In June, European door-to-door journey planner PlaneandTrain.com launched.
It is entering a global market that already has some competitive brands in it, such as GoEuro (which has received millions in investment in the past year), Wanderio, and Rome2Rio, which, this summer, took $1 million in funding.
But PlandAndTrain, a sole proprietorship of Bastiaan van ‘t Westeinde, thinks there's room enough for another player.
In July the Netherlands-based website recently won the Royal Dutch Touring Club sustainable mobility award.
The site is focusing on European travel first. Multi-modal travel search is especially popular on the continent, where, in practice, the train is often a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative for many short-distance trips -- when considering the entire journey, door-to-door.
PlaneandTrain has created a Vine to show what it's about.
A Q&A with founder Bastiaan van 't Westeinde:
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
After graduating from University I went backpacking for a year. During my travels I found that I was often spending a lot of time to plan my journey to the next destination and to find the best deals.
I was often faced with the dilemma of choosing between different routes and alternative means of transport such as whether to catch a flight or take the train. To make a fair comparison between all travel options I had to enter my itinerary on many different websites which was time-consuming.
I noticed that most of my fellow travellers were dealing with the same problem.
I didn't understand why, with all the current technology available, there didn't exist a journeyplanner that simply shows all your travel options from door to door. After doing some research, I started out on my own.
The vision that powers my ambition is to create a journeyplanner that shows users all relevant travel options from door-to-door anywhere in the world.
In addition to providing seamless travel information, PlaneAndTrain.com compares the prices from all relevant operators. This way users will not only have all the information required, but also the best price at the same time.
Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
PlaneAndTrain.com consists of a single management structure surrounded by senior level advisors for Finance, Marketing and Legal. PlaneAndTrain.com works together with a team of 10 freelancers for development of the service, app, marketing and design.
PlaneAndTrain.com is fully funded by the founder. Until recently I had a fulltime job on the side which he used to fund PlaneAndTrain.com. I am now focussing full time on PlaneAndTrain.com.
Estimation of market size?
There are different numbers circulating the web estimating the global market for flights, but they vary.
Based on information from IATA and railway operators combined PlaneAndTrain.com estimates the global market of commission based earning for both flights and railway tickets on approximately $6 billion in 2013.
There is a lot of competition! Competitors such as Expedia, Kayak, Skyscanner, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, Priceline etc. are dominating the market for flight search.
While they don't offer multimodal and door-to-door travel, they are targeting the same customers and are therefore competition.
Unlike most other multi-modal travel planners, PlaneAndTrain.com does not show the option to drive with your own car, because we believe it is not possible to make a fair price comparison as the cost of driving is very dependent on the type of car.
As competitors are spending vast amounts of money on marketing PlaneAndTrain.com will focus on travel niches and strategic partnerships.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
When a user selects a flight or train ticket he or she is redirected to the website of the operator to purchase the ticket. Transport providers give PlaneAndTrain.com commission for every ticket bought through our service.
As the commission is subtracted and not added to the total price the service is free for the consumer. As customers are redirected they can see they are not paying booking fees to PlaneAndTrain.com and therefore always find the lowest fares directly.
What problem does the business solve?
The problem PlaneAndTrain.com solves is that travellers are spending too much time and money to plan their travel from A to B. It is often a big hassle to find all the information required for your journey as it is scattered around on many different websites.
PlaneAndTrain.com helps out as it plans the journey from door to door, shows all possible routes, and compares prices all in one overview. Travellers will save a lot of time and also find the best fares directly on PlaneAndTrain.com withouth having the search the internet for hours.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The idea to build a multi-modal door-to-door journey planner is simple. However to make it work in reality is very complicated. There were many challenges along the way to develop the service to what it is today.
We are focussing on plane and train travel including local public transportation.
PlaneAndTrain.com focuses on Plane and Train travel and does not include long distance bus connections unlike other multi-modal travel planners.
Although the price for bus tickets is often lower than the same journey by train, in Europe few people take the bus due to the long travel time. In Europe the market for long distance bus travel is very small compared to the market for rail travel.
PlaneAndTrain.com initially focussed on finding the lowest possible price for all possible connections from A to B which sometimes resulted into low prices for poor connections while at the same time there were much better connections for just a bit higher price.
After feedback from users we decided to offer the best connections taking into account both price and quality of the journey.
As PlaneAndTrain.com is still very focused on price you will find low fares with sub-optimal connections, but only if it is considerably cheaper than the more convenient connections. However, you can always use the filter options to get the most convenient connection right away.
As PlaneAndTrain.com shows many different routes and options to travel from door to door, a variety of filters can be used to find the travel options that suit your needs best. You can choose your preferred airports, sort by duration, number of transfers, distance to airport, etc.
Why should people or companies use the business?
To save time and money!
It will save people a lot of time and hassle as they can find all the travel information on one website without having to search the entire internet. In addition, they will safe money as they can compare all travel options including prices of different transport providers in one overview.
The service PlaneAndTrain.com will help people to find the journey that matches their personal requirements best and to find the lowest fare for that journey at the same time!
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition?
PlaneAndTrain.com will raise awareness using both on-line and offline channels to reach customers. Currently PlaneAndTrain.com is testing marketing channels.
Commercial partnerships will be used for raising awareness. PlaneAndTrain.com welcomes the opportunity to get in touch with other companies within the travel industry for a partnership. A suitable partner could be a Hotel booking website, car rental or comparison website website, Travel insurance etc.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
In three years’ time PlaneAndTrain.com will be the used by many people around the world. Our goal is to offer the best price comparison in combination with the best seamless travel information for the journey from door-to-door.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
It amazes me that there is so much technology available that can help create a better user experience than the services currently available for online travel.
The big players in this market don't seem to innovate much, but spend massive amounts of money on marketing, making it very hard for newcomers to enter this market.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
I really like airbnb. I think they have an amazing service, the user experience is very good and I like their style. Airbnb really puts the customer central which is also the case with PlaneAndTrain.com.
PlaneAndTrain.com faces a competitive market, with GoEuro, Wanderio, and Rome2Rio all having a head start.
That said, Europe is a market that's often fragmented. The Dutch- and French markets still haven't adopted multi-modal brands yet, so there is a chance to get a foothold. For instance, Dutch airport-transfer booking startup Tinker is having success this year in its own niche, despite the hype around rival Uber in other countries.
Similarly, Germany's Trivago also gained ground in Germany in its early days thanks to focusing on its local market first.
It goes without saying that acquiring users is difficult, and signing commercial deals can be, too. It would help if this sole proprietorship was able to add a second person to the team who could compliment Bastiaan's skills. Enrolling in a startup incubator or accelerator might help, too, because of the mentorship.
Best of luck to PlaneAndTrain.com.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.