Chi­nese car renters need de­tailed guid­ance abroad

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By GAO JIN’AN

With more than a decade of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, I was fairly con­fi­dent and thought it should be easy and en­joy­able whenmy son sug­gested we drive dur­ing our two-week va­ca­tion in France and Spain. It was easy, apart from the less than 300 kilo­me­ters from the Pyre­neesMoun­tains to the Span­ish sea­side city Barcelona.

The roads are pretty good, com­pared withmy driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in China in­clud­ing the zigzag­ging, cliff-side roads in the Yan­shan Moun­tains north of Bei­jing that lead to the grass­lands in Fengn­ing in­He­bei prov­ince.

What re­ally made me ner­vous was that, from the rear mir­rors, I could see cars were fol­low­ing me so closely, and this gave me huge pres­sure.

To play it safe, I de­lib­er­ately drove be­low the speed limit while on the down­hill roads. Now and then, I pulled over if there was a parking ramp to give way to the cars be­hind me. I did not want to block the lane of oth­ers, and more im­por­tantly, it was a way to ease the pres­sure I was un­der.

When we ar­rived in Barcelona, I won­dered how other Chi­nese driv­ers fare on the same route.

As more and more Chi­nese nationals travel abroad, va­ca­tion driv­ing has gained in pop­u­lar­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by on­line travel ser­vice plat­for­mMafengwo in 2014, about 30 per­cent of out­bound trav­el­ers chose to drive them­selves or had plans to do so in the fu­ture.

Car-rental spend­ing by out­bound trav­el­ers through on­line book­ing amounted to 13.13 bil­lion yuan ($2 bil­lion) in 2015. Given that Chi­nese nationals made more than 120 mil­lion over­seas trips last year, car ren­tals could be a big mar­ket.

How­ever, we need to know more about traf­fic, roads, laws, driv­ing habits, and even the car it­self be­fore we take these ex­otic road trips.

While in a strange driv­ing en­vi­ron­ment, a fewmin­utes of brief­ing or a brochure, about the ve­hi­cles, lo­cal traf­fic rules and road con­di­tions, would be of tremen­dous help to the driv­ers. Inmy case, I would not have had to seek as­sis­tance when pick­ing up the car at Bordeaux air­port if I had such a brief­ing. Af­ter in­sert­ing the key and press­ing the start but­ton, the car did not re­spond, and this made me, as an ex­pe­ri­enced driver, feel quite em­bar­rassed.

The car I rented was sim­i­lar with the French brand model I drive back home in China. That’s partly the rea­son I booked it, but there was slight dif­fer­ence in how to start the en­gine. It ac­tu­ally turned out to be sim­ple: Foot on the brake pedal and press the start but­ton.

Inmy case, de­tails re­ally mat­tered.

Be­sides pro­vid­ing ad­vice and ed­u­ca­tion, if nec­es­sary, when a Chi­nese trav­eler books a car, rental com­pa­nies may also find it help­ful to un­der­stand know more about the wants, needs and idosyn­cra­cies of a Chi­nese driver.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Huizuche, a Chi­nese car-rental ser­vice plat­form, Chi­nese trav­el­ers have a spe­cial pref­er­ence for SUVs and large ve­hi­cles, and show less in­ter­est in com­pact cars, be­cause they want space to store big suit­cases, and suf­fi­cient supplies of food and drink.

The top five car mod­els are Grand Chero­kee, RAV4, Fo­cus, Versa and Corolla, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Chi­nese trav­el­ers, par­tic­u­larly af­flu­ent younger peo­ple, are now likely to travel fur­ther afield and spend more. This is a trend that ser­vice providers can­not af­ford to ig­nore.

In ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional fa­vorite des­ti­na­tions such as the United States and Canada, Ja­pan, South Korea and South­east Asian na­tions, Euro­pean coun­tries in­clud­ing France, Spain, theUnited King­dom and Italy are gain­ing fa­vor among Chi­nese trav­el­ers for driv­ing va­ca­tions.

In fact, the two coun­tries I trav­eled to— France and Spain— were among the top 10 des­ti­na­tions in theHuizuche re­port.

Con­tact the writer at gao­jin @chi­

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