Kayak is branching out from offering deals on flights, hotels, and excursions through its search engine with the launch of its own travel experiences and the opening of its first hotel.
Kayak Miami Beach will serve as a behind-the-scenes design lab where the travel agency can build and refine its proprietary accommodations technology to reimagine hotel operations and the guest experience for a new, post-pandemic travel era.
“It’s something we have been thinking about for a couple years, and COVID-19 has accelerated the need for innovation for independent hotels,” Kayak CEO Steve Hafner tells Fortune. “We saw a big opportunity to level the playing field for independent hotels by applying our audience and technology to the accommodations space.”
Located in Miami Beach’s cultural hub of Collins Park and housed in a 1934 landmark Art Deco building, the hotel’s design draws inspiration from local Streamline Moderne architecture. Some of the design elements evoke flight patterns and aerial imagery, in a nod, the company says, to Kayak’s traveler ethos.
A wraparound public rooftop area contains Layla, a modern Middle Eastern bar and restaurant. Powered by OpenTable, a sister brand of Kayak under the Priceline umbrella since 2014, the restaurant is set up to introduce diners to the latest advances in the restaurant reservation system’s technology.
The hotel’s backbone technology is being developed in partnership with Life House, a hotel brand and management company. Together, the brands aim to upgrade the hospitality space by bridging the connection between guests and hoteliers with the latest in hospitality technology. This includes creating better accommodations operating software (AOS), which would benefit both hotels and visitors.
The back-end software, currently in early development, is intended to help independent hotels leverage the Kayak app with integrations to cloud-based property management systems, wireless lock and access controls, and sophisticated distribution channel management. Kayak will incorporate consumer and pricing insights from the billions of travel queries that it processes annually.
“The pandemic has catalyzed tech adoption in the hotel and restaurant industry,” says Rami Zeidan, CEO and founder of Life House. “QR codes are replacing menus in restaurants and bound books in rooms. In our hotels, we’ve taken it a step further, creating proprietary custom contactless check-in applications built into the beautiful hotel design, and a connected TV application with bespoke in-room fitness options. And this is just the beginning.”
On the guest side, Kayak Miami Beach will integrate with the search engine’s Trips planner feature for organizing, managing, and sharing itineraries as well as sending real-time alerts.
“The pandemic has definitely made people more receptive to using apps and has accelerated tech-enabled solutions,” Hafner says. “The tech amenities at Kayak Miami Beach are designed to make stays ultra-personalized and with as much—or as little—human interaction as guests prefer. Kiosks in the lobby, for example, will provide an expedited check-in experience [with the goal of a 60-second check-in] or guests can use their Kayak app. All of these solutions were already in the works, but COVID-19 has made them even more relevant.”
At the hotel, guest amenities will include Apple TVs, Le Labo toiletries, Marshall speakers, and Revival New York linens in every room. Additionally, guests can enjoy contactless check-in, in-app messaging with 24/7 access to hotel staff, room and property alerts, and more.
While the travel site doesn’t have any plans to turn Kayak into a hotel brand, the company is scouting locations beyond Miami Beach.
“We’re scouting locations in places like Los Angeles and Berlin,” Hafner says. “We are also exploring the Boston area to offer short-term rental accommodations. The new locations we’ll open will be of different sizes and have different tech requirements to test and refine our software.”
Reservations, including full buyouts of the hotel, are bookable now for stays starting on April 11, 2021, with introductory pricing at $159 for a Cozy King.
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