Tourist transfer. History, classification, comparison

Tourist transfer is a service delivering a client from the transport hub (airport, railway station, port) to the final destination and vice versa. The main features of the service that distinguish it from other means of transportation are:

  • The opportunity to book a transfer in advance and pay for it in the desired currency.
  • Meeting in a transport hub (with a name sign or at the meeting point).
  • The opportunity to choose a car class and car options.

There are several options for a tourist transfer: driver’s help with luggage, help with checking in at a hotel, an excursion or a story about the country during the trip. Though these items are not compulsory, tourist transfer drivers often perform them to increase the service level.

Tourist transfer does not include transfers provided by hotels because these services are meant for a very narrow group of people – hotel guests (but this refers to transport transfer*).

History of tourist transfer

The modern tourist transfer appeared together with the business tourism itself. As there was a need to meet tourists and take them to hotels, an additional paid service was created. It is especially in demand when travelling abroad. Language barrier problems, unawareness of the routes, fear of being deceived – all this becomes a powerful incentive to order a transfer in advance – in other words, to play safe.

With the introduction of telephone and telegraph, companies were given an opportunity to develop from local service providers into international ones. They could quickly make a deal with local carriers and use their services for their clients’ needs. The first large suppliers of transfer services for clients were the first travel companies: agencies by Thomas Cook, Robert Smart and Thomas Bennett.

With the introduction of the Internet and high technology, aggregation of transfer services changed from manual to automated process. There appeared some global companies offering transfers not in a certain region, but in a dozen of countries at once:

  • HolidayTaxi
  • FoxTransfers
  • Hoppa
  • ShuttleDirect
  • KiwiTaxi
  • others

Transfer classification

Transfer classification: individual

Tourist transfer can be classified according to several criteria:

number of tourists:

  • group
  • individual


  • saloon
  • minivan
  • minibus (7 to 19 passengers)


  • ordered by a tourist
  • ordered by a third party (travel agent, hotel employee, relative)


  • transfer from/to the transport hub
  • intercity transfer
  • transfer from/to the sightseeing

Transfers are also classified according to comfort level. Most often, this classification is based on the class of the car which is used for a trip:

  • Micro/Economy – VW Golf, Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Audi A3, BMW 3, etc.
  • Comfort/Business – VW Passat, Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, etc.
  • Premium/VIP – Mercedes S-class, BMW 7 Series, Audi A7, Lexus GX, etc.

Transfer in comparison to other kinds of transport

Transfer classification: group

The alternative to ordering a transfer can be taking a taxi on the spot, travelling by public transport, or renting a car. According to statistics**, about 36% respondents get from the airport to the city by taxi or private transfer, 31% resort to their friends’ help, 15% get there by aeroexpress, and 10% take public transport. Less than 6% choose private and other kinds of transport as a way to get from the airport.

The main reason why travelers prefer to book a tourist transfer is because it is convenient for certain groups of people. Families with small children do not have to wait for a long time when using this kind of transport. Besides, such cars are equipped with baby seats that is a necessary option for this category of people. And this service provides fast delivery, request stops, high comfort level, and safe travel. It is also helpful for people with reduced mobility (aged people or disabled individuals) due to its comfortable conditions. As there is a lack of alternative kind of transport at the airport at night, it would be useful for overnight flight passengers. Tourists travelling in groups may also find this service attractive because ordering a minibus transfer jointly is often cheaper than buying public transport tickets for the whole group. Finally, ordering a tourist transfer by travelers with large or bulky luggage would definitely make their journey more convenient.

According to internal KiwiTaxi 2015 statistics, the most demanded kind of transfer is still Economy class cars (about 52,3% of all orders). Group transfers are ordered by a little more than 19% of the total number of orders. And in the third place, there are Comfort class cars (12,5%).

* Transport transfer is transportation of a passenger from the airport, railway station, or other specified place to the hotel or other pre-agreed place (Wikipedia).

** According to the poll of more than 1000 Russian citizens carried out by the global travel search engine Skyscanner. Link to research.