logo - rome2rio 157 x 31Rome2rio says its multi-modal search engine – which displays air, rail, bus and ferry transport options – will be integrated into at least three large international travel website by the end of this year. “We now have half a dozen smaller sites and there are three large international sites into the implementation process,” says Chairman Rod Cuthbert.

“By July or August we hope to see our first major commercial implementation. There’ll hopefully be more than three by the end of this year.”

Mr Cuthbert says signing up bigger sites is key to the fledging Australian company earning money. It is charging these sits 1.25 cents for every search above 100,000 queries.

The service is free for less than 100,000 searches.

He says because the company runs lean with just five staff and is well funded by private investors and the Australian  Government (about A$1m all up), there has been no immediate pressure to earn income from its unique search technology.

Instead, the focus has been on improving technology and service.

“The company has been founded on the belief that (over time) searches will be multi-modal – not just air.”

The latest innovation is displaying prices for each leg of the searched journey. These prices are based on historical data rather than a live feed.

Screen grab - Rome2Rio price search

One reason for this, says Cuthbert, is speed.

“Our searches are done in about a second, although the first search you do on the site will take longer, but after that it’s generally 1-1.5 seconds.

“Try a site that connects to inventory and compare the difference.

“I just did the MEL-LHR search on Webjet and it took 16 seconds, and it’s only airport to airport…

“I still don’t know how to get to Oxford (my ultimate destination) or how much those final legs of the trip might cost.”

There is a risk of course that by using cached information rather than a live feed that prices will be redundant.

“We’re aiming to be within 10% of the actual price,” said Rome2rio co-founder Michael Cameron.

“Last year we developed a machine learning approach for modeling the fares of 196 airlines based on historical data.

“We have now applied a similar approach to over 1,500 train, bus, ferry and taxi operators across the globe,” he said.

When asked why larger websites would incur the cost of incorporating Rome2Rio technology without the immediate payoff of a booking, Mr Cuthbert says the large sites they have signed up are looking for a competitive edge.

He added in an email: “We not specifically aimed at people who are looking to book a flight and wanting to check inventory and book NOW.

“That’s a big segment for sure; but there’s another big segment that wants to know what options they have (plane, train, drive, etc.); how to get ALL the way to their destination; and some idea of prices.

“That’s what we’re going after.

“Given the number of searches on mainstream sites that don’t result in a book (99%?) our model may prove far more attractive than the current one, which wastes 16 seconds every time on searches that go nowhere!”

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