A DRIVING INSTINCT

The car rental business has growth potential, not least in light of Colombia's ambitious infrastructure overhaul.

Cab drivers block an avenue to protest against the Uber ride sharing service in Bogota July 29, 2015. REUTERS/ John Vizcaino


Travelers the world over simply have to drive.

Regardless of infrastructure or terrain-related challenges, or even the adequate availability of public transport, many viajeros prefer to be able to set their own pace when visiting countries abroad.

A casual glance at traveler comments online, however, indicates that many underestimate Colombia's challenging terrain, not to mention the risk of mudslides in the rainy season.

That being said, the monumental achievement of the 2016 peace accord has opened the country up to travel and investment as never before.

With its bountiful attractions now free to visit, Colombia is attracting both regular and more alternative and exploration-oriented tourists than ever. Many of these drive.

In Colombia, car rental is an established service.

Larger name brands, with a reputation for accountability and transparency to maintain, have of course, taken the route of becoming authorized by the National Tourism Registry (RNT).

These include such international players as Avis, actively expanding a reputable sector across major cities. Their larger, and higher quality fleets tend to be in demand by the foreign visitor.

A car can be rented for as little as USD6 per day, although this naturally rises for added power and passenger capacity.

Few big-ticket purchases devalue with quite the briskness of a car.

And many other car-rental operators run fleets of privately-owned vehicles rented out by individuals. So as you motor your way to Medellín, you may well unknowingly be helping to pay off someone's monthly installment payments on their new Corolla.

Indeed, many Colombians themselves are questioning the virtues of car ownership and its related responsibilities and the cost of redundant times, versus the rental option when that ride is truly required.

4G

The car rental business may be pulled in two directions by Colombia's massive USD25 billion Fourth Generation (4G) road infrastructure project, to which may be added the USD4.4 billion Bogotá metro project – less welcome by taxi drivers and car rental firms.

Colombia's economic competitiveness will clearly be boosted by 4G, as distances shrink and logistics costs follow suit.
The road-heavy program entails over 4,400 miles of new roads, as well as 141 tunnels and no less than 1,300 viaducts. Over 30 primary road overhauls and construction projects are in the pipeline, with port and city linked in the Prosperity Corridor and Sun Route components.

While this will curb the cost of overland cargo, it will also make driving more time-effective and less of an adventure. Most drivers will appreciate this.

A safer country is by definition a more traveled one.

Colombia's car-hire sector can only benefit from that state of affairs, while pipeline road projects should put car rentals into higher gear.