Tag: Comeback

Despite pandemic odds, South Florida van vacation rental company amid successful comeback

Business is booming for South Florida’s van vacation rental company Ondevan as more and more locals seek auto escapes.

When COVID hit, Ondevan’s original clients — international tourists — disappeared, eliminating all bookings. Eight months later, about 80% of the company’s vacation vans are booked — almost reaching pre-pandemic levels. Locals, once infrequent bookers, now account for Ondevan’s entire clientele as COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout much of the world. The rebound is providing owner Omar Bendezú, 34, some reassurance that his small business will survive the economic downturn that has claimed so many others.

The company has maintained its fleet of 11 vans and kept its two part-time employees working throughout the pandemic.

“It’s going really well actually,” he said. “I’m feeling good. October, September were good, 60%. But November, December it’s doing really well.”

Bendezú and wife Haley Kirk launched the Hallandale Beach-based company in 2017, bringing #VanLife to South Florida. But until the pandemic, the camper-van vacation rental company remained largely unknown to locals.

After international travel shut down in March, Bendezú pivoted quickly, listing the company on a website promoting local businesses called Support Local Florida and tweaking the main message on the company’s website, which reads, “Let’s save travel together, book your trip with a local business.”

A $30,000 loan from the federal Small Business Administration with a year deferment and 30-year repayment schedule allowed Bendezú to keep up with insurance and storage payments and invest in local advertising.

Since then, Bendezú has bought and sold several vans and added new features to the fleet to suit local preferences. Among the new perks: ceiling fans and plug-in capabilities for campsites with electricity.

One of the new vans — dubbed “Urpi” — has bunk beds allowing a family to live the van life, too. The other two most popular are “The Pro,” for its spacious interior, and “Tambo,” for its retro, Insta-friendly paint job.

It was social media that drew Miami’s Jojo Lee, 28, and her boyfriend to Ondevan for a birthday celebration trip in August. They rented “Scooby,” a bright yellow-and-blue painted van, for their central Florida adventure visiting Blue Hole Spring, St. Petersburg and Rainbow River. The biggest draw was the convenience, Lee said.

“It took camping to a whole new level,” she said. “Now it’s hard to go back to camping with a tent. All we had to bring was our clothes and food and that’s it. There were pots and pans, pillows. That made it so easy.” Nightly rental costs range from around $59 to $139, plus a $50 cleaning fee and $5 toll pass. The vans do not have bathrooms; some have sinks, and all come with camping essentials like stoves, utensils and lanterns.

Lee liked the trip so much she booked another one in September, this time with 10 friends in three vans. The group stayed at Chassahowitzka River Campground. She plans to book another trip with the company soon.

“If anybody is looking to explore what van life

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South Florida van rental company making a comeback

Business is booming for South Florida’s van vacation rental company Ondevan as more and more locals seek auto escapes.

When COVID hit, Ondevan’s original clients — international tourists — disappeared, eliminating all bookings. Eight months later, about 80% of the company’s vacation vans are booked — almost reaching pre-pandemic levels. Locals, once infrequent bookers, now account for Ondevan’s entire clientele as COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout much of the world. The rebound is providing owner Omar Bendezú, 34, some reassurance that his small business will survive the economic downturn that has claimed so many others.

The company has maintained its fleet of 11 vans and kept its two part-time employees working throughout the pandemic.

“It’s going really well actually,” he said. “I’m feeling good. October, September were good, 60%. But November, December it’s doing really well.”

Bendezú and wife Haley Kirk launched the Hallandale Beach-based company in 2017, bringing #VanLife to South Florida. But until the pandemic, the camper-van vacation rental company remained largely unknown to locals.

After international travel shut down in March, Bendezú pivoted quickly, listing the company on a website promoting local businesses called Support Local Florida and tweaking the main message on the company’s website, which reads, “Let’s save travel together, book your trip with a local business.”

A $30,000 loan from the federal Small Business Administration with a year deferment and 30-year repayment schedule allowed Bendezú to keep up with insurance and storage payments and invest in local advertising.

WhatsApp Image 2020-11-10 at 12.01.55 PM.jpeg
Ondevan camper vans come with cooking supplies and bedding, making them a more convenient option over tent camping, said Jojo Lee, 28, who stayed in three vans with 10 friends at the Chassahowitzka River Campground, an hour north of Tampa, in September. Luiz Cent

Since then, Bendezú has bought and sold several vans and added new features to the fleet to suit local preferences. Among the new perks: ceiling fans and plug-in capabilities for campsites with electricity.

