Ecosia adds a train travel search tool powered by Omio

Looking to ride the tracks of increasing demand for longer distance train travel that’s being fuelled by climate-concerned consumers seeking to shrink the environmental impact of their trips, tree-planting search engine Ecosia and multimodal travel booking platform Omio have partnered to launch what they’re billing as a “tree-planting rail travel booking tool”.

The idea is to make it easier for environmentally conscious Ecosia users who are searching the web for travel options to find and book low carbon train routes for their trips — helping to reduce carbon emissions from less environmentally friendly transport options (like flights) and fund not-for-profit Ecosia’s climate friendly tree-planting projects (and other decarbonization efforts) along the way.

The tie-up works by responding to Ecosia users’ travel keyword searches — in cases where the route can be served by train, such as “London to Cologne” or “Munich to Berlin” — by popping up the “Ecosia Trains” tool (pictured below). The integration lets users search for basic parameters of their journey directly within Ecosia. If they like the results the search returns and decide they do want to take the train the tool will then redirect them to a check-out page on Omio’s platform to make a booking.

Ecosia Trains train booking tool

Image credit: Ecosia

Given there’s an extra step of being passed from Ecosia’s site to Omio’s to actually do the booking, the tool is perhaps better described as a “tree-planting rail travel search tool”. Certainly it’s not ‘seamless’ one-click booking. But the basic idea is to boost discoverability of low carbon intercity and long haul transport options and ease train trip booking for climate conscious Ecosia users without them having to do the leg work of browsing to Omio’s website (or, indeed, another train trip booking platform such as Trainline) first.

Ecosia said it receives more than two million search enquiries per month for train booking phrases across Europe — which it suggests highlights “clear user demand for easy-to-use, train travel booking tools”.

Globally it notes that around 2.4% of CO2 emissions come from aviation — which it suggests puts an onus on making longer-distance rail journeys easier to book, since taking the train is 90% less carbon intensive on average so switching trips from air to rail can have a major impact in shrinking transport emissions.

“Unfortunately, the broader train booking market remains fragmented and by contrast much more straightforward to book a flight knowing you are paying the lowest possible price for your travel,” it also suggests, describing Omio as “one of the only platforms providing consumers with a holistic overview of rail travel options and their price”.

The train search tool is being made available to Ecosia users in 15 countries initially: The UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Norway, USA, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine — which are the markets where Omio has inked partnerships with train providers.

Rail providers whose tickets can be booked via the Omio integration include Amtrak in the US, LNER, GWR, Avanti in the UK, SNCF in France, OBB in Austria and Eurostar for cross-channel services, among others.

Ecosia is a not-for-profit so 100% of the profits from the commission it receives from Omio for successful bookings will go directly into its green initiatives — such as tree-planting projects in biodiversity hotspots and areas affected by deforestation, regenerative agriculture projects and investments into renewable energy.

The pair said they hope to expand the tie-up in future — giving the example of the tool also being able to showcase connection options and other more complex travel add-ons directly within Ecosia. “This partnership will hopefully expand in the future,” an Ecosia spokesperson told us, adding: “Omio and Ecosia share views on the importance of promoting train travel.”

It’s worth noting that Omio is a multi-modal travel booking platform which means it spans a range of different transport modes — including enabling users to book flights (which are the opposite of a low carbon travel option). So some might suggest it’s a touch hypocritical for a travel booking platform that helps the aviation industry sell tickets to be piggybacking on climate concern while its own platform directly monetizes travel by air.  

That said, the European startup did have an early focus on championing train travel as a more sustainable choice for long haul trips. So there’s an element of this tie-up circling back to its roots (back when it was known as GoEuro) — given its founder’s early conviction on the value of getting more travellers onto Europe’s extensive network of railways by taking the legacy pain out of booking train tickets. 

Fast forward a decade or so and scores of rail, bus, airline and ferry companies are now on-board with Omio’s booking platform, thanks to its success at inking partnerships with transport firms to populate its digital platform with their ticket inventory. And the company essentially has a full focus on providing transport-mode agnostic utility for travellers — making it easy for them to compare and book possible intercity or long haul travel options to get to their destination. (Albeit, it will default to surfacing available flight options when you search for long haul routes, even though rail is positioned first in the tabbed list of transport modes.)

But you can at least say it’s never been easier for travellers in Europe and North America to book a long haul trips by train thanks to the road-paving efforts of travel booking platforms like Omio.

With the Omio-Ecosia tie-up rail trip discoverability is getting a touch easier for climate-concerned consumers. While, for Omio, the tie-up means it gets to have its brand positioned in proximity to an eye-catching “sustainable travel” label displayed on the Ecosia tool — which its marketing team will surely be pointing back to as an example of how it’s encouraging “conscious travel”.

On that front, here’s Tommaso del Re, Omio’s VP of partnerships, with some prepared remarks:

Omio’s goal is to make travel seamless and accessible for everyone, anywhere at any time. We are especially thrilled to partner with Ecosia, as we believe in the importance of creating a more conscious travel future, and therefore want to foster partnerships that prioritise the planet. Flying is an important aspect of the travel ecosystem but we also want to empower travellers to choose more sustainable options, such as train travel, by surfacing all rail travel options in one place, making intercity and cross-border journeys effortless. Our partnership with Ecosia is another way we encourage conscious travel — and are looking forward to developing our partnership further.

Other Omio tie-ups include a partnership with Uber last year which saw it injecting train and coach travel options into the ride-hailing app in the U.K.