UK travel and transportation start-up Routeer believes its mission to enable genuinely multi-modal travel has been given extra impetus by the COVID crisis.
The firm had been poised to launch ahead of the pandemic and, while the lockdown has forced it to re-think its debut strategy, it is not wavering from ambitious plans.
It says it wants to do for the long-tail of local largely offline transportation providers what Amazon has done for books and TripAdvisor has done for restaurants.
Ultimately, Routeer aims to be the go-to marketplace for travellers looking to be connected to all transportation options when they are doing their route planning.
Chief executive and co-founder, Adam Bradley, came up with the idea having been stranded on an island when travelling in Croatia after receiving unreliable advice.
“We want to digitise the offline travel and transport industry,” he said. “The industry is very fragmented and we know from experience how disparate travel information is.
“Transport providers struggle to be found online by tourists. The majority of businesses rely on driving business from local travel agents or hotels.
“Our focus will be on the enormous untapped market of smaller transport providers.”
While the COVID-19 lockdown “knocked us sideways”, Bradley said it gave him and his two co-founders – CTO Liam Neville and CMO Tom Newman – time to reflect.
“Travellers are going to want a unified place for all information about transport options. Google Maps and Rome2Rio will not necessarily show you all the information you need.
“People will want to know about facilities and COVID procedures – that extra level of information so they can make an informed decision.
“And consumers will not necessarily want to travel on public transport, they will want to see all private options and smaller vehicles so they can have their own space.”
Ultimately, Routeer hopes that it will become seen as a trusted badge for providers based on the endorsement of its users and a way to verify and endorse operators.
The firm estimates that the total global addressable market is seven million transport providers and no brand currently in the market serves more than 5,000.
Globally, commissions generated by this sector amount to $30 billion, but it remains very much an offline world of mouth experience for travellers.
By offering a low-tech accessible route to market, Routeer believes it can cover all forms of transport from Tuk Tuks to hovercrafts and more comprehensive coverage for users.
Before COVID-19 the travel sector was already becoming more bespoke and tailormade making access to alternative means of getting from A to B even more vital.
Bradley said Routeer had planned to launch in key overseas markets, but after COVID-19 hit it has now decided to test the model closer to home in the southwest of England.
As well as integrating with available providers through APIs, Routeer also plans to grow its network via DMO partnerships, onboarding suppliers and recruiting ‘super-users’.
These users will map out routes and transport options in their local areas into the system in return for a share of advertising revenue as the service grows.
Routeer is pre-launch and in user sign-up mode and last week began the search for seed funding in an online Accelerator Academy pitch session. It hopes to raise £300,000 having funded development privately to date.
Bradley said Routeer has the challenge of getting a critical mass of content on the site and it will target B2B transport providers as well as partnership with tourism boards.
However, Bradley believes UGC content it will generate from users will give it plenty of marketing collateral to build awareness and sign-ups on social media platforms.
“But for COVID we would probably have launched earlier, but actually it sort of took a lot of pressure off,” said Bradley. “It knocked us sideways, but it gave us time to reflect.
“So, we will launch the southwest of England first. It’s a market we love and know well, and it will allow us to test the product and get valuable feedback.
“The world has changed but there is all this pent-up travel wanderlust and the question for lots of suppliers is if you haven’t got a website how are you going to reach those travellers?”