Staff from Avis In ScotlandIt is really great to see so many people at Avis get involved in local community projects and charity fundraising around the country. Our nominated charity is MacMillan Cancer Support and they give invaluable support for people living with cancer by providing information, self-help groups, carer support and financial assistance. Over the year we run a number of events to raise as much as we can to support them.

Last weekend 30 members of our team in Scotland braved the elements as they walked and cycled the canal banks on their journey to the Falkirk Wheel, raising in excess of £2,000 for MacMillan in the process. You can see the proud travellers enjoying a BBQ at their destination in the picture above. News of Alan Park’s (the man in charge of this area) recovery are positive and he is expected to be released from the Stirling Royal Infirmary sometime soon!

Tomorrow is the Avis Charity Day where staff from all over the country will take part in a football tournament and an evening charity gala. Check back next week when Rob will tell you what happened.

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Canal in VeniceMost people associate Venice with canals and gondolas but did you know that it is one of Avis’ busiest locations in Europe? The question that springs to mind is why do you need a car when there aren’t any roads? Well, Venice Marco Polo airport is a great base for exploring the north of Italy, including the regions of Veneto and Lombardy and cities such as Bologna, Padua and Milan, as well as Venice itself.  

Marco Polo airport has one terminal and the Avis desk is conveniently located in the arrivals hall.  It’s open from 8am to midnight and once you’ve completed your paperwork, it’s only a short walk to the car park to pick up your vehicle. Like most of our airports, we also have a dedicated Avis Preferred line at the desk, for those of you in a hurry! 

One of the best sites I’ve found for information about Venice itself is Time Out.  It gives you loads of information about eating, drinking, sightseeing and shopping so you can plan your trip. I have also got a personal recommendation from one of my colleagues who has just returned from Venice. For great food and wine he recommended the Trattoria Dall’Amelia (Via Miranese 113).

If you are visiting the city, please remember to park at the car park outside of town! It’s much nicer to travel around the city in a gondola and we don’t want to have to tow our cars from the canals.

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According to Autocar BMW will not launch a hybrid vehicle unless “it is more economical in the real world than a diesel car”. This follows frustration in the automobile industry that hybrids cars are becoming synonymous with environmentally friendly driving when diesels have often proved to have a better fuel economy. So the search for a cleaner, more environmentally friendly motoring future continues.

But perhaps the future now lies with hydrogen fuel cells. Having read the excellent ‘Green Driving’ supplement in the last weekend’s Sunday Times, I have to agree. For starters these fuel cells do not emit any carbon dioxide. Plus its energy efficiency can be up to 80% (i.e. 20% of the energy is not lost) versus 15% for fossil fuels. Sounds great!

But the challenge that all of these newly proposed eco-friendly fuel types face is infrastructure. People won’t buy the cars without stations to refuel them and refuelling stations won’t be built without the cars on the road. It is your classic chicken and egg.

But with government backing, hydrogen fuel cells appear to be overcoming this challenge. Los Angeles already has 25 hydrogen refuelling stations while the governor of California, Arnold Schwarznegger, is pushing to build 200 of them over the next 5 years as part of a plan for a “hydrogen highway” across the States and Canada. And have you seen the fuel cell powered Honda FCX Concept? If, like me, you like the idea of driving a car that resembles something out of a recent science fiction film then you’ll love it! It is expected to go on public sale in the US next year and personally I think it looks awesome.

All of this suggests that hydrogen fuel cell cars are just round the corner. And if you live anywhere along the A23 between London and Brighton then they probably already are! As I write a convoy of biofuel, hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cells cars are heading towards Trafalgar Square showcasing the future’s most eco-friendly cars in the Revolve Eco-Rally. Is this a glimpse of a cleaner, more environmentally friendly motoring future? We are told that many of these cars are “real, affordable motoring choices”. Perhaps the future is closer than you think.

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I received an email from a customer this morning who was kind enough to tell me about his rental in Copenhagen. He wrote that the service he received was great, pointing out that this is very typical of the service industry in Denmark. Yesterday Eibhlin spoke about how impressed she was with the Baby on Board service in Portugal. On the other hand one comment posted on this blog said that “UK companies are very poor at listening to customers” while the email I received this morning implied that perhaps the UK service industry could learn a thing or two from the Danish.

It’s interesting that some countries seem to have a better reputation for service than others. Is this true? Who has the best reputation? Is it Denmark? And what is it about their service that makes them great? Let me know your thoughts!

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I visited Portugal last week for a meeting with our Avis colleagues there. I have a very tough life!

We spent some time at Faro Airport and I was really impressed with a company called Baby on Board. It supplies and fits all of our baby seats at Faro and other major locations, uses the Chicco brand of baby seat exclusively and has almost every type and size of seat you can imagine!

It works really well, the team is specialist in baby seat fitting, so that gives parents an added level of reassurance and they have the time to talk each customer through what needs to be done and answer any questions they might have. I don’t have children myself, but I do know from friends, family and customer feedback how important the security and cleanliness of a child seat is. You can book the seat and pay for it through Avis along with the rental for your convenience. A great service, check it out on your next visit.

