What is your perspective on the current state of the Mexican mobility and car rental industry?
We have gone through a tremendous amount of change in the last 15 months. At the beginning of 2020, the year looked to be extremely promising for the car rental industry. All of a sudden in April, most airports were shut down, and in Mexico around 60-80% of the rental car business takes place in airports. It was difficult to tackle this situation. The first thing everyone had to do was reduce the number of cars, though it was still not easy because there was not much demand to buy the cars either. In 2020, we were trying to survive, and now it looks like we are in this pandemic for the long haul. The repercussions on the tourism industry as a whole have been significant. The process of recovering to pre-pandemic levels will be much longer than anticipated. There has been a tremendous increase in tourism in the last four months. With the boost in home office arrangements, we have also seen an increase in people spending long periods of time in Mexico, for example in Cancún or Los Cabos. Business travel will have a longer recovery period, because many companies have realized that virtual meetings are more cost-effective; however, face-to-face interactions remain important, and we will slowly return to them. Customers now want to rent cars that are sanitized in front of them and avoid means of transportation that would put them in contact with other people. Airlines not only had to cut down significantly on the number of destinations, but also the size and frequency of their routes. Thus, renting a car and travelling by land became an option for many people. In summary, we need to adapt in many ways and display resiliency. One of our competitors filed for bankruptcy in the US, which was a red flag for us and made us extremely cautious about how we manage the business. The long game now is how we return to profitability, so we can invest and grow the business in the future.
How is Avis adapting to the digital transformation trends in Mexico?
We have been talking about digital for many years, but the pandemic has accelerated the need for investment in digital for the future. We are looking at strategies where we will be adopting a significant amount of platforms that will allow us to manage the business much more effectively, understand and anticipate business trends and customer needs much more efficiently, and enable us to become a data-driven company in order to remain close to the customer. The cars we offer are the same that one find at our competitors, so we need to differentiate our service.
How do you define and implement excellent service?
The customer is becoming increasingly demanding, and we can make a difference here. The top priority of our marketing manager is devising digital strategies. We are the only car rental company in Mexico that has been conducting customer service surveys, so we have a large amount of data that needs to be turned into information that we can use to grow our business and stay close to the customer. Their needs are changing, and we need to anticipate them. We see many opportunities for digital tools to make the rental transaction much simpler and a more pleasant experience for the customer. It will be a make-or-break situation for the car rental business in the future. We used to have a really strong commercial base, but it will take some time to return to it. To explore other customer segments, we need to think differently and provide an experience that makes customers remain loyal to the brand. Digital platforms allow us to understand that much better and allow us to react to it more quickly.
What main projects or solutions are you planning in the short term?
We have acquired new technology that we are implementing. We need to use technology to ensure we are more efficient and that we have greater capacity for better decision making. The challenge right now is that we are still not over the pandemic; there is a fourth wave right now. We continue to see waves that become challenges in terms of our recovery plans. We need to maintain our current vehicles in top shape and remain available to the customer.