Uber-ride hailing activity returned to pre-pandemic levels in the UK in mid-May, as loosening of the blockchain restrictions has prompted users to get back on track faster than the company expects.
Wider geographical coverage beyond big cities like London and an embrace of new forms of transport, including traditional taxis, have helped nurture a strong return for Uber in the UK and part of Europe last month.
Across Europe for the week beginning May 17, Uber’s total gross bookings have recovered to more than 80 percent of the level reported in the same period in 2019.
The figures mark an impressive recovery after the company reported a 38% annual rate fell in global mobility revenues for the first three months of 2021.
“Frankly we didn’t anticipate the speed of recovery we’ve seen in some key geographies and certainly in the UK,” said Anabel Diaz Calderon, Uber’s regional general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In the UK, during the week that many closed restrictions on hospitality have been relaxed, gross bookings corresponded to or slightly exceeded those of the equivalent week two years earlier.
Spain and Germany have also seen gross bookings – a measure of customer spending on Uber’s various transportation services that fits in with any discounts or promotions – return to around 100 percent levels around the third week of May. compared to the same period in 2019, although many restrictions on coronavirus were still in place.
Other key markets are returning more slowly. In France, gross bookings were about 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels for the week of May 24, after various restrictions were lifted.
London, one of Uber’s biggest markets in the city, lags far behind the rest of the UK, as many employees and tourists are still at home.
But recovery in other UK cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds is so strong that passenger demand is already starting to exceed the supply of Uber drivers, who are now classified as workers rather than entrepreneurs after the February Supreme Court ruling.
“We anticipate that we will need up to 20,000 additional factors for the growth we need in the UK,” said Diaz Calderon. In the United States, Uber has been forced stimulate incentives to attract drivers amid a wider job shortage in certain lower paid roles.
While acknowledging that there was “a bit of excessive excitement” after the lock restrictions were lifted, Diaz Calderon said she had “no concern that the growth pattern we are beginning to see is solid.” .
The return to pre-pandemic activity levels has come even before a wider recovery in business travel and tourism, which will bring with it travel such as airport rides which have traditionally played an important part in Uber business.
Across Europe, Uber has expanded its various mobility services to 40 smaller cities in recent months, so it is now available in more than 340 cities on the continent.
Entry into some of these new cities – particularly in Spain, Austria and Turkey – was possible only because Uber worked with the traditional taxi industry, a group most often seen as a competitor or opponent to its own. ride-sharing model. Uber said that since the beginning of 2021 it had signed 17,000 drivers across Europe whose cars can now be booked through its app and even greeted on the road as usual.
“The partnership with taxis is a strong lever for business in many geographies and allows us to grow or unblock multiple regions,” Diaz Calderon said.