Kayak is making a landmark departure from its current strategy. It will add a tool to its mobile app to let users who book select short-term rentals and boutique hotels through it check in and check out via its app. That moves the travel metasearch player beyond merely listing accommodations to actually providing extra services for guests at partner properties.
Everyone wants a slice of the short-term rental market. The latest sign that alternative accommodations have gone mainstream is that Kayak plans to promote a select set of professionally managed short-term rentals and boutique hotels in its travel search results. CEO Steve Hafner announced the new product, Kayak Premium, on Thursday at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit in New York City.
Kayak Premium will launch on mobile starting next week for U.S. users. And in the near future, the search brand will begin to let signed-in users of its site check in and check out via Kayak’s mobile app if they’ve booked their stay through Kayak. The move required Kayak to sync with the technology systems of rental property management companies and hotel property systems. The new service also includes prominent banner and interstitial advertisements where Kayak as a brand recommends a handful of places to stay.
“It’s about making sure that we properly badge and promote inventory that we think is a great fit for our users,” Hafner said in comments before he took the stage. “We’ll be promoting (select inventory) — recommending those travel options to our audience when we think it makes sense.”
The search company’s first partner will be Lyric, a hospitality company that designs and operates more than 500 short-term rental units in a dozen U.S. cities. The San Francisco-based Lyric operates units in multifamily apartment complexes and rents them out on platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com.
Kayak Premium goes beyond merely listing vacation rentals and offering sponsored ad placements for sale — which the travel price-comparison search brand has done for years.
Kayak intends to add other hospitality partners, including boutique hotels, and to expand the program to non-U.S. markets. Criteria for being Kayak Premium accommodations include being professionally managed, being positively reviewed, and offering hotel-like conveniences that might appeal to urban tourists and business travelers.
Does this news mean that Kayak wants to change its strategy from aggregating as many listings as possible to curating what it believes are the best listings? No.
“It’s not curation in terms of excluding inventory,” Hafner said in comments before he took the stage. “It’s about making sure that we properly badge and promote inventory that we think is a great fit for our users. We’ll be promoting (select inventory) — recommending those travel options to our audience when we think it makes sense.”
Andrew Kitchell, CEO and co-founder of Lyric, said the move of aggregators like Kayak into the space underscored how the short-term rental sector is going mainstream.
Until recently, alternative accommodation hosts and hotel-apartment companies targeted leisure and group travelers by leasing a few units in condo or apartment buildings. Companies like Lyric, Domio, Sonder, and Stay Alfred are pushing the business model to have a broader appeal, such as with higher-spending and more demanding corporate travelers. For example, in April Airbnb led a $160 million funding round in Lyric.
Property owners increasingly team up with these companies and develop or redo whole buildings for these brands. Yet they continue to represent only a small slice of overall room supply, and the market remains in an experimental phase. Kayak is part of Booking Holdings, which has been aggressively competing with Airbnb and Expedia-owned Vrbo to grab share in the online reservation market for short-term rentals.
CORRECTION: The second paragraph has been updated. Kayak Premium will launch on mobile starting next week for U.S. users. In the near future, the search brand will begin to let signed-in users of its site check in and check out via Kayak’s mobile app if they’ve booked their stay through Kayak.
Photo credit: Shown here is the interior of a short-term rental run by hospitality company Lyric at a location in Philadelphia's Washington Square West neighborhood and featuring on the walls photography by artist Shawn Theodore. Lyric is the first hospitality company invited to partner with travel search company Kayak on new online booking cross-promotion. Lyric