After almost two years of development, the travel search engine Kayak has finally launched its booking tool for business trips. But during that long time – This included beta testing (15 months), a soft launch (five months) and even a hotel opening in Miami – it does not seem to have taken into account the pandemic.
The Booking Holdings division officially launched its business travel solution Kayak for Business on Tuesday. It said it has signed 3,000 companies in the past three months while being available in 60 markets and 28 languages. The “new” features include cost integration, price prediction, discounted corporate rates and more.
“When travel came to an almost complete halt in 2020, it gave us an unexpected take-off to reflect on 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 (still) falls short are customer service and risk management – getting out of a bottleneck is currently on the radar of many people, especially travel managers. “Customer service is an important aspect of business travel. Kayak doesn’t do customer service so that may not go down well, ”Skift stated in 2019.
This service is needed more than ever as many travelers understandably like to talk to advisers about their plans.
“Failing to reach customer service could be a significant problem for some and not for others, especially those who do not currently have a travel platform,” said Kevin Coffey, travel and meeting risk advisor.
In the meantime, corporate travel platforms are expected to provide detailed Covid-19 and Visa updates as governments experiment with reopening their borders. The number of partnerships that companies like Riskline and Sherpa have entered into is testament to this.
“From a travel risk management perspective, it will be interesting to see if Kayak for Business tries to incorporate risk management functionality into the product,” said Coffey.
“While there is obviously no live customer service help, there are many due diligence tools that are fairly automated and could address at least some of the travel risk management concerns that affect many businesses. Including these could be beneficial, ”he added.
Play the free card
A spokesperson for Kayak for Business said business users can take advantage of existing customer service options, including direct supplier, online travel agents or integrated providers of higher service levels for international flights with dedicated VIP service agents.
“We allow the user to make choices based on their needs rather than paying for each employee / trip,” they added.
Where Kayak for Business will score is that it’s free and has access to around 2,000 providers (Courtesy of Booking Holdings). And of course, metasuch sites or aggregators like Kayak will take away the scanning of dozens of travel sites. To this end, the Russian metasearch site Aviasales launched Aviasales for Business in April last year, which is also aimed at small and medium-sized companies.
Kayak for Business also claims that it “brings everyone in the company together under one platform” and integrates with Expensify to provide a quick and efficient approval process for travel and expenses.
Again, Kayak is known for its easy-to-use interface, but it may take more than a great experience to compete with larger competitors who want their share of smaller customers as well.
After purchasing Click Travel, TravelPerk now has access to a free platform aimed at these small customers. In the meantime, American Express Global Business Travel will target a similar market once the Egencia acquisition 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 staff won’t have to learn how to use a new travel platform.
Kayak for Business will also offer “huge cost savings compared to other corporate travel platforms,” but going back to the Egencia acquisition, part of that deal involves creating a marketplace that leverages Expedia’s vast inventory.
With this late start, Kayak appears to be looking well beyond the pandemic. It expects a strong return for the business trip, with more leisure breaks. A recent consumer survey with YouGov found that a quarter of American business travelers want a job that allows them to travel to work, while 28 percent want to be on at least one business trip by the end of the year.
“Companies that support the convergence of business and leisure travel will have a competitive advantage with talent. Many people now want a change of scene, ”adds Hafner. The platform also offers staff-created city guides and hotel recommendations that could also prove popular if they grow to a reasonable size.
But you feel like Kayak may be missing out on an opportunity to help more businesses return to travel after such a difficult time, considering how many chatbots, plug-ins, and other artificial intelligence tools could have added to this household brand .
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