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Uber tie-up with Omio adds train & coach booking to app — starting with UK

Uber tie-up with Omio adds train & coach booking to app — starting with UK Image
  • Posted on 03rd Aug, 2022 07:33 AM
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Uber is testing adding train and coach travel to its app in the UK so customers can book longer distance ground travel via a fully integrated tie-up with Berlin-based multimodal travel platform, Omio. The latter has built up its own consumer facing apps for booking intercity and international trave…

Uber is testing adding train and coach travel to its app in the UK so customers can book longer distance ground travel via a fully integrated tie-up with Berlin-based multimodal travel platform, Omio.

The latter has built up its own consumer facing apps for booking intercity and international travel, across a wide variety of supported transport options, over almost a decade of operations. But, in recent years, it’s been ploughing resource into building out a b2b line — making its inventory available to partners via APIs so they can add transport booking options to their own apps and platforms.

Uber isn’t the first such tie up for Omio, per founder and CEO Naren Shaam. But he tells TechCrunch it’s the first partner to get full access to its ground transport inventory — which covers more than 1,000 transportation providers across 37 countries at this point.

“Uber is the first partner that is both at this scale but also the first that gets access to our full ticketing API so you actually are, as a customer, able to do everything within the Uber app — so it is the first with respect to this product that we’re offering,” he says.

Omio’s earlier b2b partnerships include some transport providers themselves, such as UK-based LNER, as well as the travel search engine Kayak and smartphone maker Huawei, among others.

The ride hailing giant is also the biggest b2b partner Omio has signed up so far: Shaam says the tie-up will put its inventory in front of the circa 5 million+ customers Uber claims in the UK market.

And while Omio’s own app includes non-ground transport options (like ferries and even flights) he says its platform remains strongest in inventory terms for booking train and coach/bus travel — hence why it’s starting there with Uber. Although Shaam hints there could be more to come. “This is the beginning of our partnership; it will expand — beyond just geography,” he suggests, noting that Omio’s b2b partners can “pick and choose” from its full inventory range of supported transport models to offer their own customers.

“It is very clear to me that we’re never going to have 100% of all the eyeballs in the wall using only Omio so very much the company is evolving into a more data company — where the data and our inventory becomes a core asset,” he adds, discussing its ramping up of focus on b2b alongside what he couches as a nicely scaling b2c business of its own.

“We spent years building very unique inventory… so actually during the pandemic… we realized that what we built — the core of the asset — is unique inventory that is very hard to access anywhere so we started building a team for b2b.”

From the get-go, the ground transport tie-up via Omio’s API will enable UK Uber users to book international trains if they’re so inclined.

Albeit actually getting out of the country and into France may prove more challenging — given recent post-Brexit travel chaos hitting holidaymakers at borders and in airports (related to post-pandemic staffing issues), not to mention ongoing pay-related train strikes over the summer… (Shaam confirms Omio has seen some of that disruption in its UK data, with users switching to shorter distance travel, for example, but he says he expects such changes to be temporary.)

Commenting on the tie-up in a statement, Andrew Brem, general manager of Uber UK, said: “We’re excited to launch our new travel offering this summer, allowing a seamless door-to-door travel experience across the UK. Partnering with Omio will accelerate our efforts to become the go-to travel app for our UK users”.

Trips booked via Uber’s app using Omio’s API generate a commission for Omio — a portion of which it passes back to Uber for bringing it the custom. (The commission split isn’t being disclosed.) It’s also generating revenue from Uber by licensing its tech.

For its part, Uber has been long been expanding its core ride hailing platform by integrating additional functionality — targeting becoming an urban convenience hub (aka a ‘super app’) where you can book everything from dinner and a movie as well as order a ride to get there.

So adding longer distance ground transport adds another string to that play and could help it tack on last mile ride hailing journeys at either end of a train trip, say. Or (re)capture some revenue from users who may be switching from ride hailing to cheaper rail or coach options if they can be persuaded to make those bookings in its app.

Challenges for Uber to turn a profit also remain. Reporting Q2 earnings yesterday it still couldn’t claim that — but it did generate another quarter of free cash flow and was rewarded by investors bumping its share price on another positive signal that suggests it can at least self fund so won’t literally burn itself out of cash.

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