Customer service is a key aspect of business travel. Kayak doesn't do customer service so that may not go over well. That being said, the company's massive inventory and simple user interface may help it gain traction with small businesses.
Corporate travel is a highly competitive, but very lucrative industry, and more companies are choosing to get involved.
Travel search site Kayak announced Friday a new platform for business travelers called Kayak for Business. Different from its general site, the portal is meant to help employees plan and manage business travel, giving them access to corporate fares, providing a streamlined approval process, and helping to verify whether or not a traveler is booking within policy.
“Our team needed a better way to plan business travel, so we built one,” Kayak told Skift in an email. “Our goal was to create a corporate travel solution that is as simple, comprehensive, and easy to use as Kayak.”
Kayak for Business will launch in late November, the company said, and will be completely free. The company predicts that its early users will be small- to mid- sized businesses, but said there is nothing structural that would stop a larger company from using the service as well.
Kayak is hoping to leverage its breadth of content and its simple user interface to win over travelers in what has become an increasingly crowded market. The new service will operate just like Kayak, showing users a comprehensive picture of their travel options in one place, but will have added features for business travelers.
Interestingly, Paul English, the cofounder of Kayak, is also the cofounder and chief technology officer of Lola. Like Kayak, Lola was initially a platform mainly for leisure travelers, but in 2018 it shifted toward corporate travel management. Unlike Kayak, however, Lola has always prioritized customer service.
“Kayak for Business is a great product for small companies with maybe five or 10 employees that want to have a list of the trips they have taken,” said Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola. “Kayak for Business doesn’t have the features larger businesses need, like more advanced reporting by department and expense code, the ability to manage employees and policies by department and geography, deep integrations with expense management systems, as well as 24/7 proactive support for employees while they travel.”
In fact, customer service may be a challenge for Kayak for Business. Kayak currently does not offer customer service, and the company said that its business platform will not offer it either — at least not initially.
“This is a big reason that our service is free,” said Kayak in an email. “Our users can rely on existing customer service options, including supplier direct, online travel agencies, or even their corporate travel agency if they have one. In the future, we plan to add ways for travelers to opt-in for concierge level or partner specific customer service when they need it.”
In a Youtube video advertising the new service, current Kayak employees who are either frequent travelers or managers, lament how difficult booking work trips can be.
“We needed something to help us out with that process and make it pain free,” said Steven, a manager.
Kayak is keeping information about the new service relatively quiet, but plans to release more information closer to its launch date. For now, it is allowing interested companies to join a waitlist for early access.
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Photo Credit: Business travelers like those depicted here will soon be able to take advantage of new services from Kayak. Carlo Allegri / Skift
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