Not all innovation happens in travel's behemoths but their size, scale and continued growth means their developments are worth watching.
Two large online travel agencies (OTAs), Booking Holdings and Ctrip, have not only strengthened their own partnership but separately made announcements linked to ride-hailing taxi apps.
Booking has invested $500 million in Chinese taxi firm Didi Chuxing and will offer the on-demand taxi service through its apps. In an interview with Fortune Booking.com's CEO Gillian Tans said "ride-hailing will become an important part of our strategy because when our customers have booked accommodation they also need transportation" and that travellers also do not often know the best transport options to/from airports and attractions.
That challenge can also apply to business travellers in a new destination or unsure of their meeting location. Erinn Collier, head of UK business at Uber for Business told me airports and train stations are the top drop-off destinations in Europe and even train or metro companies see the benefit in providing a ride-hailing option for areas where their networks don't reach.
Last week Ctrip announced a move in the other geographical direction, partnering Splyt to provide ride-hailing options internationally for its Chinese travellers. Splyt will link providers such as Careem, Gett and Cabify in the Ctrip app. Comment in the press release stresses putting travellers first with Ctrip's Chris An quoted saying "Our customers rightly demand the very best service, and with this new partnership, they will be able to access a comprehensive, tailored, and convenient ride-hailing marketplace without ever needing to leave our app. As a one stop shop model, Ctrip strives to provide the best quality service and this integration will change our travellers' experiences entirely".
OTAs look increasingly like end-to-end options for leisure travel, driven by offering convenience in a mobile-friendly environment — Ctrip has also launched a rail booking app in the UK recently. Taxi and ground transport spend is difficult for buyers to keep track of when there are multiple entry points and data sources — partnerships and integrations like these one way to get more visibility.