Skyscanner on track after diversifying with addition of train-booking service

Gareth Williams, CEO, of Skyscanner. Picture: Robert Perry
Gareth Williams, CEO, of Skyscanner. Picture: Robert Perry
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Travel search engine Skyscanner has launched a train-booking feature, leveraging the resources of its Chinese parent firm Ctrip that took the business over in 2016.

The Edinburgh-based tech business said the move diversifies its offering to UK travellers, adding to flights, hotels and car hire.

The new facility allows UK travellers using its iOS app to search for cheap rail tickets for UK journeys. It comes as mobile users account for more than 60 per cent of its traffic, and its app has been downloaded more than 70 million times globally.

Skyscanner said this should help its UK travellers – who search for more than 350 UK destinations on its site – that aren’t served by a nearby airport.

The data behind the rail feature is powered by Trip.com, Ctrip’s new international travel-booking service, which will facilitate bookings and 
provide 24-hour customer service.

Ctrip invested in Skyscanner in late 2016 in a deal worth £1.4 billion. The Scottish firm said it remains operationally independent, but the sale has allowed it to use Ctrip technology and resources, with the trains product one such example.

Bryan Dove, chief technology officer at Skyscanner, said: “Being part of the Ctrip group allows us to take advantage of elements of Ctrip’s technology and experience and bring that value to Skyscanner’s travellers.

“The launch of our train-booking product is one such example. Our focus has always been on making travel as easy as possible and our new train feature will do just that.”

It comes after Skyscanner announced the acquisition of London start-up Twizoo and the use of in-trip content through Ctrip’s acquisition of Trip.com towards the end of 2017, “both with the aim of making Skyscanner a place where travellers can find everything they need for travel planning in one place”.

Skyscanner was founded in 2003 after Gareth Williams became frustrated with the difficulty of finding cheap flights, and he created it with friends Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes. It now has more than 900 staff.

When the Ctrip takeover was announced, Dan Ridsdale, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, described Skyscanner as an “established tech-driven business, which disrupted the travel industry in favour of consumer purchasing power”. He added: “A sale to a larger company of whatever national origin makes sense if it allows for further growth and diversification.”