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posted on July 8, 2020

A report of renewed momentum heading in the high season

As we cross the midway point of 2020, I thought I’d share a quick business update with the Turo community. It’s no secret that 2020 has already been one for the history books, and continues to evolve day by day. COVID-19 has swept over the entire world like a tidal wave — it came on so suddenly and rocked global society so completely, it continues to deeply affect us all economically, operationally, socially, and psychologically. 

There was a time at the beginning of all this when we wondered if we would even have a summer — when will people travel again? What will travel look like? When will we return to “normal”? Now, as we continue to adjust to today’s new normal more and more each day, we’re starting to understand what’s happened, and can attempt to sketch an outline of what’s to come.

Of course, even since drafting this post, the national narrative in the US has continued to evolve. As we continue to reckon with regional hotspots and spikes in reported cases, we encourage everyone to follow their local guidelines and prioritize the health and safety of our communities above all else.

Local governance influences consumer confidence

First, a look back. As we previously reported, March saw a steep drop in business, but started to recover in May. As summer arrived, so, simultaneously, has the opening up of the economy, and the bounceback became more and more pronounced throughout June. 

Expectedly, the markets that opened the earliest and were the most unfettered — Atlanta, Miami, and Phoenix, to name a few — have experienced the strongest bouncebacks. Alternatively, travel destinations with ongoing quarantine restrictions like Honolulu continue to experience sluggish recoveries. While the economic recovery is encouraging in the less restricted markets, the developing surge in new COVID-19 cases in those markets is concerning and reminds us of the importance of traveling and navigating public spaces responsibly. Physical distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing are still the not-so-secret sauce of safe and responsible travel; we’re closely monitoring these developing health trends and strongly encourage the Turo community to travel mindfully. 

If May marked a real inflection point in our COVID recovery, June has reinforced the remarkable turnaround as we progress deeper into summer. This recovery has been driven by two social and psychological trends — a preference for car travel, and heightened safety concerns.

“The summer of the road trip”

Just because there’s a global pandemic doesn’t mean people’s desire to travel simply disappears. We crave movement, we crave momentum, we crave newness — especially when we’ve been holed up in our homes for months on end. The reopening of the economy, coupled with the start of summer and compounded by a universal stir-craziness shared by millions, has spurred a road trip renaissance — in early May, The New York Times forecasted “a boom in road trips,” and we’re definitely seeing that trend play out.

A hearty share of trips are booked by local travelers, meaning guests who book in their own local markets. This local road trip trend is corroborated by year-over-year data shared by the TSA — there are a mere fraction of travelers being screened by TSA versus last year, indicating that people are simply (and unsurprisingly) not traveling by air this summer.

Source: TSA checkpoint data

Additionally, Apple Maps has published mobility data charting behavioral trends in COVID times, indicating that while searches for public transit are down, driving direction searches are on the rise versus the baseline.

Source: Apple Maps data

There is collective social anxiety stemming from being in close quarters and shared spaces, both of which are hallmarks of both public transit and air travel. Cars, on the flip side, are innately socially distanced from the crowds and empower people with control — a basic human desire of which society has been deprived these last few months.

Everyone’s extra conscious of cleanliness 

Apart from cars being the go-to means of travel this summer, cleanliness and health concerns are top of mind for most everybody, and especially travelers. Those who once scoffed at germaphobes have blossomed into disinfection experts overnight, and for good reason — clean, disinfected environments are critical both for society to feel confident moving through the public sphere, and for businesses to build trust with their customers. A recent Turo survey cited cleanliness as the number two criteria for booking a car during COVID times, second only to price — also not surprising in this volatile economy.

And hosts have responded to this public call to action with enthusiasm and grace — they’ve adopted enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and we’ve supported them by partnering with national and local cleaning providers, hosting webinars with cleaning experts, and increasing access to coveted disinfectant supplies. We’ve started integrating cleaning guidance into the Turo product experience, including offering an online training course that’s now live and applying an automatic, 72-hour trip buffer for hosts who haven’t completed the training course that will be live a bit later in the summer. We’re also encouraging hosts to adopt contactless check-in options to be mindful of face-to-face contact.

Everyone is extra mindful of cleanliness and physical distance, and I’m proud of the way Turo and our hosts have risen to the occasion.

Improvements to the Turo host experience 

Even in the throes of the global health and economic crisis, the team has made great strides both in improving the experience of using Turo, and in making hosting more profitable than ever for our hosts. We recently launched a couple big wins for hosts designed to increase host revenue and decrease costs. 

Cost-cutting opportunities for hosts

Just last week, we released five new protection plans for hosts geared toward providing more variety and more range — hosts can lower their costs and increase earnings by choosing the plan most in-line with their individual circumstances and revenue goals.

We also recently expanded our Metromile partnership to California hosts — a massive win for hosts looking to lower their personal insurance costs. The Metromile partnership empowers hosts to only pay for the miles they drive, not the miles their guests drive while they’re out on a trip. One Turo host is saving 50% on their insurance costs by switching to Metromile! We’re invigorated by the incredible value this partnership provides to Turo hosts, and are working hard to expand it to more states soon.

Experience improvements to bolster efficiency 

In addition to cost-cutting initiatives, we’ve also focused on day-to-day hosting improvements, including: 

  • Modernized messaging to help busy hosts streamline communicating with their guests, including auto-updating threads, so you don’t need to manually refresh to see new messages, messaging status confirmations, including “is typing”, “read”, etc., and “not delivered” status, to convey clearly there was a delivery issue due to a poor connection.
  • Optimized photo uploading so uploading trip photos is faster and more user-friendly.
  • Reimagined the extension pricing structure and simplified what qualifies for a “day” of a trip to be more intuitive and easier to understand for hosts and guests alike.

While we’ve been zeroed-in on making our hosts more profitable, we’ve also been focusing on small-but-mighty user experience improvements that make hosting easier and more delightful.

Onward!

So far, 2020 has brought more challenges than we ever could have imagined. While every day continues to bring new, thorny problems with which society must reckon, I’m invigorated by the solidarity and coming-togetherness of both the Turo and global communities. Let’s continue to support each other, to lift each other up, to advocate for each other. For, if we continue to band together, we’ll emerge on the other side better, stronger, and more united than ever.

Have a great summer, and stay safe out there!

Andre is the Turo CEO and a true car enthusiast. After many years in the consumer web space, he combines his passion for cars, technology, and the environment each day at Turo as he works to put the world’s one billion cars to better use.