Determine new route opportunities and maximise your profitability with Skyscanner
The European market is one of the best-connected aviation markets in the world both from an intra and intercontinental perspective. The increase in low-cost carriers (LCCs) and the subsequent adjustments to legacy hub airlines over the last two decades has created opportunities for travellers to either fly directly to their desired destination or explore new areas through better affordability, in terms of monetary cost, and accessibility, in terms of journey duration and connectivity.
To maintain growth in the European market, airlines are continuing to look at smaller intra-European routes or new mid to long haul routes with lower cost operating models or more efficient aircraft technologies.
So where are these opportunities and how can Skyscanner data help?
With over 60 million unique users per month across all corners of the globe, Skyscanner is able to provide the aviation industry with valuable and unique insights into travel trends.
Our data has multiple use cases across the travel industry, including:
Use by network planning teams to assess passenger flows in a similar way to traditional data sources such MIDT or IATA’s paxIS.
Helping revenue management understand not only their own future bookings/fares but the whole marketplace.
Producing more efficient marketing campaigns based on time and location of when travellers are looking to book.
Previously we have shared some of our data on what people are searching for in the Unserved Route of the Week on AnnaAero. This uses search data to measure the unconstrained demand in a market versus what the user is willing to book shown by redirect data (the exit on Skyscanner to the partner) which is constrained by the current schedule or pricing of an indirect option.
Ahead of this year’s Routes Europe conference we looked at what our users have searched for during 2017, highlighted some of the currently unserved routes both within Europe and to other continents from Europe with significant potential, and outlined how you can use our data to help you meet this demand.
With the information shown in the table above, you can start to consider which route(s) to launch. Once this decision is made, you will face your next challenge – maximising the revenue opportunity from the first flight. An unprofitable new route doesn’t look good to your CFO, but nor is it a good proposition to the traveller if there is uncertainty around whether the route will continue.
Although you can utilise your own revenue and passenger data on routes that are currently in operation to understand market characteristics, insights into booking trends for new markets and unserved direct routes are missing.
Thankfully, Skyscanner is here to help with the commercial performance ahead of a new route launch. Travel Insight data offers an understanding of when passengers are looking to book, where they are based and the price they would pay for the direct service even on routes that aren’t served directly.
The power of this data has been highlighted in several previous articles, including our insights in to the Chinese market, our 2017 trend reports – including regional breakdowns, and our exploration of the potential of the Indian market. And the likes of Dublin Airport and Iberia Express have already begun benefiting from our unique data.
Interested to learn more about what our powerful unique data can do to support your business?
Cathay Pacific Group boosts distribution coverage through Skyscanner partnership
Hong Kong’s home airlines, Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, continue to grow their distribution capabilities by embracing Skyscanner’s revolutionary Direct Booking platform. The new integration means that Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon become the first Hong Kong-based carriers to be able to sell tickets directly within Skyscanner, across both web and mobile channels.
The first phase of the roll out is complete and is available to Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon customers and Skyscanner users in 40 markets, including Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States and Taiwan.
Cathay Pacific Director of Commercial and Cargo, Ronald Lam said: “We are very pleased to partner with Skyscanner in the development of this new distribution capability (NDC) in order to provide travellers with an improved and seamless booking experience.
“Cathay Pacific is committed to working with industry partners to widen our distribution coverage and make our award-winning products more accessible to a broader perspective of customers.”
Skyscanner’s Direct Booking platform gives airlines and travel providers a powerful booking channel enabling travellers to research, choose and immediately book itineraries within Skyscanner without having to re-direct to supplier sites. This results in a quicker, easier and more efficient booking process. Partners on the platform have reported a 20% uplift on booking conversions on basic tickets, a 50% conversion rate lift on mobile bookings and a 100% uplift in ancillary ticket sales.
Skyscanner was the first travel meta-search engine with the capacity to display and sell tickets directly through the NDC connection, building this into its Direct Booking platform. Skyscanner has since gone on to lead the field when it comes to IATA’s NDC initiative, having been the first aggregator to achieve Level 3 Aggregator status.
