,” Mr Davies said.
“With a peer-to-peer model such as Car Next Door, we are just activating cars that are already in these suburbs – cars that are sitting unused for 96 per cent of the time. Anyone can rent their car out or borrow a car.”
A lockdown in Brisbane has thrown a spanner in the works for some holiday-makers but experts still expect a bumper Easter holiday period.
“We still anticipate high demand,” Mr Khoury said.
“We’ve got vehicles available but we do encourage people to book as early as possible.”