In a move that is part of a broader strategic partnership between two travel giants, users of accommodation booking platform Booking.com can now book Grab’s ride-hailing services in Singapore through the former’s app.
Booking Holdings is an investor in Grab, and Grab introduced hotel bookings directly through its app, in partnership with Agoda and Booking.com, earlier this year.
Grab’s latest cross-app effort follows its recent investment in ride-hailing aggregator Splyt, which enables Ctrip and AliPay customers visiting South-east Asia to book Grab rides through their own apps.
Besides Singapore, this Grab-Booking.com partnership will also connect international travellers visiting seven other South-east Asian countries. The roll-out will be completed by year-end in Indonesia and Thailand; and early 2020 for Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Shawn Heng, Grab’s regional head of business development and Grab for Business, said: “There is no need (for these travellers) to rely on curbside hailing, haggle with the driver, deal with a language barrier, or download another app. International travellers heading to South-east Asia can use – and trust – a platform they are already familiar with.”
While Booking.com already has existing partnerships with transport providers such as car rental companies and taxis, this marks its first partnership with a ride-hailing service in South-east Asia, a region that receives around 130 million international inbound travellers annually.
David Adamczyk, director of transport strategy, Booking.com, added: “As a European, it wouldn’t be natural for me to have Grab already installed on my phone. This app is for that type of traveller who isn’t already using the product, is a resident here, knows that it exists, or may not be interested in downloading a new app for the trip.”
He added that North or South Americans visiting South-east Asia, for instance, are unlikely to be familiar with Grab, hence the Grab functionality within the Booking.com app would come in handy. Travellers are able to access to Grab services in-app, cashless payments in the user’s currency, and customer services in the user’s language.
Angel Llull Mancas, vice president and managing director Asia-Pacific, Booking.com, reasoned: “Asia is one of the agents of growth for Booking.com. Online penetration in this part of the world is at 54 per cent, so there’s still a lot of room to grow.
“While our business has been focused on delivering the best accommodation for our customers – and this will always be our core business – we want to have connected trips; which is making sure we deliver a seamless experience from the beginning of the journey until the end,” Mancas noted.
Booking.com’s ultimate ambition is to become an end-to-end travel service provider, giving travellers a single platform to book, pay for and manage every step of the journey, from accommodation and transport to experiences and attractions.
When asked what else is in the pipeline for Booking.com, Mancas said: “We’re also looking at a partnership (ground transportation options) in China with Didi Chuxing, which is also a challenging (destination) for international travellers.”
Adamczky added: “In Europe, we’re in the test phase for the booking of trains and buses (public transportation) in five cities, and we’re looking to roll that out to more cities over the course of next year.”
As for whether Grab’s other services such as GrabFood, as well as loyalty points, will eventually be integrated into the app, Adamczky said that they will “get the basics right first, and will figure out how to join the schemes (if possible) later”.