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Washing and valeting our cars in between hires can be a hectic job. The teams work very hard to make sure cars are spick and span every time for the next renter. They often find property people have left behind in the vehicles. Nothing more annoying than leaving your wallet or ipod in the car and not realising until you’re on the plane! We often get anguished phone calls from airside customers or customers who have arrived home and realised they left a CD in the car.

Happily we’re almost always able to reunite possessions with their owners. Just this week, a customer arranged for a courier to pick up his sunglasses, a very expensive camcorder and a dog lead and have them returned to him in Japan! So we encourage you to always check the car before you leave it as we don’t accept liability for anything you lose as a result of leaving it behind.

Recent items logged in Lost property at one of our biggest locations include

  • A Prosthetic Arm
  • Pack of condoms and a pair of knickers
  • A brace of pheasants not sure whether they were plucked or unlocked, but I think they were dead!
  • Barry Manilow CD… strangely nobody has claimed this back yet
  • Tiffany bracelet – sadly this was reclaimed says Eibhlin

The valet teams do a great job and we like them to tell us what they find. Keep it up!

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Vauxhall AstraDespite growing red tape for British business, few could argue with the intentions of the Duty of Care legislation, although I do sympathise that this can create anxiety and confusion for businesses who are unsure about how to fulfil their obligations. I am talking about this on our blog because the legislation means that any vehicle being driven by an employee in a business capacity is considered a place of work and is therefore subject to Duty of Care. However, if the vehicle is a hire car it can save major headaches and potential legal implications as it puts the responsibility on the car hire company to ensure the car is fully checked, roadworthy and legally compliant.

As a business, if this is something that concerns you, you may be interested in our new Avis Business Solutions which offers tailored car rental products for business customers. You can find out more information on our website.

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Looking outside my window right now you would not know that Summer is coming. But contrary to the weather it is and this means we are moving into our busiest period. If you are looking to rent a car over the Summer here is my top tips for getting the best value…

1. Book in advance
This is my top tip. It is not always possible to do this but where you can, try to book your car hire in advance. Our pricing model is very similar to that of airlines. When there are lots of seats available the prices are good but as soon as these start to sell out the prices go up!

2. Prices are in 24-hour blocks
We price by the day. For example, if you get a quote for a rental to start at 9am on the Tuesday to be returned at 11.30am on the Wednesday you will be quoted for 2 days. In this instance you may want to see if you can arrange to bring back the car at 9am on the Wednesday to get a one day price.

3. Try a different day
Different rental locations get busy on different days. For example, some locations may get a lot of customers picking up a car on a Friday for the weekend but are not very busy during the week. In this case prices during the week may work out cheaper.

4. The longer rental, the more economical it is
You will generally find that the longer the rental length, the cheaper the price works out per day. This is because having a car out on a longer rental length reduces the risk of having it sitting around idly making no money and so we can pass on the savings to our customers. For this reason many of our advertised prices are based on a 7 day rental.

I hope this helps. If I can think of any other tips I’ll post them as a comment.

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Over the weekend I was catching up with the travel news from the past week and read an article that should spell the end for the £1 cheap flights. As of May 10th the Office of Fair Trading will bring enforcement proceedings against any airline that fails to include all mandatory costs into its advertised prices. So from now you can be confident that, when you are told about a great deal on a flight, the price won’t double when all the taxes are thrown in!

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m4s0n501

I’m into my gadgets and I think there’s a lot of great in-car technology that is either available now or we can expect to see the future. We have alluded to some of this on our blog with Rob talking about satellite navigation on Wednesday while not so long ago I blogged about how wi-fi is being introduced into our cars in the US. So yesterday it was great to be told about some of the cool features included on some of the newer cars on our UK fleet. Our new Ford Mondeos now include an ipod docking station, our Peugeot 407s have bluetooth and our Renault Meganes include a 12-volt socket for plugging in, well, whatever electrical appliance you feel you might need in a car. Here are the top 5 things I’d like to see:

1. Head-Up Display
Fancy yourself as Maverick from Top Gun? No, I’m not suggesting flying cars are just around the corner, but you soon could drive like you’re flying an F14 fighter jet. No need to look at the dashboard as your speed, radio stations, fuel levels, etc are displayed on the underside of your cars windscreen.

2. Satellite navigation with traffic
This is one that can really cut the stress from driving and it is readily available now. Pity that when there is a jam on the M25, no other route is going to save you time. I know this from experience!

3. Ipod connection
I talked about this in my intro. No need for CDs when you’ve got a miniature jukebox in your car.
  

4. Integrated Blackberry that converts text to voice
I’m not sure if this is even in the pipeline but if you are unfortunate enough to live your life by Blackberry (like I do), then you’ll see the benefit of this.
  

5. Green mode on automatic transmission
How about a Green mode instead of the Sport mode? It was an option available on the Toyota Prius I recently tried out.

The ones that just missed my list were automatic parking and automatic 3-point turn. Maybe I’m an optimistic, but the technology is there so it might just be round the corner! So what do you think? Do you know of any other gadgets that deserve to be on the list? Or have you got a brilliant idea that no one has even thought of yet? Feel free to post your top 5!

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