STAMFORD — Since its founding in 2004, Kayak has grown into one of the travel industry’s leading online-booking firms.
Now, amid the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic, it is launching a major brick-and-mortar project.
Stamford-headquartered Kayak is opening next month a company-branded boutique hotel in Miami Beach, Fla. A venture several years in the making, Kayak officials want to use the 52-room Kayak Miami Beach as a design lab to build and test the firm’s accommodation technology while also offering a superior guest experience in one of its most-popular destinations.
“I’ve had a bunch of folks ask me ‘Why launch a hotel right now?’ It seems like an odd time to launch,” Kayak CEO Steve Hafner said in an interview. “The reality is we’ve been scheming on this for a couple of years now. If I could have launched it earlier, I would have. But we had to make a lot of upgrades to the hotel to get it into Kayak brand-worthy shape.”
The location largely reflects the popularity of the Miami area, which consistently ranks as one of Kayak users’ 10-most-searched destinations. The property is yards from the city’s Collins Park and a couple blocks from the beach. Kayak has leased a 1934 art deco building, which was previously named Life House Collins Park.
Even during the pandemic, South Florida is still seeing significant tourist activity, as the state has enacted one of the country’s fastest reopening plans. Florida currently has no travel restrictions in place.
“I think the recovery is already underway,” Hafner said. “I’m actually down here in Miami Beach — I live here full-time — and with the restrictions eased here, restaurants are opening at full capacity, and hotel are open for business. What we’ve already seen from Kayak query data is we’re only 25 percent off pre-pandemic levels in terms of consumer interest in Miami.”
Through its website, kayakmb.com, Kayak Miami Beach is accepting reservations for stays starting on April 11. Standard rates are around $229 for a “cozy king” room, according to Kayak.
Reflecting the era of social distancing, Kayak officials said all of the hotel’s check-ins and check-outs would be “contactless,” through either Kayak’s mobile app or a digital lobby kiosk. The app will provide 24-7 access to hotel staff and support, notifications of on-property events, room-ready alerts, itinerary management and housekeeping requests.
Kayak is partnering on the new hotel with hotel brand and management company Life House, which will manage the establishment.
“Our mission is to create value for independent lifestyle hotels and their owners,” Rami Zeidan, founder and CEO of Life House, said in a statement. “Together with Kayak, we can accelerate our leadership in this quickly evolving space.”
Kayak officials said that they are exploring other Kayak-branded hotel opportunities in the U.S. and abroad.
“We’re not intending to turn Kayak into a hotel brand on the scale of a Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott,” Hafner said. “We’re actually getting into the business so we can better inform our software development. What we want to do is build a software product that we can offer for free to every independent hotel and property owner out there, so when someone uses the Kayak app they can walk into those locations and have an enhanced guest experience.”
Kayak is part of Norwalk-based Booking Holdings, the No. 210 company on last year’s Fortune list. Kayak’s main offices are at 7 Market St., in the South End of Stamford, with about 80 employees based there.
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