Mark van den Akker, Roel Denissen, Stefan Heuvelmans and Stijn Heijstee - GoRoadtrip
GoRoadtrip is the platform for young people, students and young professionals who wish to make a road trip. We rent out cars and 9-seater vans at the lowest rent prices in the Netherlands, combined with attractive and transparent conditions.
We rent out our vehicles in combination with accommodations located in Europe’s most attractive destinations for young people. So the customers can map out their own road trip, and GoRoadtrip takes care of everything else.
GoRoadtrip reinvents van rentals
“We’re about to have a meeting to discuss our website. We’re putting a huge amount of effort into that, as it’s a hugely important component of our business. We need to make sure that the target group can instantly recognize how unique our concept is, and that it draws them in. It’s especially important to streamline the booking process. It has to be absolutely easy and absolutely clear. The website is our money-maker. GoRoadtrip has grown so rapidly in the past three years, the challenge now is to keep tabs on everything.”
And with a quick handshake, Roel Denissen is off again. So much to do! Just a few years ago he was touring Europe with a group of friends in “a rickety old van”. Without realizing then that this van was about to determine his future. After all, now he’s a co-partner of the most remarkable “van rental business” in the country.
Ruled out by rules…
“My friends and I wanted to tour around Europe. The kind of road trip we all dream of: pure freedom, pure fun. So then the first thing you need is a van. Which immediately proved a problem. No company was willing to rent us a van. Because we were students, and too young. They all had rules that ruled us out right away.
So our only option was to buy a van. But that’s easier said than done, too. You need to get insurance, and you need to find a place to park it for the winter, and then there’s maintenance and mechanical issues – and even a ramshackle van will put you back at least 2000 euros. Without any guarantees that it’s safe to drive! Sure, that’s adventure all right, but all that hassle is not exactly fun.
Still, we were on the road for three years. And in the third year the three of us started thinking about it seriously. Surely things could be made easier for other people? Especially for students – so we figured. Why apply age limits? And why have such a ridiculous ‘own risk’ deductible? Finally we hit upon a ‘link’ that was actually very obvious, and this link eventually spawned GoRoadtrip.”
Taxi van becomes rental van
Roel Denissen and his partners Mark van den Akker and Stijn Heijstee found this link in the field of taxi transport. “We quickly identified a common interest. The taxi company that we contacted used the vans during the year, mainly to take pupils to school and back home. Which means that the vans aren’t used during the summer and other holidays, as there’s no school. While students will mainly want a holiday rental van during precisely those periods. So it’s a perfect fit!
So we made the taxi company a bit of an audacious proposal. Within three years we’ll rent out your vans one hundred times, during the summer months. It was a bit of a bluff, so it’s great to see that we have even exceeded this number of rentals. We take care of all the promotion and the entire rental process. We lease the vans from the company as a complete package, so including maintenance, roadside assistance, and so on.
Obviously we got lucky that the supplier was willing ‘to play ball’, so to speak. In the end the concept proved to benefit us both, so that’s great.”
A basic service with optional extras
“Our goal with GoRoadtrip was to make it easier for students to rent a van, and we succeeded. Initially just by making it possible at all, but also thanks to our competitive rates. Regular providers will easily charge 4000 euros if you want to rent a van for a holiday. For a comparable period of time, our prices start from 1800.”
The number of van rentals soon exceed the three partners’ expectations. “Our hunch that there was a lot of demand for this was quickly confirmed. But at the back of our mind we kept thinking that we wanted to do more than just rent out vans. So we also offer extra services – for instance a TomTom, or a cooking set, or a cooler, or camping gear.”
Steadily more complete
Combining van rentals with activities and accommodations is a next step in GoRoadtrip’s plans: “A complete, ready-to-go road trip – that’s what we’re working on now. In 2016 we offered a Surf-Road trip through Spain and France, with everything prearranged by us. It was a test case, and a great success, and we learned a lot from it. In the coming years we’ll be adding at least 3 or 4 other complete package trips, on an even larger scale.”
The three partners seem to form a perfect team when it coming to organizing GoRoadtrip’s activities as a well-oiled machine. “I studied strategic management”, says Roel, “while Mark did logistics and Stijn studied marketing. So that’s a strong foundation. Of course we’ve had to learn a lot in practice, as there was no competitor that we could use as a model.
We were in touch with Starterslift* at the very start in 2013, but we didn’t really pursue this at the time. But so we knew where to find them at a later stage, mainly to help us find accommodation. They arranged it for us, and we also attended a number of seminars. What really helped us was the opportunity to spar with them and other starters like us. We got a lot of fresh and new ideas from that.”
Spreading one’s wings
With fifty van rentals in 2013, three years later the number has hit 350. Vans are rented for 12.5 days on average. “Now’s the time to really spread our wings”, says Roel Denissen. “We’ve opened an office in Utrecht, to be at the heart of studious Netherlands. We also have branches in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Tilburg, Eindhoven and Nijmegen, and the plan is to expand into Belgium. We’re hiring a regional manager for that, to get that market up and running independently.”
Five years ago, Roel, Mark and Stijn were touring Europe in a decrepit old van. Now, as owners of a business, they’re helping hundreds of students to have their holiday of a lifetime. “It’s absolutely awesome. We never thought things would get so big, so quickly – it wasn’t even our goal, initially. But now that we’re here we can see all sorts of further possibilities – we can become a genuine holiday service provider, in the tourism market. With distinctive and comprehensive concepts, but always based on the idea of a road trip. We will continue to focus on students, but not exclusively. Our mission is to make a road trip possible – and appealing – to all!”
*Starterslift has continued under the name Braventure
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