One of the new vans — dubbed “Urpi” — has bunk beds allowing a family to live the van life, too. The other two most popular are “The Pro,” for its spacious interior, and “Tambo,” for its retro, Insta-friendly paint job.

It was social media that drew Miami’s Jojo Lee, 28, and her boyfriend to Ondevan for a birthday celebration trip in August. They rented “Scooby,” a bright yellow-and-blue painted van, for their central Florida adventure visiting Blue Hole Spring, St. Petersburg and Rainbow River. The biggest draw was the convenience, Lee said.

“It took camping to a whole new level,” she said. “Now it’s hard to go back to camping with a tent. All we had to bring was our clothes and food and that’s it. There were pots and pans, pillows. That made it so easy.” Nightly rental costs range from around $59 to $139, plus a $50 cleaning fee and $5 toll pass. The vans do not have bathrooms; some have sinks, and all come with camping essentials like stoves, utensils and lanterns.

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Lack of conventions slam hotel doors, but leisure travel leading comeback in Lincoln | Local

“Unlike FFA and their blue jackets, they just blend in. Most people don’t even know they’re here. But downtown sure knew they weren’t here this summer.”

The loss of conventions, together with the cancellation of Husker and high school athletics, arena concerts and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduation ceremonies, hit downtown hotels hard.


Cindy Lange-Kubick: Walking through downtown Lincoln on a beautiful fall day in the time of COVID-19

Two of the three large hotels with convention and meeting space — the Cornhusker Marriott and Graduate — closed for several months, the Cornhusker laying off 79 of its staff. Embassy Suites, the other convention hotel, remained open, but laid off 92 people in May. That same month, a Hyatt call center in the city laid off more than 200 people.

The city’s 5,500 hotel rooms, both in and out of downtown, sat nearly empty from March through early May. But Maul said they’ve had a surprising comeback in business over the summer and into the fall.

“People are still traveling in a lot larger numbers than we thought would be traveling back in March and April,” he said. “We just don’t have the convention business. What we do have is leisure travel. Those numbers have been very positive.”

Now, there’s hope for additional business from smaller meetings and the return of athletics, like the “bubble” basketball tournament being discussed for the arena later this year. That possible business, Maul said, is partially contingent on a key COVID-19 fighting factor.

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Don’t Be Misled By This Week’s Headlines. The Numbers DO NOT Signal A Comeback In Air Travel Demand

One million people – and more specifically 1,031,505 people – is a lot of people.

It’s enough to fill “The Big House,” the University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium, 10 times over. It’s enough to fill the United Center in Chicago (the largest arena in the NBA) 51 times, or a big, 100-seat theater at your local multiplex more than 1,000 times.

But if we’re talking about airline passengers per day – and we are in this case– a million people “ain’t nuthin’,” as they say; certainly nothing to get excited about.

Yet the headlines the last couple of days screamed the news that 1,031,505 people – – passed through Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints on Sunday. That marked the first time that more than a million people cleared TSA checkpoints in a single day since March 16.

That’s a good thing, one supposes, given the context of the exceptional decline in air travel demand this year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, TSA checkpoint screenings tumbled all the way down to a measly low of 87,534 on April 14 (or just 4% of the 2.2 million people who passed through TSA checkpoint on same day in 2019).

But, by comparison with last year’s numbers, a million such screenings this past Sunday, while better than a poke in the eye, means demand remains down a staggering 60% from a year earlier, on Oct. 18, 2019.

Still worse, with the potential exception of a few holiday travel days around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, those airport screening totals are extremely unlikely to rise above the “down 50% from a year ago” comparison mark until sometime next summer, at the earliest.

In fact, it will be almost impossible for the number of travelers passing through TSA checkpoints to reach that 50%-of-last-year watermark over the next six to nine months – and maybe longer. That’s because U.S. airlines won’t even offer enough seats each day during that time span for travel demand to reach that high.

Four of the nation’s five largest airlines are offering well below 50% as many seats for sale this month as they did in October 2019 (and remember, on most days they don’t come close to filling even half of the deeply reduced number seats that they now are offering). Though they may have vague hopes of significantly increasing their capacity over the next six to nine months, all indicators are that such rebound is extremely unlikely to happen.

Only Southwest airlines still offers more than 50% as many seats now as it did a year ago. The fabled maverick discount carrier has grown up. It’s been in business 49 years now (and this year will

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