Ground transport for business travellers is complicated and costly. We’ve spoken a lot about ride sharing applications like Uber and Bolt and its value to the business travel industry. Yet, the power of traveller habits having a foothold in the business travel world, has limited the role of these apps in corporate travel policies.
A die-hard ridesharing app user, for instance, is unlikely to switch apps just because they are told to. Likewise, someone who is not comfortable on a scooter isn’t going to start using them just because their company will pay for it.
These issues, and myriad others, have led to intense competition among mobility technology providers around the world. Even giants like Uber can’t penetrate every market, while communication platforms like WeChat are building partnerships and connections to sell rides to users without them using an individual provider’s app.
This is the World War One trench warfare phase of mobility. Uber has retreated from Russia, China, Southeast Asia; many of these guys are still trying to figure out how to serve the travel use case… [and for superapps, the question is] how do we get more people using the digital wallet or credit card, so let’s provide services around it.
In business travel, the variety of options available to travellers has limited the ability of travel managers to be able to direct traffic to certain vendors in exchange for preferred rates. The model that drives air and hotel buying in the sector simply does not work for ground transportation.
In many places, these ridesharing brands have tried to negotiate rates with businesses but it’s not that simple as the traveller will inevitably have a say on what they prefer.
The biggest issue in micro-mobility is the policy question. Is the traveller safe using this mode of transport (especially in South Africa where there have been numerous cases of women being kidnapped or raped.
In other words: people want to feel safe. At the same time, travel managers need to ensure their travellers are safe. Unfortunately, cities have yet to do enough to ensure the safety of those choosing these alternate transportation methods.
Uber, Lyft, Google Maps, and others are in the midst of connecting their platforms with public transportation systems, as well. Every city, however, has different payment methods and types of transportation, making this process an arduous task. Over time, companies will ease the burden of building technology and payment platforms for cities and be able to capitalize on these partnerships.
What if the future of ground transportation is to eventually have every possible option available through an app, even public transport. At some point, there will be plenty of choices but they are all owned by one company. We are going to see competition result in a lot of acquisitions
The destination and city side of the equation is complex, driven by politics and policy decisions. As these super-apps are able to aggregate more content, more cities and organizations will be likely be willing to come on board if the economics make sense.
One has to think that once the trench warfare phase of mobility comes to an end, and large mobility platforms emerge with strong buy in from consumers, that the value proposition for corporate travel managers and business travelers will emerge.
Until that period of consolidation happens, though, ground transportation is likely to remain a chaotic and costly element in the corporate travel equation.