Donnerstag, 2. Juni 2011

Explore Costa Ricas countryside with the comfort of a rental car!

While traveling with public transport through the amazing landscape of Costa Rica and experiencing the fascinating and friendly culture of the so called Ticos, I realized there is so much to see and to explore – so the next time I probably will choose a rental car to get around the country. 
As you might remember I already had the possibility to visit the SIXT office in Argentina. So I was very pleased to get the possibility to speak with Alex Jensen – the General Manager of SIXT in Costa Rica about the local market here and the way he is already using the online channel as an important sales instrument.
Market view
Mr. Jensen is very experienced in the car rental business. After a bit of market research he took the possibility to focus on a new target group for the Costa Rican market– the European travelers. In cooperation with a well established tour operator, an additional partner and SIXT as a franchise company they opened the business in 2005. 

Due to the owner constellation – especially the experienced tour operator –sales could be established on a good level from day 1. Starting with a fleet of 25 cars at the beginning they extend this number to 80 already and will raising it up to 100 cars at the end of this year. 
European travelers are defined as the main target group so far. Business travelers haven’t been a lot in Costa Rica so far. Due to the changing trade agreement which was just signed this might change in the upcoming years.
As you might imagine there are already heaps of rental companies around – especially if you arrive at the airport. But the SIXT office is placed next to the airport because the target group will arrange their driving arrangements beforehand anyway and so the fix costs can be minimized. SIXT is differentiating to competitors with additional services they offer. Every customer gets a whole package of country information (detailed travel map & guide book with recommendations, road laws, first aid numbers, pictures of beautiful places and so on) and the SIXT team is offering their service in all necessary languages. So customers get a broad access to information and great advices what areas in Costa Rica are worth a visit as well as how much time they need for traveling over there. 
Online channel is an integral part of daily SIXT business
The online channel is seen as one major present and future channel for sales and customer communication. SIXT in Costa Rica started from the very first day with its own local website where they provided much information of what customers get as a tour package once their holiday starts here.  Due to the shared ownership with the tour operator this information is always up-to-date.  The website itself is managed by the local SIXT team. The site is well SEO optimized and SEM campaigns are used seasonal to attract more customers. You are able to reserve a car online which will be confirmed afterwards. 
SIXT Global opened the international Costa Rican website later on. Therefore in the meantime two websites for Costa Rica exist which will not be a long term solution anymore. Within the next quarter SIXT Costa Rica will shut off their local site and redirect the link to the global SIXT website. The switch brings a lot of advantages. The local team is still in lead of their content. Additionally they are able to use all interface applications which SIXT offers within their franchise system and to establish their own SEO / SEM strategy.  Of course the customer does not get confused or even lose trust if too many options for the same brand appears online. 
At the moment around 10 % of sales comes by the local website, 50-60% bookings are from SIXT global and 30% by call centers and tour operators. 
SIXT in Costa Rica started Facebook activities even earlier as the Headquarter did. Due to limited resources they were not able to push this medium a lot. As we all know it is far more than just a couple of status updates.  But I agree with Alex Jensen – once you want to establish a business via Social media platforms – you need to define a local based strategy even within an international company surrounding.
One of his future expectations for the car rental business is a strong increase of the mobile channel. With the new era of smartphones mobile apps and mobile information gets far more important especially if you are on the road and have WIFI access wherever you stop.  
The SIXT interview is another confirmation during my travel that the online channel has become an integral part of our daily life and consumer decision – no matter in what situation or sector we stay. 
Thanks Alex Jensen for the very pleasant interview session and all of the whole travel information package your team offered

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