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China's toll fee exemption boosts holiday auto rentals

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BEIJING, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Car rental agencies in China have seen a surge in business, with more people planning to hit the road during the upcoming National Day holiday, the first time when the nation's roads become toll-free.

The Chinese government in August decided to lift road tolls for passenger cars taking highways during major Chinese holidays, a move widely expected to fuel tourism consumption.

An index measuring people's desires to travel in the peak vacation season surged to 87.9 percent this year, up 29.6 percent from last year's figure, according to the China Tourism Academy.

Yang Yanying, vice president of China Auto Rental (CAR), said more than 60 percent of the company's cars have been reserved for the holiday running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 this year.

"The exemption of toll fees gave a boost to car rental businesses," said a CAR manager surnamed Zhou. "My company estimated that drivers can save 30 to 40 percent of their costs, as road tolls will be lifted."

However, customers taking trips said that while road costs could be reduced, sitting in the driver's seat remains costly.

CAR's reservation system shows that the daily rental fee for a Hyundai Elantra, an economy car, rose to 325 yuan (51.50 U.S. dollars) for holiday bookings, or double the usual daily rental price.

In addition to increasing rental fees, car lenders have also imposed additional requirements and stricter cancellation policies. For instance, many companies have required customers to rent cars for a minimum of four days.

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