Hugh Aitken, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships at Skyscanner, said: “We are delighted that Cathay Pacific is joining an ever-growing number of airlines including British Airways, Scoot and Finnair who are spearheading the next generation of flexible and dynamic travel content distribution through the Skyscanner global marketplace.
“As a traveller-focused business we want to offer our users the unique opportunity to book through our partner branded funnel whilst still having access to Cathay’s unique offerings and ancillaries.”
Interested in finding out more about Direct Booking?
Skyscanner innovations are set to meet growing demand in the Indian market
As a global travel search site, Skyscanner helps to inspire individuals and facilitates the comparison of travel options from more than 1,200 partners, allowing users to find the one that best meets their needs. Our mission is to be the most used and trusted online travel brand in the world – including in India.
By all measures, the India travel market has experienced extraordinary levels of growth. Our exclusive Skyscanner Travel Insight data shows that from January 2015 to the end of 2017, there was a 97% increase in domestic trips per month on average, with international trips showing an increase of 72% for the same period.
Multiple forecasts suggest that this growth will continue for the years to come. This is largely attributed to the growth in overall economy and travel consumption caused by the growing middle class, with the share of elite and affluent households set to increase from 8% (2016) to 16% by 2025. This increase in per capita income combined with growth in internet penetration, development of travel infrastructure in smaller towns and decrease in cost of travel due to the emergence and expansion of low-cost carriers (LCCs) promises tremendous growth potential for the Indian travel market.
Challenges in the industry – for customers and travel companies
In India, the growing numbers of Online Travel Agents (OTAs) created a highly competitive marketplace, in which consumers have more choice than ever-before. Whilst consumers value the ability to choose, comparing travel options has become increasingly overwhelming. Therefore, to successfully serve our travellers, we need to help them cut through the noise created by the increased number of suppliers and identify the best result and offering based on their unique characteristics (e.g. loyalty card membership, willingness to stop-over etc.). This requires both users and partners to transition from a price-centric ecosystem, to one that focusses on value.
Almost simultaneously, there has been a global transition from desktop towards mobile solutions – including the ever-growing use of voice and bot technology. In India, the number of mobile smartphone users is forecast to reach 468 million by 2021. This trend will force companies to rethink their traditional approach to distribution, and deliver offers, options and deals in a way that is easy to understand – through relevant search results, and a streamlined booking process. It will also drive airlines and OTAs to become more omnipresent through the application of these new channels and technologies once they have mastered mobile.
Considering these market trends and characteristics, at Skyscanner we have begun to tackle two key challenges: how to deliver highly relevant recommendations, and how to develop a new retail environment that eases the shopping process and works across the growing number of mobile channels.
Delivering relevant recommendations
To help travellers choose the best options through Skyscanner, we have introduced two scores: a Partner Quality Score, and a Flight Quality Score. Our pioneering Partner Quality Score, which was introduced last year, aims to help travellers by displaying a rating for each supplier based entirely on travellers’ booking experience. Enabling them to differentiate between options at the same or similar price points. Our more recently introduced feature of Flight Quality Score seeks to expedite the search process by enabling Skyscanner users to start filtering and ranking results according to quality (Best) and speed (Fastest) in addition to price (Cheapest). Allowing them to assess value in a more straightforward way.
In a further step towards a more tailored traveller experience, logged in iOS app users now have access to a Travel Wallet. The feature is designed to provide a central storage location for travel related documents: specifically, passports and loyalty cards at present.
Continuing on this mission, we have a handful of teams working towards a solution that will remove the endless list of options commonly associated with metasearch and help travellers fast-track to their ideal itinerary. Ultimately, the goal is ensuring that travellers feel they understand their travel options and receive what represents the best value, every time.
A new retail environment
Evidently, the future of travel retail is about much more than a transaction. It is about surfacing the right (read: relevant) information at the right time to satisfy a user’s needs, as well as raising awareness of the products they may not have considered. This is particularly important on mobile, where there is limited space to display information.
To allow users to seamlessly operate in this new retail environment, we have developed our own version of Direct Booking – a solution which is all about providing a flexible, optimized retail experience, with features which bring the right options to the top of the search in the increasingly small space of the mobile front page. It is designed to put the retailer’s brand at the forefront and ensure a direct connection to the consumer, regardless of the context of purchase.
