Monthly Archives: October 2013

TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin: Rome2rio “Under The Hood”

Two companies with ties to Rome2rio presented at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Berlin last week.

Wanderio, an Italian startup based in Rome, presented their multi-modal booking solution; while WhatNow?! Travel presented an app designed as an in-destination travel guide.

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While the WhatNow?! app has not yet been released, we’ve had a chance to take a good luck at the Wanderio site and really like the way they have re-interpreted our data, and their cool blue and white UI.

With over 800 partners signed up to use our API and White Label solutions we expect to see many more sites and apps going live in the coming months. If you have an interesting integration of our product, don’t hesitate to let us know; we’re more than happy to spread the word!

Rod Cuthbert

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A New Look For Rome2rio

This week we rolled out a new brand, logo and design for the Rome2rio website. The new look is the culmination of several months of hard work that involved rebuilding the HTML and CSS structure of the site from scratch. We worked with the incredibly talented folks at August who designed the brand and new look.

New logo
The original Rome2rio logo was certainly endearing and has served us well since we launched in 2011. The new logo is simpler, bolder, and the hot pink theme provides a nice visual differentiation from other travel sites.

Welcome screen
We’ve kept the welcome image, but we no longer darken it, so that it really stands out. The input and welcome messaging is even simpler now too. Scroll down and you’ll get an overview of what Rome2rio does, and real-time statistics on our current coverage.

New welcome screen

We've got you covered

Search experience
We’ve changed a lot about how Rome2rio’s search results are presented, whilst retaining the original layout and design elements that already worked well. Panels and sections of the page now transition smoothly. The layout is cleaner and easier to read. The colour scheme has been revamped and we’ve utilized Google Map’s restyling technology to give the map a distinctive look that fits with the overall design.

New search interface

Hotel search
Although not really part of the new design, in August we quietly began experimenting with more deeply integrating hotel properties into the Rome2rio product. Click the Need a Hotel? button at the bottom of the search results to see hotels at your destination plotted on the map.

New hotel search

You’ll also find our About Us, Coverage and Partner pages have been redesigned as well.

We think Rome2rio now has a far more professional and polished look, and the feedback so far has been largely positive. Judge for yourself – we hope you like it too. With time we will tweak the design based on user feedback and user testing. As always, email us at feedback(at)rome2rio.com with any suggestions.

Michael Cameron

The Bus Is Coming!

At the PhoCusWright Innovation Summit last year, on-stage critic and well-known industry figure Evan Konwiser made an interesting comment after the Rome2rio presentation“Additionally, nobody wants to travel on CoachUSA, I’m sorry.”

We know where Evan was coming from. Historically, US travelers have viewed coach travel as déclassé, and the mainstream travel industry hasn’t bothered to promote it as a realistic travel option, preferring, reasonably enough, to sell plane tickets instead. Need to take the bus? Buy your ticket at the Greyhound terminal before you get on board.

Time marches on, though, and even in the US that icy view of coach travel is starting to melt. That change is largely down to the success of CoachUSA and their high-profile sister company, MegaBus. Since their launch in 2006, MegaBus has carried over 30 million passengers on their luxury coaches, most offering free wi-fi and a level of comfort that surprises first-time riders.

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But the biggest innovation is the fares: book far enough in advance and you can travel on MegaBus for a dollar. I just checked the fare from Albany NY to NYC on December 4th, and found eight departures with an average fare of $5. That’s a pretty good deal when you consider the cheapest flight is $180, and the train is $37.

MegaBus are not exactly re-inventing the wheel here. Luxury coach travel is popular in Europe, South America and other parts of the world, and doesn’t carry the same social stigma it does in the US. It’s often a crucial component of journey plans on Rome2rio: I recently flew into Milan from Australia, headed to Turin. I could have rented a car, but didn’t feel like driving after such a long trip; or taken the train into Milan and changed onto the fast train to Turin. Instead I stepped outside the terminal building at Milan Malpensa, walked all of 10 yards to the coach stop, and waited 20 minutes for the luxurious Torino express service ($35) to arrive. Ninety minutes later I was in downtown Turin.

Lately we’ve added some interesting new coach operators and routes in Western Europe, particularly Germany, where a loosening of regulations has opened up many corridors to coach operators for the first time. This example, Berlin to Munich, shows five operators vying for the route and offering fares under $40. That compares well to the train at $166 and airfares at $120 and up. In France, SNCF’s iDBus providesa low-cost alternative to the already extensive SNCF train network.

