What is multimodal travel and why is it important?

Multimodality is a growing trend for both leisure and business travel. But what is it? And why is it important?

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Multimodal travel is the concept of using multiple different modes of transport to get from one place to another. Most of us do this already when we travel, by taking a combination of planes, trains, buses, cars and ride-hailing services.

The challenge of multimodal travel has always been booking all of these different transportation options into a single trip.

But this is all about to change – as advances in technology have made it possible to book multiple modes of transportation on a single booking. 

There is a revolutionary shift coming, in the way travel is sold, booked and managed. Multimodality promises unparalleled traveller convenience and improved revenue for travel providers – all within a seamless retailing and management experience.

Why is multimodal travel important?

In a nutshell? Multimodal travel is the direction that the travel industry is moving in. It offers so many benefits to travellers and to travel companies, in everything from booking convenience to reducing carbon footprints.

Traditionally, multimodality has required travellers to use multiple booking platforms and apps. And that’s just too time-consuming and frustrating. There are too many booking references and order confirmations to manage – and what if one part of the trip gets cancelled or delayed?

But as multimodal travel becomes increasingly popular among travellers, they’re beginning to demand more of the platforms they use. 

They want multimodal trips because they get a more flexible, cost-effective and environmentally conscious way to travel. But if there’s one thing we know about people in general – it’s that they’ll always choose convenience above all else.

Maximum traveller convenience

Data doesn’t lie. And we see the same story played out by users, time after time. 

If travel companies consider nothing else, they should consider this: a customer will always take the easiest path to their desired outcome

If, instead of having to juggle multiple booking platforms and apps, they can simply use one platform to book their entire trip – then that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Travel retailers that don’t provide this option will eventually get left behind, and truly multimodal providers will win out over time.

Effortless comparison

Multimodal travel booking technology lets travellers compare prices and transport options more easily. By having all of the options in one place, travellers can quickly compare prices and schedules to find the best option for their needs.

Travel management, simplified

Multimodal travel booking technology lets users manage their whole trip in one place.

From booking flights to renting cars, every tiny detail can be managed in a single travel management platform. When one part changes, the others can be modified to suit the rest of the trip. This keeps all the different transportation options in sync; properly coordinated and scheduled, with a minimal risk of missed connections.

Better for the planet

Multimodal bookings allow travellers to book a flight that includes a portion of the trip covered by public ground transport. This reduces the total carbon footprint of a journey, and the bigger the mix of public ground transport, the lower the emissions generated by that trip.

This is great news for eco-conscious customers – but it’s even better news for corporate travel managers.

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), spearheaded by the EU, aims to make companies not only more accountable for their CO2 output, but to drive them to actually reduce it. It makes reporting on carbon emissions and the steps to cut them down a legal requirement.

And this is a major phase shift from the passive “carbon credit culture”, into a state of action. 

Multimodal travel will have a profound effect on the outcomes of these sustainability reports, and the adoption of multimodal trips by corporates and TMCs is likely to ramp up in the coming years.

Multimodality is clearly the future of travel. So why hasn’t anyone else cracked it yet?

The challenges of building a multimodal travel platform

Building a unified travel platform isn’t easy – but it’s our mission to make the fragmented ecosystem of disparate travel technologies all work together. These are the main challenges we face in completing that mission:

1. Data

The major challenge in creating a multimodal travel platform is meaningfully combining data from a multitude of sources: airlines, rail networks, ferry operators, hotels, car rental companies – and basically every other travel provider you can think of.

Bringing all this data together in a way that works through a single point of access has been a uniquely complex, and data-intensive, process.

Requests need to be sent intelligently to the suppliers who can fulfil them, while working within their API rate limits, to ensure that users aren't prevented from searching for their trips.

Seemingly innocuous decisions such as minimum connection times between journey legs using different transport types can impact the traveller experience. And travel disruption of any kind can have a significant knock-on effect to any onward connections in a multimodal itinerary - so being able to monitor this and react automatically is essential.

But by working closely with every one of our travel industry partners, we have built the largest bookable travel inventory available in the world.

The result is Junction; a single booking and management experience for multimodal trips.

Junction aggregates data from a massive pool of global sources, giving customers access to the widest possible range of multimodal travel options, including:

  • Air

  • Rail

  • Bus

  • Ferry

  • Car rental

  • Shared mobility

This gives travellers an unrivalled level of control over their trip, and lets them travel their way. And we haven’t even covered hotels and accommodation in this list. But this brings us onto challenge number two; how do you make the experience of building a trip using so many providers easy?

2. The user experience

The problem with most travel technology today is that it’s dated. It runs off tech invented as far back as the 1970s. Old tech shoehorned into a fancy new interface will still have all the same problems under the hood, and that’s the problem we find ourselves lumbered with.

Creating a user experience is a lot more complicated than making something that looks nice – and while the visual user interface is important, what matters more is the functionality. It has to be flexible enough for the user to get the desired result, but simple enough for anyone to use.

Read more – The importance of UX in travel technology

That sounds like a catch-22, but we need to remember that the context of a booking is what counts; once we know the start and end points, we can tailor the content we offer for everything in between.

This narrows things down by a long way, so the user can build an entire multimodal trip with ease.

Travellers also love to tweak suggested journeys - stopping for a couple of hours mid-journey for lunch, or visiting somewhere en route. Being able to accommodate those adjustments and recalculate journeys, whether pre or post-booking, means creating a platform that is flexible enough to allow users to make those changes with minimal effort. And we all know that the path of least resistance is the path more travelled.

Another consideration, especially from a corporate travel perspective, is duty of care. Traveller safety is of paramount importance, and in some destinations using certain modes of transport may not be advisable. So it's also important to enable configuration of which transport options are available, in order to personalise offerings to customers.

Travel providers and retailers also stand to benefit. Operators typically limited to selling their products locally can expand their footprint, enabling countless more opportunities to generate revenue, all perfectly in line with the customer’s expectations and desires.

Adding new products and travel modes to their existing offering provides greater visibility of what travellers are actually looking for, not to mention they creating deeper relationships with their customers by offering them more of what they want. It’s a huge win, and more and more travel companies are taking notice.

3. Reliability

Last but not least, a multimodal travel platform has to be reliable and secure. It can’t struggle with downtime, getting the latest fares or rates, and it can’t be prone to vulnerabilities. With so many different interlinked systems, it’s an enormous challenge that requires diligent oversight.

Snowfall invested in a robust technology infrastructure with industry-leading security protocols. Junction is built on secure cloud infrastructure, and undergoes regular stress-testing and maintenance – to make sure uptime is prioritised, and that our customers are always secure.

All your travel options, in one place

Multimodal travel is the future of travel. But booking technology needs to keep up with that future.

Junction is our answer to the call for a unified, seamless travel ecosystem.

To find out more about Junction, talk to our team.



Media contact

Andrew Harreiter

Head of Marketing


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