Diverging from current retail practices, which tend to emphasize the branding of the marketplace rather than suppliers, Skyscanner has taken inspiration from Tmall. It gives supplier brands the space and ability to control the display of their products – offering ‘store-fronts’ of sorts, with abundant up-sell opportunities built-in. Direct Booking also ensures a direct connection to the consumer, through a frictionless booking journey.
Recognizing the bots and voice trend, Skyscanner also became an early entrant and pioneer of these technologies and has launched four major products in this space: a skill for Amazon’s Alexa voice service; a bot for Facebook’s Messenger platform; a collaboration with Skype for the new Skype bots platform; and a skill for Microsoft’s Cortana. This required an evolution from delivering complex answers to simple questions, such as “who flies cheaply from A to B” to providing simple responses to complicated ones.
Engaging in new ways
These types of innovations in travel search technology allow Skyscanner and our partners to open up to brand new audiences and engage in new and exciting ways with existing ones. Making travel search as user-friendly and intuitive as possible, while embedding more into services and platforms that consumers engage with every day, will ultimately benefit our users, partners, and the wider industry.
Interested in learning more about Direct Booking, or our other partner offerings?
The future of airline retailing is now
Engagement with our partners, travel industry bodies, and influencers, has highlighted airline retailing as a recurring theme. As highlighted in our white paper on the ‘Future of Distribution’ last year, airlines must adapt their approach if they are to thrive in the new era of distribution; yet the path to delivering airline retailing remains largely unexplored. As outlined by Yanik Hoyles of IATA, becoming retailers is both the biggest challenge and opportunity that airlines must face.
In this article, we seek to enable airlines to take their next step towards retailing. As well as exploring the factors that have encouraged airlines to shift towards a retail-oriented mentality, we will highlight the Skyscanner learnings and products that can support the transition of airlines towards retail – from our experience with bots, to our mobile-optimised Direct Booking solution.
The transition from desktop to mobile, voice and bots
Our view of what constitutes a ‘direct booking’ has been disrupted by the shift in consumer behaviour away from desktop towards mobile. Travel companies with mobile apps saw 60% of their bookings take place on mobile devices in Q4 2017 according to Criteo’s 2018 industry report, up from 41% during the same period in 2016, while online travel agents now see almost half (45%) of all bookings take place on a smartphone or tablet. A trend we have seen replicated at Skyscanner, where we have experienced a combined annual growth rate of 40% in visitors to mobile during the last three years, and accrued over 70 million app downloads worldwide. Our 2018 data on daily organic app installs indicates that our trend towards mobile growth will continue, and accelerate into the second half of 2018.
Simultaneously, industries including travel have experienced the rise of mobile e-commerce (m-commerce), and the coinciding shift in consumer expectations; towards an integrated shopping experience in which inspiration, selection, results, booking and payment are all instantaneous.
This disruption in distribution has been enhanced by the increasing reliance on bots and voice assistants, as travellers migrate from the click-type-tap patterns that are common in apps and sites, to a more conversational format in which they ask casual, but fully-loaded questions.
We have now drawn more than one million unique interactions across our Skyscanner chat interfaces – Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and Skype Group Chat Travel Bot. We have learned a lot through our experiences, including that pure voice communication is very challenging.
And for brands that are just starting to explore voice technology, Filipov has given this advice: if software engineering is not at the core of what you do, don’t go it alone.
We need to Look East for future mobile trends
When it comes to mobile adoption, countries such as China and India are well ahead of the curve as detailed in more detail in our white paper on ‘The road ahead in China’. According to Worldpay, in China 43% of bookings are completed on a mobile device, and India has reached 20%. These nations of early adopters offer unique insight into where other global markets will be in the next five to ten years, and highlight two areas that require focus: the future of retail, and payments.
In their move online, retailers mirrored many of the features consumers valued in brick-and-mortar retail (e.g. tailored offers for a personalized service, interactive visual media in place of a catalogue), whilst offering an always-on solution that provided context through social media and reviews, and time to consider high involvement purchases such as travel. However, the online environment has resulted in brands becoming increasingly commoditized.
