On a day that finds TripAdvisor transformed into a booking site, with a little metasearch on the side, a Kayak experiment I uncovered almost made my heart stop.
Kayak is conducting what is described as a small experiment of a site that abandons hotel metasearch, and looks like a clone of sister company Booking.com.
The experiment on blue.kayak.com on Safari — which likely is visible to only a subset of users — appears as though Kayak is taking a feed from Booking.com as the site comes with a Reserve button, for paying at the hotel instead of comparing prices from online travel agencies and hotel partners.
The color scheme on the Kayak test looks like Booking.com’s and there is the same sort of messaging, including, “Free cancellation – Pay Later,” “We’ve received our last available room at the property,” and “Most recent booking of this property was today from Norway.”
In the test, there is no navigating to partner sites for booking or even Book on Kayak options but instead there is only the Reserve button, enabling travelers to pay at the hotel.
We know that the Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston is not a rabid fan of metasearch, despite owning Kayak, which was acquired by his predecessor, but abandoning metasearch entirely would be a radical move.
That doesn’t appear to be happening at all and the small beta, which I found at blue.kayak.com using Safari as a browser, is said to be designed merely as way to test photo layout and merchandising messaging.
Like a lot of online travel sites, Kayak conducts lots of tests, some experimenting with new layouts and others trying out big shifts in the business.
There is no abandonment of metasearch being contemplated, according to Kayak.
Still why not test photos and merchandising messaging on a site that is a Kayak offshoot instead of a Booking.com clone?
Navigating to blue.kayak.com on Chrome also showed a site that looked like Booking.com, but there was the traditional metasearch Show Prices button with rates from partners instead of a Reserve button like on Safari.
Here are some screenshots of the test on Safari.