Kayak, the Booking Holdings-owned travel search engine, is getting
into the hotel business.
In partnership with accommodation startup Life House, a PhocusWire
Hot 25 of 2020, Kayak Miami Beach
will open in April, taking over a property
that, pre-COVID, had operated as Life House Collins Park.
Kayak is now leasing the
property and is paying Life House to manage it.
Kayak’s existing mobile
app – until now focused on flight, hotel and car rental search and booking - will
become the hotel’s guest app, offering contactless check-in, communications
with hotel staff, itinerary management, housekeeping requests and more.
And in partnership with Life
House, Kayak CEO Steve Hafner says the Miami Beach property will become a “design
lab” to develop software for independent and boutique properties.
“Right now the hotel
ecosystem is very fragment for an independent hotel.... We want to have one
contract basically that you sign that gives you Life House as your operator, Kayak
distribution and a tight connection between every little piece of the software
stack,” Hafner says.
“Price comparison is still
going to be our bread and butter... We saw this opportunity to bring our tech
savvy to these independent properties. And we know from our search data that
these properties are what consumers right now are finding very appealing, and they
just don’t have the ability to keep up with the Hyatts and the Hiltons and the
Marriotts of the world in terms of their tech capability. So... we are building
it for them.”
Hafner says Kayak has
been thinking about this concept for a couple of years, and COVID-19 has
accelerated development. But details such as the business plan for providing
the software to other properties are still in the works.
“Our hope is to make it
free so that hotels will adopt it. We want our consumers, our users, to benefit
from this capability. And the best way to stimulate adoption in the hotel
community is to make it free. So that’s what we are trying to figure out now,”
currently being developed by the partners is intended to help independent
hotels “leverage the Kayak app.” It will include integrations to cloud-based
property management systems, wireless lock and access controls and distribution
channel management, incorporating Kayak’s consumer and pricing insights culled
from its travel query data.
Along with giving
prominence to the Kayak Miami Beach property when users search for hotels in
that region, Hafner says other hotels that adopt the software will be badged in
the platform as “Kayak-enabled.”
“That will tell a consumer
if I book this hotel, I know what to expect from a guest experience. I can
check in and upgrade on my phone and I can contact housekeeping. When I walk
into the room, my personal preferences for the air temp and the music and the Apple
TV will already be remembered,” he says.
Founded in 2017, Life
House is a technology-driven lifestyle hotel company. Its most
recent funding round was a $30 million Series B in January 2020, led by
travel-tech investment firm Thayer Ventures.
“Our mission is to create value for independent lifestyle hotels
and their owners,” says Rami Zeidan, founder and CEO of Life House.
“Together with Kayak, we can accelerate our leadership in this
quickly evolving space.”
Hafner says while he does not want to turn
Kayak into a hotel brand that competes against the large chains, he does want
to add additional, diverse properties to its portfolio to test and refine its software. The
Miami Beach location is a 52-room boutique hotel. Next Hafner says he is
interested in a “bigger hotel in a more business/leisure mix location... one
outside the United States... and one in the non-hotel accommodation space.”