Looking to China, retailers such as Alibaba’s Tmall have bucked this trend by combining advanced search capabilities with content to help consumers evaluate goods, whilst enabling each “store” to maintain unique branding. This is in line with the preferences of the majority of Chinese consumers who value seeing an extended range of products (68%) and an inviting ambiance (63%), and has resulted in Tmall being actively used by 97% of Chinese online shoppers. It also benefits suppliers, as it gives them the space and ability to control the display of their products through ‘store-fronts’ of sorts, with abundant up-sell opportunities built-in. This has implications, as airlines seek both to develop themselves as retailers and tap into the Chinese market which has eluded many international businesses to date. Considering the preferences of consumers in this market, definitely has the potential to deliver returns.
In addition to the above, Tmall adds value through the efficiency and simplicity of its shopping process adds value – and payment forms a critical part of this. Alibaba has introduced its own form of payment known as Alipay, which boasts 520 million users and supports a wide range of payment channels. Other third-party payment systems such as UnionPay and WePay are also popular; providing users with secure, joined-up and mobile-friendly payment solutions.
Another developing trend with new mobile devices is the introduction of biometric readers such as Apple Touch ID, which will enhance the security of transactions over time whilst eliminating a point of friction in the booking process.
Mobile transactions are also likely to become even more popular over time because they are inherently more secure than browsers for online shopping, especially when an app is tied to the phone—requiring the use of Touch ID to open the app, for example. In this case, you combine online verification—passwords and accounts—with locally stored information such as Touch ID. While one of them might be compromised, it is rare both would be. Also, in terms of payment security, mobile is further ahead than computers and verification can be more easily introduced.
For airlines, this means that their approach to payments will become an even greater determinant of their conversion rate and business performance. As explored in our article on ‘Optimising payments for performance’, delivering a user-friendly booking flow, and providing support where necessary will not only improve your performance in the short-term. It will also help to retain users; and drive up their lifetime value. This was highlighted by Svante Westerberg, from Skyscanner payments partner Braintree in a recent interview.
Westerberg also highlighted how travel retail is “evolving from a one-off, holiday-oriented experience to a consistent dialogue with the consumer”.
The new storefront
Recognising the shift in distribution that has been brought-about by mobile, bot and voice technologies and changing customer behaviour and expectations, we have invested in what we consider to be the future of distribution: Direct Booking.
Direct Booking is all about providing a flexible, optimized retail experience, with features which bring the right options to the top of the search in the increasingly small space of the mobile front page. It is designed to put the retailer’s brand at the forefront and ensure a direct connection to the consumer, regardless of the context of purchase.
Not only will this serve to counteract the commoditisation of brands in the metasearch environment, but it will also add value to our users by enabling them to complete the transaction within our environment. As users become increasingly mobile, they will migrate from the click-type-tap patterns that are common in apps and sites; so meta needs to evolve from purely being a click-out business.
The evolution of Skyscanner towards Direct Booking has already delivered returns for early adopters, with existing partners experiencing an uplift in booking conversions on basic tickets upwards of 20% across the board, and 50% on mobile. Additionally, there has been an uplift in ancillary ticket sales of over 100%.
Airlines that are currently looking to integrate with Direct Booking are also benefiting from the ability to get set-up quickly. Direct Booking is compatible with any NDC-ready provider, and the full set up process is outlined in our ‘Guide to NDC’ delivered in collaboration with IATA. We can also support other integration types.
Are you retail ready?
With the data continuing to highlight the shift from desktop to mobile, and the retailing and payments trends that are emerging from the East, it is time to ask: what are you doing to enable your brand to thrive in the hyper-connected, mobile-centric and increasingly fragmented world that you operate in?
If you aren’t already embracing the digital disruption in distribution, now is the time to.
Interested to hear more about ‘Embracing digital disruption in airline distribution’? Join Hugh Aitken (Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Skyscanner) and other panellists at the CAPA Americas Aviation Summit.
You can also get in touch with us to learn more about how Skyscanner can support your business through Direct Booking.
