The Travel CX and Acquisition Summit 2019

May 2019, London

Europe's biggest event for commercial and digital travel execs

Ground transport CEOs to shift up a gear in 2019

The chiefs of CheckMyBus and Blacklane share 2018 highlights, and what they see on the road ahead

From Scandinavia to Switzerland, San Francisco, Sydney, Scotland and China’s tech capital Shenzhen, this year the promise of autonomous buses notched up gear. Not only was there a commitment of millions of pounds in investment, there were also numerous test runs and in some places regular services got underway.

Marc Hofmann, CEO of bus metasearch platform CheckMyBus, says this was a significant development in 2018. “I believe that combining this technology with dynamic networks, where users are picked up when and where they demand, will soon bring a revolution in mobility,” he says, adding that the benefits won’t stop there. "These innovations will have the potential to at least partly replace private car use, reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and improving overall quality of life. Along with an increasing shift to online booking among intercity and airport bus companies, this is a huge opportunity for CheckMyBus." 

I believe that combining this [autonomous bus] technology with dynamic networks, where users are picked up when and where they demand, will soon bring a revolution in mobility

Marc Hofmann, CEO of bus metasearch platform CheckMyBus

At Blacklane, a portal that connects people to professional chauffeurs via their mobile app, website and hotline, the most significant trend of the year was the shift towards experiences and ‘bleisure’ travel. “Across the industry, we saw a greater demand for experiences, both from travellers and suppliers,” says co-founder and CEO, Jens Wohltorf.  

On the one hand, business travellers are adding leisure time to their work trips. Meanwhile on the supplier side, airlines are upgrading lounges and expanding beyond the airport with ground transportation partnerships. Private lounge companies are heavily investing in improved products, and one way that Blacklane is tapping into this is by launching global airport concierge services. 

The group now provides complimentary chauffeured rides for Emirates and Hainan Airlines in 17 cities across four countries, serving business class and first class passengers. “This represents a major shift in ground transportation, as we are disrupting the space traditionally owned by legacy limousine companies,” he says.  

Set for growth  

In a competitive environment, companies are striving to deliver better value with better rates, innovation and consistency, and for many user experience and content will be the continued drive for 2019.  

“With millions of daily bus departures, we already have an extensive network, which we plan to grow dramatically while including on-demand concepts. At the same time, we will boost the CheckMyBus user experience by making our service even easier to use with an added smart option to deliver better results,” Hofmann says.

This year CheckMyBus raised $1.4 million in Series A funding in a round led Marchmont Ventures, a company co-founded by Momondo Group’s former CEO Hugo Burge and former CFO Alan Martin.

Expansion is also on the cards for Blacklane. “We will add dozens of cities, with a concentration in the Middle East and Africa,” Wohltorf says. 

Other priorities include technology upgrades, and customer growth across all segments. “This means more complimentary airline chauffeur business, more corporate accounts, more agency business and more individual modern travellers,” he adds.

The group will also be looking to expanding its emissions-free Green Class, which already spans 26 cities in 13 countries so far. As more chauffeur-quality emissions-free vehicles arrive on the market, the plan is to add them to the fleet; it will also be integrating and expanding its Blacklane PASS airport concierge service.

Our guests would like to see more high-quality electric vehicles, but beyond that, travel companies have a special obligation to take care of the planet

Going forward, Wohltorf is hoping for more sustainable products and practices. “Our guests would like to see more high-quality electric vehicles, but beyond that, travel companies have a special obligation to take care of the planet,” he says.

On this score, he believes progress is being made but more can be done in the way of more fuel-efficient aircraft, more energy-efficient hotels and exhibit halls, and technology that reduces times that chauffeurs ride without passengers!

On a more sombre note, Hofmann notes that 2018 has been a divisive year, where political and economic barriers have been rebuilt. His solution: “As travel helps bring people together and opens minds, I strongly believe that drawing people together, breaking down cultural, economic and political barriers, is the right path towards peace and prosperity. My wish for Christmas is that the world moves away from separation again – whether it’s regarding Brexit, trade wars, building walls or the growing fear of diversity – and starts to rethink how we can bring people closer.”

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