Enterprise execs discuss connectivity, global growth plans

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As Enterprise Holdings closed the books on its 2019 fiscal year last month, president and COO Christine Taylor and senior vice president of business rental sales and international tour Don Moore recently updated Business Travel News, a sister publication of Travel Weekly, on the company's initiatives, the overall health of the car rental industry and Enterprise Holdings' ongoing transformation into what Taylor calls "the total mobility package."

2019 fiscal year: As a private company, Enterprise Holdings does not report quarterly earnings, but, according to Taylor, "We had a great year. All of our lines of business outperformed our expectations, and customer service hit an all-time high in the U.S." Chief rivals Avis Budget Group and Hertz both recently reported growing revenue and pricing that's strengthening, at least in the U.S. Taylor said Enterprise Holdings' National and Enterprise brands also have seen growth in business travel demand and "good growth" for the summer. "Everyone is being disciplined, and the rental industry is healthy," she said. "Over the last several years, it has grown, and we have taken the lion's share of that growth."

Centering on connections: "Focusing on the customer journey" has been Enterprise Holdings' primary objective of late, Taylor said. "We're making sure it's personalized, it's frictionless and that the customer has control, whether that's through their app or using our employees," she said. "We've engaged a third party to [help us do] that. You've got to think from a customer perspective and not just how it's always done." Like its competitors, it has been expanding the availability of Wi-Fi-connected vehicles in its fleet, which numbers about 2 million vehicles. Part of the challenge is working across the different manufacturers and their varied approaches, Taylor said. "This will really help the customer experiences. We'll have the fuel, the miles; they can probably do part of their rental on the dashboard. We're not there yet, but those are the sorts of things you can imagine."

Global goals: Enterprise Holdings' global growth has continued. The company now reaches about 100 countries, which has helped win global RFPs, Moore said. "There were places five years ago where we just did not have locations." Last year, it launched car-and-driver services in China, which National provides through Deem and the Shanghai-based eHi Car Services. Moore said the service has gone "really well" and the company is looking at other opportunities for a similar service. India is one. Moore identified it as one of the two major markets Enterprise has not penetrated. "It's a special place because you can't drive there without a driver's license, so a car-and-driver piece would be huge," he said. "We need to find the right partner." Enterprise Holdings also is considering the service for North America, perhaps partnering with a chauffeured transportation provider. For rental services, South Africa remains at the top of the company's wish list as it tries to find a partner for expansion, he said.

Eyeing acquisitions: Enterprise Holdings kicked off this year by acquiring managed travel technology platform Deem, and Taylor said her company is "always looking" for additional opportunities. Enterprise Holdings' private ownership structure helps, as the company does not have to answer to investors quarterly, she said. "The family is committed to the business, and we want this thing to work for the long term. When an opportunity comes up, we can control our own destiny and choose whether or not to go down that path."

Sustainability efforts: Enterprise Holdings sees a push both from customers and from within for sustainable practices, though the company is planning its execution carefully, Taylor said. In RFPs, sustainability sections "are bigger than they ever were," Moore said, though they still don't drive corporate travel buyers' decisions as much as aspects like price do. At the same time, younger employees ask about sustainability issues more, he said.

As electric vehicles become a larger portion of the fleet, the company will have to make careful decisions based on demand and infrastructure, such as the availability of charging stations, Taylor said. "If it takes seven hours to charge the vehicles when they come back on empty, it doesn't work for us because we cannot have our assets not producing revenues," she said. "We also have to make sure the customer wants to drive them, so our fleet has to mirror what the general public wants to drive." Regarding electric vehicles, she added, "there is more pressure going on in Europe -- the U.K., France and Germany -- including legislative pressure, so we're keeping a very close eye on that and what we need to do to balance out our fleet."

Source: Business Travel News

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