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ExCeL London - 24-25 February 2021
Omio's Julian Persaud Talks: • Building business in North America• Multimodal booking use for business travel• Potential TMC partners
After changing its name from GoEuro last year, Berlin-based multimodal travel booking platform Omio has followed through with plans to expand its borders beyond Europe, adding North American suppliers including Amtrak, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways. Omio VP of commercial Julian Persaud, who joined the company three months ago, spoke recently with Travel Procurement's Michael B. Baker about the platform's plans for the U.S. as well as the overtures it has begun making toward the corporate travel market.
BTN: What drove your expansion to the United States?
Persuad: The U.S., which we launched in the middle of January, is our first major foray outside of Europe, and the intention is to go global. We are a platform that is multi-modal. We have flights, but really the core of what we were doing is rail, buses and we just added ferries as well. The idea is a one-stop shop or platform where users can come and make their booking onsite. We want to make travel and the journey really convenient with a single platform you can rely on to go from anywhere to anywhere. Often, traveling, particularly with buses and trains, is incredibly fragmented. There are many providers, very much local, and we bring those all together in one platform and make it seamless and easy for the consumer to book. Now, we want to offer consumers that option all over. Organically, we had about 10 percent of our users as U.S. users anyway, so it made sense as a natural, logical step to go to the United States. Many of these were U.S. folks traveling in Europe, and you know what it's like when traveling in a foreign country, where you don't even necessarily know what the train companies are called or how you book. That's the challenge that needed to be solved, and that's Omio's mission.
BTN: What sources do you use for your content?
Persuad: It's a combination. The heartland of what we're doing is having direct relationships with most of the providers. We have about 800 actual providers we've built up over the last six or seven years, and they were largely European. Since we launched in the U.S., we have 20 providers [there, including] RedCoach and Amtrak. We prefer giving people options, which is important given the sustainability discussion that happens around giving consumers choices about how they make their journey.
BTN: Describe the search process through Omio.
Persuad: Seventy percent of our usage is mobile. That's the trend for us. The desktop is a similar experience. You put point to point, journey to journey, and we present you with the different options. For example, I travel a lot from London to Edinburgh, and I don't just go one way. Sometimes I take the flight and sometimes the train depending on a lot of factors: convenience, time, whether I want to work on the train. The goal is to have not just multiple modes but since you might take three modes to get there, we want to make it a seamless, magical journey.
BTN: How much information do you provide about your suppliers, particularly since they might not be familiar to your users?
Persuad: We try to give as much information that's useful. We don't want to overwhelm the user. The key things are: what class am I traveling, [and] having a mobile ticket—most of our U.S. content is mobile ticketed.
BTN: What is your breakdown of business versus leisure usage?
Persuad: It's quite difficult to answer that. Sometimes I'm a businessman making that trip, and sometimes it's for personal reasons. At the moment, we're designed around the consumer, but we're starting to move into the B2B and corporate space, and we're investigating different options there. We know we do have a substantial amount of users who are traveling for business, and they're on the platform anyway. We're also starting to develop offerings in the industry as well, white-label products, so we can power up other providers and services. We're exploring more of what we can do in the corporate area. We're thinking through what that offering would look like.
BTN: If companies have negotiated rates with a travel supplier, can they get those through Omio?
Persuad: That's exactly the sort of thing we're looking at right now and exploring the different options.
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