c.2013 New York Times News Service
c.2013 New York Times News Service
To plan a vacation with his wife and two young sons last August, Peter Cohen had a lot to do. His itinerary was ambitious: fly into and out of Lisbon, and travel around Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Gibraltar by train, rental car and ferry.
To plot it out by himself, he said, would have taken too much time. “I would have pulled out my atlas and ruler to look at how far it was between places,” he said. “And I might have called a travel agent.”
In the end, he found another approach in Rome2rio, one of a growing number of websites that help travelers like Cohen plan their trips from door to door.
Rome2rio lets travelers plug in their departure and arrival addresses, and provides schedule and price information on transportation, including rental cars, taxis, buses, trains, ferries and airlines, as well as hotel options.
By the time Cohen, who works for a streaming video company in Washington, was done, he had planned a 13-day, “crazy, four-country trip.”
Analysts say that Rome2rio, and services like it, are the next frontier of travel planning, going beyond the standard web searches for flights and hotels for travelers overwhelmed by online searches.
Google, for example, estimated that the average traveler visits 16 travel-related sites over the course of eight research sessions before making a purchase; it also said the top source of planning information for leisure travelers is the Internet, with 80 percent using it.
Door-to-door planning tools “can help us get from the doorstep where we live to the doorstep where we’re going,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Hudson Crossing. “Not every destination we visit is served by an airport. There are a growing number of transportation options available to travelers.”
The tools, he said, can help business travelers plan itineraries to remote places, and leisure travelers better understand their vacation options.
Rome2rio “gave me options and the time each option would take, which way would be the best way to get between A and B,” Cohen said. An example was taking a ferry from Algeciras, Spain, to Tangiers, Morocco, and back, he said.
“Sometime it’s not just about price, it’s about time, the value of time, when you’re scheduling with children,” he said. “Every day we needed to get home early enough so the kids weren’t wiped out.”
Rome2rio is one of three companies, along with RouteRank and KDS, serving the emerging market. Rome2rio’s services are available online directly to travelers, as are RouteRank’s, though the latter specializes in providing customized tools to clients ranging from Short’s Travel Management, a travel management company based in Waterloo, Iowa, to the Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office in Switzerland.
Searches on Rome2rio, which is based in Melbourne, Australia, list all travel options, but require users to search further to compare rates, while searches on RouteRank provide rate comparisons on the first screen.
Neo, KDS’ door-to-door, business-travel planning tool, is offered to travelers only through an employer’s managed travel program.
Rome2rio gathers its information from an array of sources. Its flight information comes from more than 600 airlines and is provided by OAG, a data company; driving and walking information is from OpenStreetMap, an open-source, global map; bus information is from more than 2,500 operators. The site also has information on more than 300 trains and 400 ferry operators worldwide, and on mass transit systems in select destinations. It provides hotel information from Booking.com, and links users directly to travel companies for online booking.
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Stjepan Treger, who lives in Novi Sad, Serbia, said he stumbled on the site two months ago. “From that time I’ve used it multiple times for traveling,” he wrote in an email, “and now it’s my No. 1 service for all travel.”
He said he recently used it when visiting a cousin in Hamburg and traveling from Zagreb.
To attract customers like Treger and Cohen, Rome2rio has global ambitions. It offers information in eight languages and rates in 24 currencies, but its data is most extensive in Europe, the United States and Australia. Rod Cuthbert, Rome2rio’s chief executive, said it was upgrading its Asian, African and Latin American listings.
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The company, which also assesses the carbon footprint of an itinerary, makes money from commissions earned on referrals to travel suppliers and from licensing fees charged to business-to-business customers.
RouteRank’s information — which is available in six languages and lets users indicate their country of residence — is also available worldwide, but is strongest in Europe and North America, said its chairman, Jochen Mundinger. RouteRank offers ground transport and airline schedules and fares, and hotel recommendations and rates, and also provides links for booking.
Like Rome2rio, RouteRank, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, makes money from commissions paid by travel suppliers and licensing fees charged to third-party users.
Neo, from KDS, lets corporate customers choose their point of departure, mode of transport to the airport, flight, transfer from the airport, hotel and return travel. Everything can be booked simultaneously.
KDS makes money by licensing its software to corporate customers or to travel management companies, like CWT, that resell it.
Harteveldt predicted that current door-to-door services could become “full-on booking sites potentially challenging larger, more established online travel companies such as Expedia and Orbitz, unless these companies are smart enough to buy the startups. Some absolutely have the potential to be very solid businesses with attractive revenues and profits.”
But Norm Rose, president of Travel Tech Consulting in Belmont, Calif., said these tools could face formidable competition if search engines and online travel agencies offered their own single-search tools. Google, he said, was the “elephant in the room.”
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As for Cohen, he is already planning his next family trip, a spring jaunt around Texas, to Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Galveston.
“We were able to plot it out, by looking at distances between the cities, and options to fly, drive and take a bus,” he said.