PARTNERSHIPS with airlines, hotel groups and rail operators have become an important strand of most car-rental companies' marketing strategies.
However, awareness among agents of alliances and the benefits they bring is low.
Avis has more than 70 partnerships in place but head of marketing Sasha Cooper said agents' awareness of these tie-ups is very poor.
"Our own research at the end of last year showed that 50% of agents know about our relationship with British Airways, but overall I would estimate only 15% of agents are aware of the other partnerships,"she said.
Frequent flyer points, preferential rates and additional services are among the benefits on offer for clients booking with a preferred car-rental supplier.
The BA/Avis tie-up, for example, enables clients returning a car to the Avis office at Heathrow to check in for their BA flight at the same time.
"Research has shown us this is what BA customers want from us," said Cooper. "We are exploring other ideas for partnerships, such as valet parking and a meet-and-greet service."
Hertz works with Eurotunnel to offer Le Swap - a system allowing clients to swap their rental car with a left-hand drive equivalent on arrival in Calais. After their holiday, they swap back to a right-hand drive car before boarding the Eurotunnel train to return to Folkestone.
For the car-rental sector, partnerships are an important route into other companies' customer bases. Hertz Europe director of partnerships John Wills said airlines provide a large proportion of the company's rental customers and an additional marketing channel.
The main benefit for agents is they can offer clients lower prices if they book car rental at the same time as a flight, giving them an ideal chance to earn extra commission. Preferred tariffs can be 10%-20% less than standard rack rates, which is a strong sales tool for agents who think to use it.
Clients can often get extra discounts through loyalty club membership, while car companies also tap into airline promotions to offer special deals.
Connect Car Rental has tied into Debonair promotions to give clients additional benefits, such as a free day's car rental, according to managing director, Adrian Duthie.
"These partnerships are as beneficial to leisure clients as to business travellers. Flight-only leisure passengers need a car more than any other sector but few agents ask if they want a vehicle," said Avis' Cooper.
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