We doubt we’ll convince Evan that he should start considering the bus as an alternative to JetBlue and Delta, but we hope he might be open to the possibility that his view that “nobody wants to travel on CoachUSA” may be in need of a re-think, particularly outside the US, but slowly (and surely) inside it as well.

Rod Cuthbert

Does Multi-Modal Matter In Asia?

How important is multi-modal search in the Asian travel marketplace? That’s a question we’ve been hearing more often lately, as partners who are integrating Rome2rio into their European sites consider the implications for other markets.

To better understand the potential impact of multi-modal in the Asia market, we’ve taken the opportunity to analyse a cross-section of searches made during the month of August, 2013. Rome2rio’s B2C traffic is modest—we had just under a million unique visitors in August—but that’s enough traffic to spot a number of the problems people are consistently looking to solve when planning travel to and around Asia.

Rail vs. Air
These searches are common for travel in Japan, where the high-speed rail network is well established, and China, where the network is expanding at a typically breakneck speed. A good illustration is Beijing to Jinan, a provincial capital some 400 kilometers south of Beijing.

AS1

Rome2rio highlights the advantages of taking the train: even though the train ride (2:20 hrs) is longer than the flight (0:55hrs), that advantage falls away when overall travel time to and from the airport to downtown is taken into account. Door to door, the train journey is estimated at 2:31hrs, while the air option is estimated at 3:33hrs. If that’s not enough, the fare for the air journey is estimated at $238, while the train comes in at $31. That’s enough of a difference to get the interest of most travelers.

It’s Logical, But Is It Best?
Traveling to Macau from within Asia, it makes sense to fly into the international airport there. But from further afield that logical choice makes less sense. Travelers from San Francisco (and many other locations) might prefer to take advantage of the frequent non-stop flights into better-serviced Hong Kong instead; by walking down to the SkyPier terminal, right inside the airport, and jumping on the ferry for the 45 minute ride to Macau, they’ll have saved themselves around $290—over 20%—on their round trip fare.

as2

Asia’s fast pace, characterised by an endless stream of new operators, destinations and transport options, richly rewards the traveler with the most information at their fingertips. A multi-modal journey plan, including a lesser-known or better placed airport and a final leg via rail, car or ferry will often deliver significant time and cost savings.

Save At All Costs
Whether it’s cash-strapped locals or budget-conscious foreign backpackers, Asia is a place of “even cheaper” travel options. Trains, buses and ferries all offer super-cheap travel, albeit at the cost of luxury and time, provided you can put your finger on the information. The further afield you go, the harder the information is to get.

as3

Our analysis uncovered many searches between second and third tier origin-destination pairs. A typical example is Rach Gia (Vietnam) to Duong Dong; round trip flights between the two are priced at $150, which seems reasonable until you know that the ferry is $9 each way. For many travelers in Asia, a $130 saving on a $150 fare is worth knowing about.

The Arrival Dilemma
How often do travelers arriving at Narita Airport in Tokyo decide, on reflex, that they will take a cab to their city hotel? It seems like a reasonable thing to do, but this is a case where a small amount of knowledge will save a large amount of money. In this example of JFK to Tokyo, Rome2rio recommends a rail journey from the airport to downtown Tokyo priced at an estimated 1300 yen ($13). We also display the oft-chosen alternative: a taxi to downtown Tokyo estimated at $240. That’s ten times the cost of the train and an overall increase in the New York to Tokyo one-way cost from $663 to $900.

as4

We call this problem the arrival dilemma: in the same way that Asian travelers arriving in London or New York are at a loss to figure out how to get to their downtown hotel, western travelers to Asia are often flummoxed on arrival in major Asian ports. Tokyo’s Narita is a particular problem, but Shanghai, Manila and others are just as confusing.

Summary
While these examples are specific to Asia, the problems illustrated are not. Our analysis, though, was surprising in that it showed how multi-modal travel within Asia already is, and how much value a multi-modal journey planner can deliver. As we build out our coverage, with particular emphasis on the bus networks which are vital in so many Asian countries, we imagine the Rome2rio platform will become a common integration for travel web sites servicing travelers to and within the Asian region.

Rod Cuthbert

Note: Frequent visitors to the Rome2rio web site may notice the new user interface shown in the examples above.
We hope to roll out this new UI in the next three to four weeks. Stay tuned.