Skift Take

Engineering geeks like big, tough problems and the coders at Kayak are attempting to take on the challenges of comparing diverse restaurants in a city and also the attributes of this hop-on hop-off Beverly Hills tour versus a competitor's. And you thought comparing various flights with bag fees was tough?

Kayak is poised to launch two new metasearch products for restaurants, and tours and activities.

Co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner and chief technology officer Giorgos Zacharia tell Skift that both features pose immense challenges since it is so difficult to compare restaurants, on the one hand, and tours and activities, on the other.

For example, how do you compare the qualities, menus and pricing at two or three Italian restaurants in a given neighborhood? And comparing various Vatican tours or several bus excursions is likewise complex.

The new Kayak products would launch toward the end of May in the U.S. on desktop and mobile.

Restaurant metasearch would also come with the ability to make online dining reservations, Hafner said.

Kayak presumably would go after all of the major online dining reservation platforms to enlist as participants.

Hafner said one expected attractive aspect of the restaurant feature is that it would elicit more frequent user engagement with the Kayak app than flights or hotel search, for instance. In other words, people tend to make restaurant reservations more often than they head to the airport for a flight.

In the tours and activities product, Viator and GetYourGuide will be among the providers, Zacharia said.

Asked which new product — restaurants or tours and activities — has more potential, Hafner said both have roughly the same size addressable market and it depends which resonates more with users.

Artificial Intelligence

In other matters, Hafner said Kayak is continuing to build out its text-based travel service, Kayak Snap, where users can text travel queries and receive recommendations, as well as Kayak flight and hotel search using the Slack API.

Both services use natural language queries and Artificial Intelligence to build a database of answers, a process that Hafner said has been under way for a couple of years and will be ongoing for a few more.

Asked why Kayak is building its own Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning capabilities rather than partnering with IBM Watson and Wayblazer, for example, Hafner said travel domain expertise (knowledge of the travel category) is more important than the Artificial Intelligence piece.

Hafner argued that expanding Artificial Intelligence and natural language capabilities will lead to a segment of travelers preferring messaging and voice queries as the preferable forms of travel search and eventually booking.

He said Kayak has a great chance to be one of the winners in these emerging technologies in travel because of its scale and breadth of inventory categories.

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Tags: kayak, messaging, mobile, restaurants, tours

Photo credit: Kayak plans to launch a product enabling users to compare restaurants and make reservations online. Pictured is Nobu Fifty Seven in Manhattan, which is bookable on OpenTable. Nobu Fifty Seven

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