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Car rental, ride sharing popular during fest travel

    Road trips are proving popular as car rental companies are claiming they are running out of vehicles for the Spring Festival travel and reservations for city-to-city ride sharing have soared since February 1.

    “I booked a shared ride on Dida Chuxing,” said Zhang Jiyang, who is traveling to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province on February 14. “It will pick me up from my place in Shanghai and drop me at my address in Hangzhou.”

    Zhang will pay 101 yuan (US$16) for the trip, which is 27 yuan more than the train ticket. “But it will save me a lot of trouble dragging luggage to the railway station,” he said. “It will also be fun to have someone for company on the way.”

    Dida Chuxing’s market executive Sun Yu said the volume for Shanghai’s city-to-city share-a-car order during the Spring Festival last year was the biggest in China. “Though we haven’t got the data this year, it is likely to top again,” Sun said.

    Another online ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing said that orders for city-to-city share rides had increased by 30 percent from February 1 compared to a normal working day. Nationwide, Didi said about 33 million people travel by sharing rides.

    Rent-a-car companies are also in demand. Ehi Car Service, a Shanghai-based car rental firm, said that 80 percent of the 7,000 vehicle in their database have been booked already. “Most of the customers are families going home or heading out for a trip,” said Jenny Yuan from ehi. “They usually book the car for less than a week for trips to Zhejiang and Anhui provinces.”

    The average price for regular 4-seater car on ehi is about 400 yuan a day. Yuan said they are struggling to meet the demand for top-tier vans and SUVs.

    International car rental agency Avis has around 1,000 cars in Shanghai, and 95 percent are rented out. “Usually the orders flood the system about a month before the travel period,” Sophia Shentu from the company said. “This year many cars were booked six weeks ahead.”

    Wu Zuoyao, vice president of Dazhong Car Rental company in Shanghai, said some passengers book two cars at one time — first in Shanghai to be dropped to the railway station or airport, and then at their destinations to be dropped at a new address.