Ride sharing, car rentals emerging as alternatives to trains and flights

Shanghai travelers are looking at newer ways to get out town with ride sharing and car rental companies in big demand during the Spring Festival travel period. 

Ride sharing and car rental companies are proving popular with vehicle rental companies claiming they are running out of stock vehicles for the Spring Festival holiday period and reservations for city-to-city ride sharing markedly up since February 1.

“I booked a shared ride on Dida Chuxing,” said Zhang Jiyang, who is traveling to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province on February 14. “It will pick me up from my place in Shanghai and drop me at my address in Hangzhou.”

Zhang will pay 101 yuan (US$16), which is 27 yuan more than the high-speed train ticket. “But it will save me a lot of trouble dragging luggage to the railway station,” he said. “It will also be fun to have someone as company on the way."

Dida Chuxing’s market executive Sun Yu said the volume for Shanghai’s city-to-city share-a-car order during the Spring Festival last year was the biggest in China. “Though we haven’t got the data this year, it is likely to top again," Sun said.

Another online ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing’s statistics showed that orders for city-to-city share rides have increased by 30 percent from February 1 compared to a normal working day.

Nationwide, Didi said about 33 million people travel by sharing rides.

Rent-a-car companies are also in demand.

Ehi Car Service, a Shanghai-based car rental firm, told Shanghai Daily that 80 percent of their 7,000 vehicle in their list have been booked already.

“Most of the customers are families going home or heading out for a trip,” said Jenny Yuan from ehi. “They usually book the car for less than a week. The popular destinations are nearby areas like Zhejiang and Anhui Province.”

The average price for regular 4-seater car on ehi is about 400 yuan a day. Yuan said they are struggling to meet the demand for top-tier minivans and SUVs as well.

International car rental firm Avis has some 1,000 cars in Shanghai and during Spring Festival holiday, 95 percent are rented out. Sophia Shentu from the company said the orders this year peaked two weeks earlier than before.

“Usually the orders flood the system about a month before the travel period," Shentu said. “This year many cars were booked six weeks ahead.”

Avis said it may be because booking flight and train tickets are getting easier on mobile phones, and people are looking at alternatives to avoid last-minute scramble.

According to statistics available from Baixing.com, an information service provider, the search volume for “car rental” in December jumped 34 percent compared to the same period in 2016. 

Wu Zuoyao, vice president of Dazhong Car Rental company in Shanghai, said some passengers book two cars at one time — first in Shanghai to be dropped to the railway station or airport, and then at their destinations to be dropped at a new address. 

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