New Zealand faces rental car shortage as borders reopen amid pandemic

As Aotearoa begins to welcome back international tourists our rental car industry is facing a severe fleet shortage.

While rental companies prepare their fleet to hit the road, there may not be enough to go around when New Zealand hits its peak tourism season as COVID-19 restrictions are eased. 

Rental vehicle association president Tony Mortensen told Newshub that the industry will be lucky to have half of what they usually need. 

"We would traditionally have about 60,000 vehicles for the on-season which is primarily summer, and through the summer months. At this point in time, we'll be lucky to have 30,000."

Rental car companies were forced to sell off their vehicles when COVID-19 struck and getting new vehicles imported from overseas could be more than a year away. 

"Traditionally the lead time used to be 3-4 months, but they could be anything from 6-12 months now." 

And the rental car industry isn't the only business trying to catch up. In the first 12 months since the pandemic started, more than 300 businesses in Queenstown-Lakes District have closed. 

Destination Queenstown chair Richard Thomas warns tourist hotspots will be a little quieter even after foreign tourists are welcomed back. 

"There are some businesses who have struggled to stay open during that period, there are some who have had to hibernate but they're coming back on stream."

Arrowtown promotion and business association manager Nicky Buust told Newshub that like much of the tourism sector, restaurants and bars are struggling with staff shortages. 

"Let's be honest. Some of the services may not be top-notch so let's ask for some forgiveness and understanding and patience. But we will be opening those doors and be ready." 

While they are ready for tourists to return to New Zealand, a rental car shortage could get in the way of travellers moving around the country.  

"If tourists don't think they have that availability they may go to other countries which is a concern to us as a country rebounding."