Dollar Car Rental owner Ethan Ranger had a shortage of rental cars at his Columbia Falls store last summer due to a shortage of semiconductors and general supply chain disruptions, but its fleet is even lower this year with 15 to 20% fewer cars. than 2021.
“It’s worse this year,” Ranger said. “Every vehicle we’ve used in the last year has increased its miles and you have to get rid of a few rentals every year. They’re hard to replace and the replacement cost is significantly higher.
Ranger’s fleet is down 25% to 30% from where he would like it to be, but the automakers have no inventory to sell him, leaving his fleet in short supply.
Because it’s so hard to replace rental cars right now, many rental companies are relaxing wear and tear standards, which means companies can use vehicles that have higher mileage before selling them. But since so many of the rental vehicles in the Flathead Valley travel on poorly maintained dirt roads, wearing down the suspension and front bumpers, Ranger still has to remove many of them at the end of each season. .
“These vehicles are used hard and that’s not the quality a customer wants,” Ranger said. “Basically every car goes up North Fork Road and 85% of customers go to Polebridge.”
Ranger typically hauls minivans and vans, but right now it only has cars and SUVs because its vans from last year were too worn out to use this year.
“I couldn’t replace them,” he said.
Ranger says rental car demand is higher this year and this month is well booked, while July is 75% booked and August is around 50%.
At the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell, general manager Corbin Bedard said nightly rates rose in 2022 to around $450 per night during peak tourist traffic, from around $320 at the same time last year.
Bedard says businesses, sports teams and organizations are booking rooms on a larger scale at the Red Lion, taking up much of their space and conference centers, and he’s noticed traffic coming from the Canadian border.
“Rates are up,” Bedard said. “The average daily rate of index percentages is pretty solid, but we’ve seen some regression depending on the economy. I think fuel prices are causing a pause and the rise in COVID cases isn’t Flights are more expensive, fuel is more expensive, and it seems like people are watching how they spend their money.
Bedard says it’s difficult to compare this year’s hotel demand from 2021 because not all of the Red Lion’s 174 rooms were available last year. Staff and housekeeping shortages forced managers to close many hotel rooms throughout the summer, but now that the Red Lion is under new corporate management, they’ve kept all of their rooms. active so far this season.
The new management has led to increased wages at the Red Lion, with housekeeper positions starting at $18 an hour and semi-annual salary reviews.
While the Red Lion hovers near demand relatively similar to last year, Kalispell Travelodge General Manager Becky Walker says demand is lower than last year, with July prices at $229 from $259 in 2021.
“We’re slower than we were last year,” Walker said. “We’re not solidly booked and I guess that’s because of the high petrol prices.”