Kayak misses golden opportunity with new business travel platform

Skift take

In what could be the launch of the travel industry’s longest-running booking tool, the final version will appeal to many small businesses, but it could have offered a lot more.

Matthew Parsons, Skift

Travel search engine Kayak finally launched its business travel booking tool, after nearly two years of preparation. But during this long time which included a beta test (15 months), a soft launch (five months) and even the opening of a hotel in Miami he does not seem to have taken the pandemic into account.

The Reserve assets division officially unveiled its business travel solution on Tuesday, Kayaking for business. It said it has signed 3,000 companies in the past three months, while it is available in 60 markets and 28 languages. “New” features include expense integration, price prediction, discounted corporate rates and more.

“When travel almost stopped in 2020, it gave us an unexpected lead to think about the future of business travel,” said Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak. “Business travelers and their employers in a post-Covid world will demand even more flexibility, competitive prices and easy ways to combine business and leisure travel.”

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Fair points, but where the platform is (still) insufficient is customer service and risk management – how to get out of a tough situation is currently on the radar of a lot of people, especially managers. of travel. “Customer service is a key aspect of business travel. Kayak doesn’t do customer service, so it may not go well, ”Skift noted in 2019.

This service will be needed more than ever, as many travelers naturally wish to discuss their plans with advisers.

“Not having customer service to contact could be a big issue for some, not for others, especially those who currently don’t have a travel platform,” said Kevin Coffey, travel risk consultant. and meetings.

Meanwhile, business travel platforms are expected to provide detailed updates on Covid-19 and visas as governments experiment with reopening their borders. The number of partnerships established by companies like Riskline and Sherpa bears witness to this.

“From a travel risk management perspective, it will be interesting to see if Kayak for Business tries to build risk management functionality into the product,” Coffey said.

“While it’s obvious they don’t have live help for customer service, there are plenty of due diligence tools out there that are pretty automated that could at least help address some of these concerns. of travel risk management that affects many organizations. Integrating these could give it an advantage, ”he added.

Play the free card

A spokesperson for Kayak for Business said business users can leverage existing customer service options, including vendor directly, online travel agencies, or they can use higher service level integrated vendors. for international flights with dedicated VIP service agents.

“We allow the user to determine the choice based on their needs, rather than paying for each employee / trip,” they added, while Hafner also told Skift: “Of course the company is in progress. Have you ever seen that we were dreaming little? “

Where Kayak for Business will score is that it’s free and has access to some 2,000 suppliers (courtesy of Booking Holdings). And of course, metasearch websites, or aggregators, like Kayak, make it easy to scan dozens of travel websites. Russian meta-research site Aviasales launched Aviasales for Business in April last year with this in mind, targeting small and medium-sized businesses as well.

Kayak for Business also claims that it “brings everyone in the business together under one platform” and offers a fast and efficient approval process for travel and expenses, through integration with Expensify.

Again, Kayak is known for its user-friendly interface, but it may need more than just experience to compete with bigger rivals who also want their share of smaller customers.

TravelPerk, after purchasing Click Travel, now has access to a free platform for these small customers. Meanwhile, American Express Global Business Travel will target a similar market once its acquisition of Egencia is complete.

The Kayak spokesperson said the platform would be a viable competitor as millions of people already use Kayak for their leisure time, so employees don’t need to learn how to use a new travel platform.

Kayak for Business will also offer “significant savings over other business travel platforms,” ​​but going back to the Egencia acquisition, part of that deal involves creating a market that draws on Expedia’s extensive inventories.

With this late launch, Kayak appears to be looking way beyond the pandemic. It is counting on a strong comeback of business travel, with more leisure stays. A recent consumer survey conducted with YouGov found that a quarter of U.S. business travelers wanted a job where they can travel for work, while 28% would like to take at least one business trip by the end. of the year.

“Companies that support the combination of business and leisure travel will have a competitive advantage with talent. A lot of people want a change of scenery right now, ”Hafner added. The platform also offers city guides and employee-generated hotel recommendations, which could also prove popular if they reach a decent scale.

But you feel like Kayak might be missing an opportunity to help more businesses return to travel after such a difficult time, given the number of chatbots, plugins, and other AI tools that have reportedly been reported. could complete this family brand.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a quote from Kayak CEO Steve Hafner regarding a corporate release.

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