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N.B. tourism approaching pre pandemic levels as rental car industry struggles

Click to play video: 'Looking Ahead to this year’s Tourism Season'
Looking Ahead to this year’s Tourism Season
Global’s Eilish Bonang speaks with Ambassatours Gray Line president and CEO, Dennis Landry, about the outlook for the coming tourism season in the Maritimes. – Mar 13, 2023

Tourism in New Brunswick last year approached pre-pandemic levels, but the province’s rental car industry struggled, a new study by Statistics Canada says.

The study released Tuesday said tourism activity in the province “turned around rapidly” but was still 20 per cent lower than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite a rebound in the number of visitors to New Brunswick, several macroeconomic factors impacted the pace and the extent of the recovery for tourism service providers, including the passenger car rental industry.”

While inflation led to significant price increases for hotel rooms and restaurants, the study said some of the steepest increases in the province in the past two years were in the rental car industry.

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“Nationally, prices for rental of passenger vehicles have risen by nearly 50 per cent since 2019,” it noted. “The cost pressures associated with the maintenance and repair of existing vehicles and the acquisition of new vehicles have impacted rental car businesses.”

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The car rental industry, the study said, struggled to replenish its inventories because companies were still having difficulty purchasing new vehicles.

A 2022 Statistics Canada study from British Columbia found that rental vehicle fleets in that province were depleted during the first year of the pandemic and had yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

In New Brunswick, car shortages have led to an increase in non-traditional rental vehicle options, such as peer-to-peer car sharing and hourly — rather than daily — rentals.

“Coming out of the pandemic, the combination of supply chain issues, inflationary pressures, tight labour markets and pent-up travel demand has impacted car rental companies in many ways,” the New Brunswick study said.

“Rental companies are rebuilding their fleets amid a global shortage of semiconductor chips and new vehicles. However, while the last (COVID-19) travel border restrictions and measures have been fully lifted for anyone entering Canada, rental car inventories are not back to their pre-pandemic levels.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2023.

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