The gradual shift away from the established OTA model—Expedia, Orbitz, et al—to newer sites that are either hotel specialists (Booking.com, Venere) or some combination of air & hotel meta-search (Trivago, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Skyscanner) is not an overnight phenomenon. Consumers have taken their time falling out of love with OTAs, and just as long becoming comfortable with the newer meta-search model.
That’s understandable. The new model involves spending time on one site to search and discover, and on a second to complete the actual booking. That seems like a step backwards from the OTA’s one-stop shop, and explains why the change has been so gradual. Still, the meta-search companies deliver a great user experience, and their users are clearly of the view that they’ll see the widest range of options and the best prices on meta sites rather than OTAs.
Now Rome2rio is taking the popular meta-search concept one step further, by searching across all types of transport—not just air—and allowing users to build door-to-door journey plans that include transport, accommodation and attractions. Meta-search plus.
For a user, the differences can be profound. On an OTA site, a New York-based user can plan a week’s trip to Heidelberg, Germany, with only a limited degree of completeness. Expedia, for example, suggests flying to Frankfurt, which is fine, though travelers might also like to know they how they are going to reach Heidelberg, which is 80 kilometers away. Expedia knows that Frankfurt is nearby to Heidelberg, but it doesn’t know how to get from one to the other, and makes no suggestions on that score. It offers hotels in Frankfurt instead; not exactly what the customer was looking for.
No mention of Heidelberg: OTA search results focus on air, and often leave the user short of their final destination
A “traditional” meta-search site wouldn’t do much better, but Rome2rio’s multi-modal capability offers its users a more perfect result. We display flights from New York to Frankfurt, or to Stuttgart or Dusseldorf; train, bus and rideshare options for the final leg trip to Heidelberg; and hotel suggestions in the beautiful town of Heidelberg, not its big-city neighbour.
Door to door search results require surface transportation data, not just flights
As an e-commerce site focused on selling travel, we are finding this an attractive model. The ability to recommend door-to-door journey plans that include high speed trains, ferries, buses and other non-air transportation delivers real advantages in terms of customer satisfaction, as well as opportunities for an incredibly broad range of commercial arrangements and revenue sources. The ability to recommend hotel options at the exact destination and tell users precisely how to get there is an obvious step forward.
Our hotels, from Booking.com, are integrated into the map display
During 2012-13 we focused on making our platform available to partners through White Label and API offerings; 100-plus partners sign up each month and we’re beginning to see some really neat integrations emerge. But with 2.7m unique visitors per month to the Rome2rio.com site and traffic growing at 30% per month, it’s hard to ignore the consumer-direct side of our business. Keep an eye on us as we continue to test the marketplace.