Uber is taking baby steps into travel. Booking.com: No need to sweat it yet.
The much-awaited Uber Travel launches in the UK Wednesday to a limited set of customers with the plan to bring it to all Uber users by the end of August, the company announced.
Uber Travel isn’t full-service travel at this juncture with hotels and flights, but comes with Uber rides plus mostly long-distance rail and bus services licensed from Omio. For now, at least, Omio, which began discussions with Uber last year, appears to be Uber’s sole travel partner.
In a Google-like twist, as part of its launch announcement, Uber said it will be mining flight information from customers’ Gmail.
“With air passengers set for travel disruption this summer, the new Uber app feature will also for updated timings of your flights should there be any changes, adjusting your itinerary accordingly,” the Uber announcement said.
Uber said Wednesday that it will serve as an agent of the suppliers when customers make bookings in the Uber app, and Uber will be the merchant of record.
“Our Uber Travel help centre will solve customer issues and where tickets allow they can update their booking through Uber or cancel it,” an Uber spokesperson said.
Uber didn’t even mention the pending Uber Travel in its earnings call Tuesday.
Naren Shaam, founder and CEO of Berlin, Germany-based Omio, formerly known as GoEuro, said Omio licenses its rail and coach supply from more than 1,000 suppliers to Uber, which creates the user experience within the Uber app.
We haven’t seen Uber Travel within the Uber app yet, but all rail and bus bookings will take place within the Uber app and have the look and feel of Uber, which did the development work, Shaam said.
The vision is for Uber customers to be able to have rail or bus trips sandwiched between Uber rides for the last kilometers of the journey. Both companies will have to test and learn how Uber customers adopt — or don’t — to booking travel beyond ridesharing within the Uber app.
If it all works out, Uber will undoubtably expand the breadth of its travel offerings, but will wait and see how this first stage works out.
Omio, which acquired Rome2Rio in 2019 in a merger of so-called multi-modal transportation businesses, invested in building the business-to-business side — as opposed to the consumer proposition — of its operation during the pandemic. In addition to Uber, Omio powers rail for Kayak and Huawei, among others. It raised $80 million in funding this year.
“We are evolving our business,” Shaam said. “Inventory is a key asset.”
“Uber Travel forms an integral part of Uber’s vision for being a one-stop shop for door-to-door travel,” said Andrew Brem, General manager of Uber UK, in a statement. “This will allow our customers to plan ahead by making bookings with Eurostar, or help ease the stress of travel this summer with updated flight details automatically imported into the smart itinerary.”
Note: This story has been updated to include information about Uber being the merchant of record on train and bus bookings, and handling customer service.
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Photo credit: Eurostar trains at the Eurotunnel. Uber will begin offering rail bookings in the Uber app. Tanya Hart / Flickr.com