Car rental issues prompt Ontario couple to cut short summer trip to Newfoundland and Labrador

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After two years near home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Breanne Firth says she and her husband were looking forward to traveling from their home in Barrie, Ont. to Fogo Island and spending time in Newfoundland this summer.

“He loves the rejuvenation of the island, how hard they work to ensure the community remains relevant and sustainable for future generations,” Firth said.

“So we decided to consider going to Fogo again and we wanted to try and explore a bit more.”

Firth said she had booked flights to St. John’s for their week-long trip and started looking for a rental car. She said she couldn’t find anything online, so she started calling rental companies in St. John’s.

Firth couldn’t find a vehicle at any company in St. John’s, so she called rental companies in Gander. She said there were also no vehicles available there, even more expensive luxury vehicles.

The couple quickly canceled their flights and rearranged the entire trip.

Instead of spending a week exploring Newfoundland, the couple now plan to spend a few days in Halifax, fly to Gander and take a shuttle to Fogo Island for two nights, then fly back to Gander and fly to Montreal to complete the trip.

Breanne Firth and her husband were eager to return to Fogo Island as tourists and explore the island after seeing tourism advertisements for Newfoundland. But the couple haven’t found a rental car and are instead spending time in Nova Scotia and Quebec. (Submitted by Breanne Firth)

“We’re a bit frustrated. We didn’t get to have the trip we were hoping for this time around,” Firth said.

“That won’t stop us from coming back another time. Unfortunately, I think for some it could happen, and that’s a shame.”

Firth said he’s seen great tourist adverts inviting people to experience the island, but for many that’s not possible unless they drive long hours from their home province.

According to Craig Hirota, vice president of government relations and member services for Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators, rental car companies are trying to get more vehicles, but it may still be difficult to rent a car in the next two coming years.

Tourism Minister Steve Crocker said in February that visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador should book rental cars well in advance, to help rental car agencies forecast demand.

Politicians clash over travel issues

Travel difficulties and the high price of petrol have dominated discussions in the House of Assembly over the past week, with events for the province’s homecoming year fast approaching.

On Thursday, Bonavista MHA Craig Pardy raised concerns that people might just be staying home instead of traveling. He said a camper told him a round trip from St. John’s to Terra Nova National Park would cost $300 on gas alone.

“He and many others, it seems, have decided to stay home,” Pardy said. “Does year home mean year stay home?”

Andrew Parsons, Minister for Industry, Energy and Technology, said while everyone is worried about petrol prices, bookings are up. He said Marine Atlantic exceeded bookings in 2019.

“It bodes well for this province, all these people coming in, in their vehicles,” Parsons said.

“I can also say that the numbers at Burgeo Sandbanks Provincial Park also exceeded last summer’s numbers.”

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