Multi-modal travel search engine Rome2rio has secured a further $1.1 million as it looks to extend its coverage to include attractions.
The grant comes from the Commercialisation Australia, an investment program launched by the previous Australian government which is now being wound down. The same organisation had an existing relationship with Rome2rio via an initial grant in 2012 of $385,000.
Rome2rio has raised $2.8 million to date, but it has remained as a lean company with nine full-time employees in Melbourne and 25 contract staff dotted around the world.
Alongside the fund-raising, Rome2Rio is diving head-first into a new area of multi-modal search by showing tour attractions within search results.
Attractions featured include amusements, architecture, landmark, museums and theatres.
Data points for the new product channel, which will go live during the third quarter of 2014, are taken from a number of sources including Wikipedia, says CEO Rod Cuthbert.
For a particular attraction, users will be able to view description, pictures, and the time needed to travel to it, as part of their trip.
Some attractions may have booking capability by way of a partnership with tours and activities specialist Viator (Cuthbert was founder of the company in 1995 and remains its "chairman emeritus"), functionality currently being tested behind the scenes.
The "real value for consumers is the 100,000 attractions with descriptions, images and detailed 'How do I get there' instructions", says Cuthbert.
Growth so far
Rome2rio website had about 2.7 million unique visitors in May 2014; its traffic is growing at around 30% every month.
Traffic for the site is spread across 200 source markets, with a concentration in Western Europe and North America.
Recently, the company released a new feature which displays pictures of transport options shown in search results - bus, train, ferry, etc. Currently, pictures are displayed only on search results featuring European content, but this eventually it will be shown for all countries.
"This is an instant hit with users. For users who are unfamiliar with the transport options for a particular journey this feature provides an extra layer of confidence. Coverage is limited at launch but expanding daily."
When it comes to monetizing the service, the company says revenues from rail, bus and car ride sharing are "picking up". The company started monetizing only in January 2014.
Working with partners
Recently, Rome2rio started displaying car ride sharing options in Europe with inventories pulled from BlaBlaCar (raised $100 million this week), and Carpooling.
Cuthbert says he is "particularly pleased with ride share growth".
When asked about the plans to display car ride sharing options in other markets (apart from Europe), Cuthbert says "it is entirely dependent on the availability of partners".
The company's API services are used by travel brands including Cleartrip's WayToGo product.
Cuthbert comments on the API integration:
"Its quite challenging when it comes to UX of the final integrated product considering the volume of data involved. So its not about how its being integrated, its about how its bring displayed."