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The bus market is considerably different from air travel and hotels, but based on Greyhound’s startup experiment there still remains an opportunity for one or two bus travel aggregators to break through.
The growth potential for bus ticketing aggregators is limited by the size of the North American bus market, attests Greyhound CEO David Leach.
“I don’t see it going as big as some of the startups say they’ll go, because the industry isn’t as big as you might think,” shares Leach who, while well aware of the popularity of travel aggregators and metasearch throughout the travel industry, isn’t yet convinced of its usefulness to the bus market.
“As the CEO of the company that has the most at risk, you can take the Southwest approach and go, ‘Alright we’re just going to do southwest.com and advertise the heck out of that and everybody’s got to get there’ or you start to sell through the aggregators,” explains Leach.
Greyhound took the latter option and decided to partner with one such aggregator, Wanderu, in an effort to better understand the customers going to those sites.
“Is our consumer concerned about buying from a big corporation or this more personalized, ‘I feel like I’m in control of my destiny and someone’s not pushing a product on me’ platform,’?” asks Leach.
Although the test has brought in some additional bookings, Leach admits it is not performing as well as originally hoped. He also contests that the startups’ success is partly dependent on the cooperation of Greyhound.
“The aggregators will have a very hard time surviving without the Greyhound national network because it provides the feed and the flow and the connectivity,” says Leach.
It’s a notion that Wanderu co-founder Polina Raygorodskaya backs up when talking about the progress of the partnership.
“Greyhound has an incredible network and goes to places that many other operators don’t go. This allows them to capture audiences in many destinations that before the partnership we were not able to serve,” Raygorodskaya explains.
“In addition, they often have frequency in their offerings which allows us to offer our customers not only multiple carrier options with different stations, prices, feature offerings, but also have the right trip at the time they want to travel.”
Because it’s a concept that’s worked well in other parts of the travel industry, Leach is holds out hope for the success of aggregator platforms. His goal?
“I’m hoping what happens is that consumers who wouldn’t normally think of going to Greyhound, will go to an aggregator site like this and find our service to be better than any of the competitors. “