The fact that the UAE is prone to a high-number of tourists and expats, it’s not just a tourism treasure-troves, but also a gold-mine for the complimenting industries such as car-rental. With an 88% expat presence, one of the highest in the world, along with the large number of business travellers who regularly jet to Middle Eastern HQs based in the Emirates, the car-rental market has greatly evolved to suit a dynamic environment.

And as European travellers, vying to get away from Europe’s financially stressful conditions, look for a remote heaven to shake off the stress, the car rental market in Dubai can expect more and more customers lining up at counters. But with all those opportunities coming through, there’s definitely some customer acquisition dynamics that need to be in place to ensure a smooth customer experience amidst a rapidly changing environment.

Car Rental in UAE, A Tale of Growth & Revenue

At present, the car rental market constitutes six key players, with Al-Futtaim, Al Otaiba, Liberty Investment, Arenco, Emirates National Group and Europcar International, each accounting for 10-15% value share. 5 years ago alone, when the market had not even matured so much, the industry saw a solid 20% growth. And as figures from EuroMonitor’s research indicate, the industry is set to reach a staggering Dh 880 Million mark by 2014.

Tourism alone does not equate the use of a fleet of 45,000 cars available from 742 car rental companies. It is actually the large number of expats who have typical work-related stay durations of 2-3 years, and it makes a lot of sense to work out long-term rental deals, instead of risking to buy one. Moreover, Emirati residents prefer to hire cars when going on long-distance trips within the UAE, say from Sharjah to Al-Ain. Those domestic holiday ‘staycationers’ also fuel the revenues significantly, which reflects in the 3.6 million domestic holiday trips alone in 2009.

The Evolution of the Car-Rental Market

However, there has recently been a great change in consumer demographics for the car rental market, and there were two main contributing factors. One, the recessionary downturn of 2008, and secondly, the choice of 45,000 cars from 742 car rental companies across the UAE. As a result, there has been a sharp rise in internet sales for car rental, as consumers began to shop around in search of the best deal.

In 2011 alone, UAE internet car-rental sales saw a sudden 35% current value growth, and gained almost two percentage points in share. With the tourists already focused on deals from the internet before arriving in the UAE, and local expats also joining in, EuroMonitor expects internet sales to account for 21% of overall car rental deals by 2016.

Hertz’s Focus on Social Media for Social CRM

When it is clear that the internet is going to fast become a battle-ground for deals, social customer relationship management comes vastly into play. And global car-rental giant Hertz, which also has a significant presence in UAE, has a lot to offer when it comes to social CRM strategies for the car-hire sector.

According to Andrey Grigoryev, who overlooks social media interactions for Hertz, the point was to let people use social media as a viable platform for enhanced customer service, and turn people into ‘brand ambassadors’. As he put it at a panel hosted by Conversocial, “What we decided to do was integrate our most senior customer service folks into social because when you [use social for service], you’re kind of giving away the keys to the car”.

Furthermore, Hertz has also been keen to adjusting price strategies, take for instance, the 25% discount offered during this year’s winter holidays. These incentives are then coupled with the right branding strategies to create win-win situations for Hertz and their Emirati customers.

As the internet turns into a significant sales turf for Emirati car rental companies, now is the time to pay close attention to social CRM & brand optimizing campaigns that will turn users into internet brand ambassadors, and those looking for best value into clients. And with the UAE internet user being savvy enough to make a deal, and send the vibes out to their network in real-time, this strategy will pay off greatly in capturing a value-craving Emirati customer, as well as the tourist who turns to the UAE for quality visits.