Uber’s ridesharing activity returned to pre-pandemic levels in the UK in mid-May, as the easing of lockdown restrictions prompted users to get back on the road faster than expected by the UK. business.
Wider geographic coverage beyond major cities such as London and the adoption of new forms of transport, including traditional taxis, have helped fuel a sharp rebound for Uber in the UK and parts of it. Europe last month.
Across Europe for the week starting May 17, Uber’s total gross bookings returned to over 80% of the level recorded during the same period in 2019.
The numbers mark a striking recovery after the company announced a 38% year-on-year decline in mobility revenue globally for the first three months of 2021.
“We frankly weren’t anticipating the speed of recovery that we have seen in some key geographies and certainly in the UK,” said Anabel Diaz Calderon, Uber’s regional general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
In the UK, in the week many lockdown restrictions on hospitality eased, gross bookings matched or slightly exceeded those in the equivalent week two years earlier.
Spain and Germany also saw gross bookings – a measure of customer spending on Uber’s various transport services that adjust for any discounts or promotions – return to around 100% around week 3 of May compared to the same period in 2019, restrictions related to the coronavirus were still in effect.
Other key markets are coming back more slowly. In France, gross bookings were around 70% of pre-pandemic levels for the week of May 24, after various restrictions were lifted.
London, one of Uber’s largest urban markets, lags slightly behind other parts of the UK as many office workers and tourists still stay at home.
But the recovery in other UK cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds is so strong that demand for passengers is already starting to exceed the supply of Uber drivers, who are now classified as workers rather than contractors after the decision. of the Supreme Court in February.
“We expect to need up to 20,000 additional engines for the growth we need in the UK,” said Diaz Calderon. In the United States, Uber has been forced to step up incentives to attract drivers amid a greater labor shortage in some lower-paying positions.
While she acknowledged that there was “a little bit of excitement” after the lockdown restrictions were lifted, Diaz Calderon said she had “no concerns that the growth model we are starting to seeing is solid ”.
The return to pre-pandemic activity levels came even before a wider resumption of business travel and tourism, which will lead to trips such as airport trips that have traditionally been a large part of Uber’s business. .
Across Europe, Uber has expanded its various mobility services to 40 smaller cities in recent months, so it’s now available in more than 340 cities across the continent.
Entry into some of these new cities – particularly Spain, Austria and Turkey – was only possible because Uber worked with the traditional taxi industry, a group more often seen as a competitor or an opponent of its carpooling model. Uber said that since the start of 2021 it has hired 17,000 drivers across Europe whose cars can now be booked through its app as well as greeted on the street as usual.
“Partnering with taxis is a powerful lever for the business in many geographies and actually allows us to expand or unlock multiple regions,” said Diaz Calderon.