CheckMyBus steers into the future of global bus travel
With an innovative meta-search model and a global partnership strategy, bus fare search engine CheckMyBus has positioned itself at the forefront of the rapidly transforming international bus transportation industry.
“One could say that we are at the beginning of a fundamental change or transition of the market,” says Marc Hofmann, managing director at CheckMyBus.
Hofmann says that a number of factors are contributing to the revolution, including a shift from offline to online ticketing, lower ticket pricing, improved quality of service, and deregulation of the bus industry in numerous countries.
Indeed, the founding of CheckMyBus itself was inspired by the liberalization of the German intercity bus market, which has also spawned an explosive growth of German bus traffic — from 3 million to 20 million passengers annually in just 3 years. Launched in Nuremberg at the end of 2013, CheckMyBus remains based there with a full-time staff of 15 hailing from 11 countries.
CheckMyBus, which calls itself “the world’s largest virtual bus market,” currently covers some 3 million weekly departures on 300 bus operators, in 20,000 cities in 50 countries. Hofmann says:
“Our strategy is to give the user the widest range of bus operators and bus connections, as well as prices to choose the best connection. With our positioning of not being an OTA — including the booking, but acting on a meta level — we have more options to partner, and thus more content.”
Last month, just in time for this summer’s Olympics, CheckMyBus entered the Brazilian market by teaming up with that country’s (and in fact the world’s) leading online bus ticket platform, ClickBus.
The partnership also provides clear benefits for ClickBus, giving it the ability to offer its full Brazilian bus portfolio to much of the rest of the world via CheckMyBus’s 12 international websites, available in 8 languages. Users are doing several millions of searches per month across its sites, the company claims.
“Our business model is extremely scalable,” says Hofmann. “One core technology serves for all countries. Each new provider enhances the content for the users of each country, including international and cross-border travelers. Because of our flexibility as a meta-search engine, we can grow fast and provide what the user wants: the best content. This is similar to Kayak or Trivago.”
Hofmann says CheckMyBus’s foray into the Brazilian market is just part of its aggressive international growth strategy. “As a meta-search engine we have the liberty to partner with OTAs, since our business models are complementary,” he says. “For this reason we are in discussions with several potential partners at the moment, and with some of them we are already in process of integration.”
Hofmann adds, “We can work with APIs or scraping, and we deep-link into the booking process of the partner.”
The startup isn’t alone in the field. In Canada, Busbud has received $10 million in funding. In the US, Wanderu has received target=”_blank”>$8 million. There are also a few multi-modal players worldwide, such as Rome2Rio and GoEuro, whose services overlap.
Yet the addressable market seems to be growing fast enough that there may be room for everyone.
Hofmann sees tremendous growth potential for the global online bus market, especially since in many large countries where bus travel is the most popular, the majority of tickets are still purchased offline. “Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and even China still have huge shares of offline tickets,” he says. “In the global market, about 90% of the tickets are still purchased offline. If one would assume that from $70 billion [in annual bus tickets] only $7 billion are online sales, a 50/50 share would get this up to $35 billion.”
Hoffman says that depending on how long the global offline-to-online transition takes, a CAGR of 25-30% is quite feasible for the online bus ticket industry as a direct result from the shift. “Adding the overall 5-8% of expected growth, a CAGR of 30% or more is very likely in the short- to mid-term,” he says.
NB: This is a guest editorial piece from Dan Allen, a Los Angeles-based travel writer.
Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.