Can Uber become a travel superapp?

Hopefully you’ve been treating your Uber drivers kindly because recent news suggests your rating may soon extend far beyond car rides.

Per CNBC, Uber announced it will let travelers book a wide range of travel options in its UK app this year, including trains, buses, planes, and car rentals.

The catch?

Uber won’t be providing the travel services itself. Uber will announce various partners over the coming months, and may take a cut of the bookings.

This isn’t the 1st time Uber has offered 3rd-party travel services in the app:

  • In 2019, Uber partnered with air carrier HeliFlite to launch Uber Copter, which allowed users to book short flights from Manhattan to JFK airport
  • In 2020, Uber partnered with Thames Clippers, an English boat company, to offer boat rides along the Thames River
  • Last month, Uber struck an agreement to list NYC taxis on the app

The move signals Uber’s goal to diversify its offerings as it shoots for long-term profitability and recovery from the pandemic.

The company’s leader has experience in the travel space. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spent 12 years as CEO of Expedia Group, home to travel aggregation sites like Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Vrbo.

But can they pull it off?

Becoming the go-to destination for travel won’t be a cakewalk. Along with Khosrowshahi’s old stomping grounds, Uber will have to compete with:

  • Google Travel, which includes Google Maps, Google Flights, and other tools to help users plan their next trip
  • Airbnb, which has hinted at its own superapp ambitions by allowing boutique hotels to list on the app, and building out trip planning features through its Experiences tab
  • Upstarts like Hopper, the fastest growing travel app in 2021, make the competitive picture even scarier

Then again, Uber has proven it’s cool with competition. After battling Lyft for years, the company duked it out with a long list of restaurant delivery apps to become DoorDash’s top challenger.

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