Skyscanner Native Advertising Solutions with Google win at the Campaign Media Awards
We are pleased to announce last night’s win at the Campaign Media Awards, where we were recognised for our work with Google on our dynamic native ad solutions, and went home with the ‘Product Innovation – Media Owner’ award.
The Skyscanner dynamic native ad solutions have been designed to leverage live pricing data alongside clear calls-to-action to reach high intent users with brand, up-sell and route related messaging. These solutions also use our advanced targeting, based on intent segments, to align the messaging with the search input data. You can read more about this in our recent blog with Principal Commercial Manager, Advertising – Nick Fisher.
Interested in reading more about Skyscanner advertising solutions?
Download our media kit!
Partnership with RapidAPI lets developers put flight search in their apps
We’re excited to announce a new partnership with RapidAPI that, for the first time ever, allows developers to integrate Skyscanner Flight Search into their applications through a public API, exclusively listed on the RapidAPI Marketplace.
What is RapidAPI?
RapidAPI is an API marketplace that enables developers to find, test and connect to thousands of APIs from one central platform. With features like billing, authentication, user management and analytics, RapidAPI has enabled us to expose our vast amount of flight search data directly to their community of over 500,000 active developers across the globe.
Hugh Aitken, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships at Skyscanner said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with RapidAPI to share our market-leading travel data and technology to help them build a first class flight search experience for their users. We are passionate about extending our reach even further through our travel API to continue to make travel planning and booking as easy as possible for as many people as possible around the world.”
What Data is Available With the Skyscanner Flight Search API?
The main function of the Skyscanner API is searching for flights. This can be done in two ways: cached search and live search.
- Cached search is free and much simpler to use. It searches through the existing data on the Skyscanner platform, giving you a good estimate of available routes (using the Browse Routes endpoint) and flight prices (using the Browse Quotes endpoint).
- Live search is a little more complex and is priced at around $0.02 / query, but it lets you perform a real time query of all the different airlines and booking agents to get real booking options. To use that, you’ll need to create a search session with the details of the flight you’re searching. The search results will load in the background and you can poll them.
We want to allow developers to connect directly to all of this flight data so they can power their websites or apps with rich flight search information.
How to Use the Skyscanner Flight Search API
Step 0: Setup a RapidAPI Account
To connect to the Skyscanner Flight Search API, you will first need to set up an account on RapidAPI. Simply head over to the RapidAPI login page to sign up for an account.
Step 1: Subscribe to a Pricing Tier
Once you’ve logged in to your account, go to the Skyscanner Flight Search API listing and select the pricing plan that best fits your needs. Each pricing tier is slightly different and allows for a higher number of requests to be made depending on which plan you select. You can learn more about how pricing, payments and extra API calls on RapidAPI’s pricing documentation page.
Step 2: Make an API Request
As soon as you subscribe to a pricing plan, you will instantly be able to make requests to the API. A great way to test out the functionality of an API is to use the RapidAPI website to make a test API call from within the browser.
To do this, navigate to the Skyscanner Flight Search functions page, select the endpoint you want to call and click the “Test Function” button.
Once you’ve made a test API call, you are ready to add the API to your project. Every API on RapidAPI has a code snippet provided to help get you started. Just copy the code snippet directly into your program and use the Unirest Library for the programming language your application is using. Unirest is a set of lightweight HTTP libraries available in multiple languages, which makes connecting to the Skyscanner API a breeze.
We are extremely excited to be working with RapidAPI to help provide developers all over the world with a fast and reliable flight search API.
Skyscanner app makes tracks with launch of new trains feature
Skyscanner has launched a train booking feature, further diversifying our offering to UK travellers.
Alongside our flight, hotel and car hire offerings, the feature allows UK travellers using its iOS app to search for cheap rail tickets for UK journeys with ease and without booking fees.
In addition to savings made on no booking and no credit card fees, travellers are also able to use a railcard (including the brand new 26 – 30 year-old railcard currently on trial) and have the option to buy advanced, anytime, off-peak, standard and return tickets.
The free award-winning 4-in-1 Skyscanner app which has been downloaded over 70 million times, covers flights, hotels, car hire and now train travel, helping travellers search and book trips with ease by uncovering the best travel deals, saving time and money.
