Driving tours a popular choice

Updated: 2013-02-08 14:26

By Chen jia (China Daily)

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February may not be a peak travel time for Americans, but it is a lucrative period for the US car-rental industry nevertheless, as agencies gear up for Chinese holiday travelers.

"Over the past two years, we've seen strong double-digit growth in the number of rentals from Chinese consumers during the month of February," said Paula Rivera, manager of public affairs for car-rental company Hertz Corp.

"The US is now an official destination for Chinese, and US visas are becoming easier to obtain, thus making the country an appealing choice for a holiday," Rivera told China Daily.

Chinese consumers are realizing that a US driving trip is an easy way to discover America, Rivera said.

Bai Meng, a 29-year-old Beijinger who plans to see the US by car, noted that in China, the driving tour has been fashionable for years because many people can afford a car. Possessing good English skills, she said she is "prepared to experience culture shock" on her trip.

As the Chinese become increasingly experienced in visiting the US, they realize not only that it is easy to rent a vehicle, but that being on their own affords more flexibility than they would get in a coach bus tour, said Meghan Maguire, brand publicity manager for the Alamo car-rental agency.

With sales and call centers in China ready to assist customers at any time, US car rental companies are working to satisfy Chinese customers, particularly those from the mainland. An agency's service might typically include driving maps, a driver license translation service, and local language GPS units.

Alamo also offers a GPS product in all Chinese dialects, both written and spoken, to make driving in the US simple for motorists.

Maguire said Alamo is increasing its brand recognition within the Chinese market, through its direct outreach to Chinese consumers and trade publications.

"Having recently launched a Chinese website, which allows for real-time bookings, we've seen the interest in our brand increase significantly," Maguire said.