Uber allows consumers to call taxis, private cars, and even minivans using an app. It has proven to be very popular in other countries, most notably the US, and is now available in more than 100 cities worldwide.
Private car owners can sign up to be Uber drivers, shaking up the traditional market for cabs. Many users find Uber to be efficient, convenient, and affordable, given the exorbitant prices of taxis in cities such as New York and London.
Uber has tried to increase its presence in Asia, marking its step into the Asian market by launching the service in Shanghai and Beijing, and then other cities across mainland China. After these services were found to be successful, the firm launched in Hong Kong in June 2014.
But so far, Uber’s success has been relatively tepid. Uber Hong Kong’s services have been primarily focused in Hong Kong Island, particularly in commercial areas such as Central and Wan Chai, although trips are also available in areas such as Kowloon.
Perhaps its lukewarm reception can be traced back to Hong Kong’s strong taxi market. Cabs in Hong Kong are relatively cheap compared to other cities, with a starting fare of HK$22 and a price of HK$1.6 for every kilometer travelled beyond the initial two kilometers. That’s a big difference from New York, which averages about HK$38 per kilometre. Uber’s prices are definitely not as competitive as those that local taxis offer, with UberBlack charging a HK$35 base fare and approximately $9 per kilometer travelled. Although Uber does offer taxis, according to its website, it charges a HK$15 booking fee, which seems unnecessarily pricy to many customers.
Hong Kong’s taxis also have the edge in terms of convenience; with nearly 20,000 taxis serving 1 million customers each year. The little red car is ubiquitous in Hong Kong and can easily be found and hailed on the street.
Is Uber the future of taxis? Perhaps. Its success has blown many away in other countries, but it is unlikely to be hugely popular in Hong Kong – the local supply of taxis is simply too competitive.