The data behind the rail feature is powered by Trip.com, Ctrip’s new international travel booking service. Bookings will be facilitated by Trip.com, who will also provide 24-hour customer service.
Ctrip invested in Skyscanner in December 2016 in a deal worth £1.4bn. While Skyscanner remains operationally independent, the sale has allowed the business to leverage Ctrip technology and learnings, with the trains product one such example.
Bryan Dove, CTO at Skyscanner comments: “Being part of the Ctrip group allows us to take advantage of elements of Ctrip’s technology and experience and bring that value to Skyscanner’s travellers. The launch of our train booking product is one such example. Our focus has always been on making travel as easy as possible and our new train feature will do just that, with the benefit of no booking fees.”
The news comes just a few months after Skyscanner announced the acquisition of London start-up Twizoo and the use of in-trip content through Ctrip’s acquisition of Trip.com; both with the aim of making Skyscanner a place where travellers can find everything they need for travel planning in one single place.
With mobile users accounting for over 60% of Skyscanner’s traffic, Skyscanner’s trains feature is available for UK-based IOS app users now and will be made available to Android app users in the UK shortly.
The value of content and personalisation: A view from Gil Harel at Trip by Skyscanner
We are excited to have just launched our new Content API, powered by Trip by Skyscanner. In this feature, we catch up with Gil Harel – Senior Vice President of Business Development at Trip by Skyscanner – to discuss why they developed an API and what it can offer to the partners who integrate it.
Before working at Trip by Skyscanner, Harel co-founded BiteHunter inc. and DiningFever.com, and led business development at Como. He also spent several years in the travel and consulting sectors, holding positions at Expedia, Ernst & Young’s hospitality group and Isrotel (a leading hotel chain in Israel).
1. For those of us who are less familiar with Trip by Skyscanner, how would you describe it?
Trip by Skyscanner is your guide to discovering the best places to stay, eat, and play that are perfect for you, in your own neighbourhood or while traveling across the globe. Travellers use both the website and the mobile apps for iOS and Android to gain access to one of the richest sources of destination content in the world.
2. How did the decision to offer an API come about?
For years, the travel industry focused solely on bookings and cheap prices, while destination content took a back seat. With an eye to the future, even prior to the acquisition by Skyscanner, Trip by Skyscanner (formerly Trip.com) was leveraging its destination content to pair bookings and savings with a more comprehensive travel experience. Trip by Skyscanner decided to offer an API so that partners can allow their users to make informed decisions on where to go, how to book, and what to do on their trips. This creates a complete travel experience that not only benefits the user, but also the partner by boosting brand loyalty and booking rates.
3. What are the core benefits of your Content API?
The Trip by Skyscanner Content API allows partners to do four main things. Firstly, it inspires travel through access to worldwide coverage of destination content that informs the traveller. Secondly, it provides relevant information to customers that aids with booking decisions. Thirdly, it adds elements of engagement and retention to the travel products of our partners. Finally, it offers a continually growing and refreshed database of content because of Trip by Skyscanner’s vibrant community of users.
4. What makes your Content API unique?
Trip by Skyscanner’s most unique feature is personalisation. Through our 19 patented ‘Tribes’ (travel styles), whether your customer base is focused on luxury, foodie, family-friendly, or outdoor adventure travel, you can provide the best destinations and places to go based on their interests. The API can also provide recommendations for places to go dependent on the time of day, weather, location, and more. ‘Tribes’ and contextual data allow Trip by Skyscanner’s API to serve the most relevant destination content and reviews for your audience.
5. Why is personalisation so important?
We don’t believe that travellers can be catered to with a one-size-fits-all approach. Personalisation through ‘Tribes’ allows you to serve points of interest and reviews from other travellers that are tailored to your audience, creating a hyper-relevant travel experience that resonates and keeps them coming back.
6. Finally, where can we see your API in action?
Our destination content can be seen within the Hostelworld app, representing a great example of a mobile API integration and application of Trip by Skyscanner’s ‘Tribes’. The Hostel-goer demographic is typically younger and tends to travel on a lower budget, which is why the content provided has been filtered according to Trip by Skyscanner’s Budget, Student and Backpacker Tribes, ensuring the recommendations are relevant to Hostelworld’s audience.
