P.E.I. short on car rentals as province gets ready to open to Canada

·4 min read
LeeAnna Binder says she and her partner, Cameron Bond, are fully vaccinated and approved for the PEI Pass. (Submitted by LeeAnna Binder - image credit)
LeeAnna Binder says she and her partner, Cameron Bond, are fully vaccinated and approved for the PEI Pass. (Submitted by LeeAnna Binder - image credit)

LeeAnna Binder sold her home in Summerland, B.C., and is flying into P.E.I. in search of a place to live — but she can't find a car to rent to explore the province.

"I found roadblocks everywhere, I couldn't get a car," she said.

There will be more flights coming into P.E.I. with the province opening to the rest of Canada on Sunday, but it'll be hard for some travellers to find a rental car as companies are booking up fast.

Binder plans to fly into Charlottetown on Aug. 9 with her partner but can't find a car to rent.

"I thought there must be another option," she said.

Even if she did find a car to rent, she said for the two weeks she was planning to stay on the Island the rental cost would have been close to $2,000. Now, she is hoping to find a cheap car to buy and has been getting a lot of leads from Islanders who saw her post on social media.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Binder said without a car she and her partner will have to cut their trip short and spend some more time in Halifax.

"Now I guess I am going to spend the rest of my time in Halifax because they have cars there," she said.

Binder said she and her partner are fully vaccinated and approved for the PEI Pass.

Tolga Toprak runs P.E.I. Car Rental in downtown Charlottetown. He has a fleet of about 30 vehicles. While the start of 2021 was slow, he's now getting about 40 calls a day — and he's having to turn some people away.

"I think August is going to be a bit difficult to cover. I think this is going to continue until the end of August. We have got also bookings in September."

Toprak said he believes the increased business is a result of P.E.I. opening up to the rest of Canada this weekend.

"We were looking for people to call us for cars for a long time, now we have lots of inquiries, lots of telephone calls every single day. We are kind of short of the vehicles," he said, adding it's not just his company having stock issues.

"Trying to manage this is going to be difficult."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

In 2019, Toprak said he was busy too and while he is hoping 2021 turns into a good season, a majority of his revenue two years ago came from people visiting on cruise ships. He said with no cruises this year he isn't expecting the same business.

In order to deal with the demand for 2021, Toprak said he plans to buy 10 more cars for August and sell them once the market calms down.

As of midday Wednesday, officials with the province's Department of Justice and Public Safety confirmed 156,918 applications for the PEI Pass have been received. Of those applications, 22,427 are for travellers outside Atlantic Canada.

Travellers from outside Atlantic Canada will not have to self-isolate after arriving on the Island, starting July 18. Islanders who travel outside Atlantic Canada will also not need to isolate upon their return, as long as they have a PEI Pass.

PEI PASS APPLICATIONS TYPE Number Islanders 54,483 Atlantic Canada & Magdalen Islands 77,351 Visitors in Atlantic Canada for 14 days+ 2,657 Rest of Canada 22,427 Total Applications (including duplicates) 156,918 Applications Approved 141,981 Under Review 10,307

Source: P.E.I. Department of Justice and Public Safety

The Charlottetown Airport is also about to get a lot busier.

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, said he is seeing the airline industry start to recover.

"We can see, already this coming weekend on Sunday and Monday, we've got passenger loads that are over 100 people on certain flights. So that's encouraging. You know, we haven't seen that here in a long time," Newson said.

"We are expecting more people to start coming into the airport. We're not sure exactly what August or September will hold, but we know that all the airlines are adding extra flights and extra seats. So they're obviously optimistic that travel will start to recover. So that's quite exciting for us."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Newson said the next few weeks will be the busiest the airport has been since March 2020. With an influx of passengers — lots of airline staff are back in the building.

"By early August we will have five or six flights a day just depending on the day of week," he said.

"I think our first goal is to get back to where we were in 2019. It's really hard to say how long that is going to take."

More from CBC P.E.I.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting