Do you want a rental car in Tasmania? Prices are rising and this could threaten the recovery of the tourism industry

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As Tasmania prepares to reopen to the rest of the country next week, interstate travelers who have been on lockdown for months are planning a long-awaited vacation across the Bass Strait.

Sydney couple Daniel Gocher and Lucy Manne started planning their camping trip as soon as they could.

“We had the plane to Launceston and planned to travel for a few weeks,” said Daniel Gocher.

“We were heading to the Tarkine and then to the Bay of Fires, so we were looking to hire a car with some space.”

It is then that they come up against an unexpected obstacle.

“We went to a car rental aggregation site and they were going to charge us between $ 2,500 and $ 3,500 for two weeks, which is definitely over what we budgeted for.”

They are not alone.

The couple had planned to visit the Bay of Fires on the east coast of Tasmania. (Provided: Zilla Gordon)

Car shortage made worse by COVID

Julie Poumes runs a travel agency in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

She says Tasmania tops the travel list for many of her clients, but car rental is a sticking point.

“People just say ‘No I’m not paying for this’, and that’s when they’re looking at later dates, or looking at another destination.”

Expensive car rental in Tasmania is nothing new, but the pandemic has made matters worse.

“When COVID first hit, a lot of these big, national companies literally got rid of half their fleet to survive and they didn’t outnumber them,” said Vince Powell of Tassie Car Rentals.

“In a normal scenario, these big companies could have put in 1,000 extra cars for Christmas, but they don’t.

“So you have a lot less cars, a lot more people: supply and demand. “

Mr Powell’s company offers used rentals cheaper than the big names.

jagged mountain range in the background heather and grasses in the foreground
Many places in Tasmania, like the South West National Park, require a car to get there.(Provided: Patrick Kelly )

But his fleet has been fully recovered for the summer.

“We’ve been full for a long time for Christmas, all of January, half of February,” he said.

The car shortage, a headache for tour operators

There is always the option of bringing your own car across from Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, but tickets are scarce.

Thousands of people made reservations immediately after the announcement of the border reopening on December 15, so finding a place in December and January will not be easy.

This creates a headache for Tasmania’s $ 3 billion tourism industry, which supports around 15% of the state’s jobs.

Tour operators are desperate for a surge in post-opening tours and fear the high cost of car rentals may cause people to go elsewhere.

“A lot of us fought really hard and made it through, but we’re at the limit,” said Greg Irons, director of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

Jagged rock on the Tarkine coast
Lucy and Daniel had planned to visit the Tarkine region in northwest Tasmania. (Provided: Dan Broun)

Bonorong is a half hour drive north of Hobart and, with no public transport options, relies heavily on autonomous traffic.

“Making it easier for people to visit destinations should really be a top priority if we are to keep our businesses,” said Mr. Irons.

Tasmanian Tourism Minister Sarah Courtney said the government was monitoring the situation.

“We are monitoring some of these prices, and the government has engaged with some of these companies to make sure that rental cars are not a hindrance for someone wanting to visit our state,” she said. declared.

More cars needed to bring prices down

Car rental companies are always nervous about the possibility of further border closures and don’t rush to replenish their fleets.

Greg Irons, director of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, with a wombat.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary director Greg Irons said the park relies on self-guided tours. (ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

“As Australia reopens, we expect greater fluctuations in market demand and customer rental models and we are maintaining our fleet at optimal levels to help meet this demand,” said a door. -speech of Budget Rent a Car.

The Department of State Growth tried to increase the supply by offering grants of $ 1,000 to offset the costs of Tasmanians renting their personal cars to tourists through ridesharing platforms like Evee and Car Next Door.

From April to November, over 260 applications were approved under the program, resulting in 678 newly registered rental and driving vehicles coming online.

“As the supply and availability of vehicles increases, this should put downward pressure on the cost of renting a vehicle, as will general market forces,” a spokesperson said. of the department.

But with the program scheduled to end on Christmas Eve, car rental – and the prospect of a Tasmanian vacation – will remain unaffordable for many interstate tourists.

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