Blacklane’s recent acquisition of US-based Solve, which offers VIP concierge services, will strengthen its foothold in the market, where it already has the potential to displace one of the major income streams of inbound tour operators – airport transfers.
Solve is an 18-month firm that offers services such as curbside and airside passenger meet-and-greet, fast-track security, expedited customs and immigration, and lounge access, which ties in neatly with Blacklane’s business model of offering high-quality rides at fair, fixed and all-inclusive rates bookable on its website, mobile app or via distribution and channel partners, in real-time with instant confirmation.
Blacklane’s co-founder & CEO Jens Wohltorf told TTG Asia at the recent ITB Asia 2017 that he is rebuilding Solve and relaunching it by year-end using the same principles that have driven Blacklane to be a trusted brand with a smart booking technology and global scalability.
Blacklane is able to offer, say, an airport transfer at prices which are a third of those charged by legacy operators because it has been able to consolidate fragmented local service providers and retrain them to offer professional chauffeur-driven service.
The company now operates in more than 50 countries, 250 cities and 500 airports. In Asia-Pacific, business has expanded rapidly under the charge of regional director Lo Li-Wen based in Singapore. In 1.5 years, Blacklane has increased its footprint in the region from 20 to 80 cities.
From December 1, travellers will be able to book Blacklane’s airport services, with or without airport transfers. Just as Blacklane has made professional chauffeur-driven service accessible and affordable to more travellers, Wohltorf said the new service would no longer be the reserve of the famous and beautiful.
He believes in “constructive” disruption, pointing out that what Blacklane has done is to put existing infrastructure to better use – for example aggregating mom-and-pop players onto the Blacklane platform, resolving their biggest issue that only 20 per cent of their vehicles are utilised.
“With low utilisation, they have to charge high prices in order to survive. But with 70 or 80 per cent utilisation, they are able to charge lower prices,” he said.
He admitted however airport transfers, long been a high profit margin and revenue centre for inbound tour operators, may be a thing of the past for them. But he said tour operators should work with Blacklane and focus on their core area of providing personalised itineraries and service delivery to clients.
Even legacies like Hertz are working with Blacklane. Since March this year, Hertz Europe has been providing Hertz Driver Services powered by Blacklane, where Hertz customers in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy,
Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and the UK can book airport transfers, limousines and chauffeur services through Hertz website or customer service telephone number.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.
– Full report, View From the Top, TTG Asia March 2018