Ride-hailing firm Careem has announced that its bus service, Careem Bus, has officially launched in Saudi Arabia, bringing major savings to pilgrims.
A new way to travel for pilgrims
After obtaining approval by the Saudi Public Transport Authority, the Dubai-based company will run the bus service along the Jeddah-Makkah route, offering pilgrims an alternative means of travel, and major savings.
Trips will cost SAR 25 ($6.70) each way, over a distance covering about 85 kilometres (53 miles)
How it works
The company explained that its customers will be able to check the availability of the bus via the app, monitor its arrival and secure a seat. Walk-on passengers will also be accepted. The service is currently cash only, but soon passengers will be able to pay via several payment methods, such as the Careem wallet on the app, or by a registered credit card.
The service operates via a separate app from the ride hailing product. Customers can pick the bus that best suits their time and will be able to track the bus as it arrives, the same as when ordering a Careem car.
The service will initially start with 13-seater buses, providing passengers with comfortable seats, headrests, and air conditioning. Based on feedback from customers, the service will look to add to its offerings.
Replicating a successful model
Careem first launched its bus service in Egypt, back in 2018, aiming to address an $8 billion problem – traffic congestion in the North African country.
The company undertook a study that found that “40% of the Egyptian population is not being served by a proper transportation service that suits their needs.”
In a statement, Hadeer Shalaby, director of Careem Bus, said: “The 13-seater service has been a huge success in Egypt, easing traffic flows and providing a safe and efficient way to commute.”
Careem explained that the buses are provided in partnership with vendors who employ the Captains, paying them a fixed monthly salary. Fares collected by the Careem BUS Captains go to Careem, while Careem pays the bus vendors a fixed daily amount, regardless of the number of trips they make.
This business model should see similar success in Saudi Arabia. In 2018, 2.3 million pilgrims descended on the holy city during Hajj season, where transportation often poses a significant challenge.
According to Bloomberg, “Saudi Arabia expects the number of visiting pilgrims, which makeup the vast majority of the country’s tourism industry, to jump to an annual 30 million by 2030, from 8 million now.”
While Hajj occurs once per year, Umrah can be undertaken at any time. This means that Careem Bus will help facilitate Umrah pilgrims’ journeys as well.
Speaking to Mubasher in 2018, Shalaby said that Careem Bus will be investing $100 million into bringing its services to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Careem Bus will be launched in Pakistan later this year.
Careem Bus is part of the ride-hailing company’s ambitions to expand into mass transit. In September of 2018, it acquired Indian bus-shuttle app Commut.
- This strategy could change when Uber completes its $3.1 billion acquisition of the Dubai-based firm in Q1 2020.