Interested in reading more about the Trip by Skyscanner Content API and the benefits it can bring to your business?
As Q1 2018 comes to a close, we look back and evaluate on our success and key wins for Q4 2017 and recognise the success of our parent company, Ctrip.
Having accumulated nearly 70 million monthly active users, with more than 60% being driven from mobile, it’s no wonder we’re one of the most successful flight meta-search sites in the world.
With net revenue increasing 26% year-on-year in the final quarter of 2017 and 39% growth for the full year of 2017, it’s been a hugely successful time for our parent company Ctrip. It is expected that Ctrip’s net revenue will continue to increase year-on-year at a rate of 8-11%.
The international business mirrors this success with Trip.com achieving triple digit growth in air ticketing volume for five consecutive quarters, partly as a result of our Direct Booking initiatives.
With the help of Ctrip, we developed a Direct Booking engine resulting in our revenue from this platform nearly doubling compared to the same period a year prior. Accelerated growth is expected with Direct Booking being a key driver of this and continues to see more and more partner adoption with airlines such as British Airways and Scoot on-board.
We caught up with Virtuo founders Karim Kaddoura and Thibault Chassagne to discuss the car hire industry, future changes and their approach to disruption and mobile technologies.
Launched in 2016, Virtuo is 100% mobile. Users can book and unlock cars with their smartphone, connected watch and even through Siri voice commands. What’s more, the app even covers rental agreements, vehicle inspections and damage reporting.
What are the current trends shaping the car hire industry?
Digitalisation has been definitely shaping the industry for a few years now and at Virtuo we already believe that mobile technologies and artificial intelligence are the next big trends. Mobile technologies have already deeply transformed the taxi industry with the rise of new incumbents (Uber, Lyft). Moreover, AI transforms the way companies will approach problem solving in the logistics area.
How do you think the industry will change in the next 3-6 years, and why?
The industry has to change by bringing customers a better experience. More than ever before, customers are expecting frictionless experiences especially in the travel area. In most cases traditional car rental agencies are struggling to simplify their customer journey and are perceived as poor service providers. The major players haven’t been seriously challenged for a while but this may change in today’s fast changing environment where innovation is reshaping the picture.
The industry has to change by bringing customers a better experience.
Conversely, what do you think will stay the same?
The need will stay the same, since the car will remain the best solution for the 50 – 500 miles trips.
What technologies do you see disrupting the industry in the next 5 – 10 years?
Mobile will have an impact on distribution, AI on operations, connected and autonomous vehicles on the fleet management side.
What technologies and disruptive approaches are you taking?
Obviously we invest a lot in mobile technologies since Virtuo is a mobile-first car rental company. Our main disruption is coming from mobile technologies that allow us to be a counterless car rental company. Besides, from day one we have been renting connected cars which brings a lot more data on the operations field. With this data we feed algorithms to optimize operations. We strongly believe that machine learning and AI will bring a lot of value on fleet allocation and operations efficiency. This will ultimately help to lower the price for the customer the same way it happens in the taxi industry.
Our main disruption is coming from mobile technologies…
How do you think that mobile will change the way the industry operates?
We believe that mobile is the way to enhance car rental and to bring more quality and efficiency in this business.
What are the biggest challenges that the industry is facing?
The industry is facing new competition such as ride hailing, especially in the US. Customers are switching from car rental to ride hailing mainly due to poor service and frictions in the car rental customer journey. Only by bringing a more seamless experience the industry will gain market share over the other mobility solutions.
How do you think these challenges can be addressed?
By embracing new technologies!
What are/will be the main benefits that working with Skyscanner offers your business?
Skyscanner brings us some great exposure to highly qualified prospects.
What are your expansion plans in the coming years?
Clearly our roadmap is to expand to all major European cities of Europe targeting mainly the hubs of a city, its airports, train stations and centres.
We’re already in 8 cities in France and Brussels and launching the UK very soon.
You can find out more about Virtuo via their website.