Riding in a cab or private hire car is the first and last stage of many business trips – but ground transportation, to use the industry terminology, has long been something of an afterthought in business travel. Traditionally, managed travel programmes focused on air and accommodation: the taxi to the airport was something you booked yourself and claimed back on expenses. But that’s changing and fast.
Strolling through the 2018 Business Travel Show last month quickly revealed how ground transportation is shaking off its Cinderella status. Over a dozen taxi, private hire and chauffeur service companies were showcasing their wares. Together, they provided a snapshot on the state of the sector today.
Long-established players were prominent, and keen to show how they had updated their offers to meet the needs of connected travellers and businesses. Gett, the app for London licensed cabs, was promoting its refreshed B2B product with simplified reporting and integrated travel policy tools. Addison Lee, part of the global TriStar chauffeur services brand, was emphasising its premier service credentials for corporate execs.
Among the more recently arrived platform-based providers, Green Tomato Cars stood out with an eye-catching eco-friendly offer. In the intensely competitive and crowded sector, strong differentiation will be vital for success.
Change will get bigger, and come faster
Across the Business Travel Show, it was clear to see that ground transportation is on the move. But this only told part of the story. Beyond Olympia, even bigger changes are afoot that are reshaping the sector. Just some trends to watch for include:
- Hybrids are sprouting Providers will continue to mix and match to create new models. Citymapper Smart Ride is one example. Just launched in London, it’s the latest evolution in a ride share movement that particularly resonates with younger business travellers. Travellers use an app to book their seat on a people-carrier operating on a fixed route network through the city: it’s basically a taxi-bus mashup.
- Seamless services Long left out of the mix, taxis are now being bundled into end-to-end journeys. A single ticket can get you on the taxi, the plane or the train. In Sweden, national rail operator SJ is working with cab firms to make it possible for you to book a full rail and cab journey in one go. In France, SNCF now offers IDVROOM, a ride share service to get you to and from the station.
- Technology accelerates everything Looking further ahead (but not much further ahead) advances in smart vehicles will usher in more radical change. Driverless cars promise to transform ground transportation. The Greenwich GATEway pod shuttle gives a little taste of what could be to come. But innovation is happening so fast that soon ground transportation could be a thing of the past. At last month’s Mobile World Congress, Chinese start-up Ehang showed off its self-flying taxi drones. Could this be the answer to congestion traffic in increasingly crowded cities?
You need to be heard
For a sector that might once have appeared moribund, ground transportation is becoming one of the fastest-moving and hottest topics in business travel. Just in the UK, there are hundreds of different players, each with their own vision for how business travellers get from A to B. And in this increasingly crowded marketplace, drawing customers to choose one business instead of another is going to be vital in staying ahead of the game. So to make sure your voice comes across loud and clear, it’s never been more important to have a robust communications strategy that combines strong point-of-view content and excellent outreach. Without authentic, authoritative tone of voice and clear messaging, alongside owned content that sets you apart from others, differentiation will be very difficult indeed.
Co-authored with David Taylor, Ambergate