Globalisation has opened borders, markets and doors for great business opportunities. We want you to be able to seize them all and feel at home in the world with our services always within reach. In part two of our “Alphabet around the world” series we show you four more markets where we can offer you our proven fleet solutions, thanks to our OneNet partners. In the following interview our partners from Business Lease will introduce themselves to you and tell you about the beautiful countries they are operating from. Let’s jump right in!
Please tell us a few things about the Business Lease background. Who are you?
We are Business Lease, nice to meet you! For almost 30 years we have been servicing our clients in Central Europe in a personal way and, as our slogan says, with “passion for mobility”. We are located in Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland but Business Lease also operates on an international level as we have been a partner of Alphabet for over 15 years already. We have the same values and working with Alphabet just feels seemlessly. Together we have successfully cooperated in more than 180 international projects. Despite the many country differences such as cultural and governmental regulations, our clients can find the same quality and way of working in all Business Lease countries.
Driving like a local: your best tips
What is the best advice that you would give to a driver from abroad?
When traveling by car to Prague it’s always a good idea to visit the website for parking before you go. In order to provide equal distribution of parking spaces for all user categories, Prague has set up 4 designated colored parking areas throughout the city. Blue for Residents, Purple for Residents and Visitors, Orange for Visitors and Green for P+R and Car Sharing.
The Slovak economy is based on the automotive industry, which makes us a leader in numbers of cars produced per inhabitant. Bratislava, the capital city, is a beautiful place and a great environment for living or working, but people here usually switch to public transport when traveling to the downtown area, because of the parking issues. The network of trams and buses is very good and efficient.
There are a lot of advantages to visiting Hungary by car. We have less heavy traffic jams and highways and motorways have a good infrastructure. If you are up for some sightseeing in Budapest, we recommend you to park your car outside the downtown area, though, and use public transportation to continue. It is cheaper and easier.
When driving in Romania, foreign drivers first must obtain an international driving permit before coming here. Another topic to keep in mind is that road conditions in Romania may vary, and traffic laws are strict. While major streets in urban areas are generally in good condition, many secondary roads are in poor condition and in need of repair, not well lit or lack marked lanes. Also be advised that there is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Good to know: Rather than with the typical hand wave, in Romania drivers use their hazard lights to thank you for your actions.
Tell us more about the people: What do drivers attach importance to in your market?
In the Czech Republic, the station wagon is highly appreciated for its versatile use and therefore very common on the streets. Furthermore, Škoda is well represented on the streets as this is our domestic brand.
Recently, automatic transmission has become more popular. Air conditioning and/or parking assistants are usually standard equipment. Value for money is the most important criteria for Slovak drivers. We see people doing a lot of comparing when a new car is selected.
Hungarian drivers really value safety technology, giving them additional support and comfort during their daily trips. Options as adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane keeping or park assist are in high demand. But special attention is also being paid to interior light solutions and more and more car users look for a built-in dash cam.
Romanian drivers usually ask for automatic air conditioning, winter package (heated chairs/windshield), parking sensors and in big cities automatic transmission is very common.
Can you recommend some nice spots in your country as a must-visit for drivers?
The city of Prague is quaint and rich with culture and highlights such as: the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Charles Bridge, Josefov – the Jewish quarter – and last but not least Prague Castle. At Christmas and Easter, markets are held on the Old Town Square; they resemble medieval markets. For Christmas a tall tree and a stage are set up. It is known as the largest Christmas market in the Czech Republic and is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Czech Republic and abroad.
During Christmas holidays we recommend visiting Christmas markets in the Bratislava city center. Generally, having a stroll through the city is always a good option. There are many historical monuments and nice bars and restaurants to visit.
Before COVID19, Budapest was quickly becoming one of Europe's leading travel destinations, especially in winter when Hungary's capital city truly comes to life. Offering a cozy winter atmosphere with romantic architectural creations. Budapest's City Park Ice Rink is by far the most famous skating destination in the region, nestled directly in front of Vajdahunyad Castle on the edge of City Park. Plus, Budapest is rightfully nicknamed the "City of Spas," thanks to its 118 natural thermal springs that deliver 70 million liters of therapeutic waters each day to more than a dozen spas.
Of course there is Dracula’s Castle in Bran to visit and learn what about our most infamous character is true and what myth. We recommend the towns of Mărișel and Maramureş to get a taste of the authentic Romanian culture. Another nice spot worth mentioning is the Bucharest Christmas Market. The fair is filled with more than 100 wooden huts, 3,000 light bulbs and over a kilometer of colored Christmas light. Our tipp to celebrate a very special New Year’s Eve must be the Balea Ice Hotel, nestled high up in the Carpathian Mountains. It is entirely made of ice, from the furniture to the shot glasses.
The new normal: COVID-19 measures
How has the (daily) business changed for you since COVID-19?
CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY, ROMANIA:
All of the Business Lease countries went in lockdown at some point once or even twice. Some had a partial lockdown and some countries made more strict measures. All Business Lease offices have taken the necessary precautions such as wearing masks, use disinfectant and try to minimize contact by working at the office in shifts. Also in our used car sales offices, disinfection of vehicles and keys was introduced to make sure it is absolutely safe to take your potential new car for a drive. COVID-19 changed the market completely. Companies need to save money and many employees work from home and therefore drive less kilometers. Some companies are postponing their purchasing decisions. We are happy to be able to support them with flexible solutions in this uncertain time.
Mobility trends: fleet development
Which mobility services are most important in your market?
Besides the lease car and the most often chosen Full Operational Leasing, public transport is also quite popular. In the urban areas new initiatives popup in the B2C market, such as electric scooter sharing and bicycle sharing.
In Slovakia people open to use “modern” ways of transports like shared bikes. Rental or car sharing is more popular in the B2B market.
Car ownership is traditionally seen as something of a “birth-right” in Hungary. But the world is changing, and Hungary is changing with it. Population growth is presenting us with some challenges. Car sharing services have become an integral part of mobility in Budapest. Services of this type are particularly popular among the millennials, who use public transport for everyday travel, but require passenger cars for shopping and traveling.
Operational Leasing and Fleet Management are most asked for in the B2B context. In the B2C market car rental and car sharing are very popular.
Anything you want to add?
As you can see, Central Europe is an area of rich culture and possibilities. When Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania became EU members, they committed to long term goals such as −in regards to the automotive industry− the EU CO2 goals which pushes its member countries to promote clean driving. Recently Business Lease International has published an article about the latest developments on Electric Vehicles in Central Europe. You can find the online publication here, or download the fact sheet.
The next interviewee will be from our OneNet partner Hedef Filo. What would you like to ask them?
How is the transition from Cars to Mobility perceived in the Turkish main economic areas?
Thank you so much for your tour through Central Europe! See you soon and stay safe.