Kayak is letting customers of its popular travel search site book hotel rooms directly from Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, thanks to a new integration launched today.
The latest version of the Kayak Alexa skill will let users say things like “Alexa, ask Kayak to book me a hotel room in Boston,” and Alexa will guide them through the resulting set of available lodgings. When users find a hotel they want, they can then talk through the process of booking it without ever having to interact with a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Kayak announced the skill update at VentureBeat’s MB 2017 conference in San Francisco.
It took many months for Kayak to build the skill and bring it to market, in part because the travel company wanted to make sure it was making the right choices around user experience. After all, booking a hotel room can cost hundreds of dollars. If users pick the wrong one, that could be a costly mistake. Users are also paying for rooms that often they haven’t seen before, which is different from doing something like ordering a pizza.
“If you know about the [virtual assistant] space, you have seen examples of ordering food or ordering a cab,” Matthias Keller, Kayak’s chief scientist, said in an interview. “These are all transactions with a rather low transaction value, and there is also a high expectation for what you are going to get, since you have probably [paid for] that before.”
At this point, Keller thinks the skill will be most useful for people who want to book rooms at hotels that they’ve stayed at before. In addition, he also thinks that it could appeal to business travelers and other people who don’t care as much about the particular aesthetics of a hotel, so long as it’s up to their quality standards.
In other words, people who are booking their honeymoon hideaway probably won’t leave the choosing up to Alexa, sight unseen.
Users may also find that there are fewer rooms available to book through the Kayak Alexa skill than the company’s website or mobile app. That’s because the skill only provides users with rooms that can be cancelled with no strings attached, so people don’t have to worry about shelling out hundreds of dollars for a hotel room they don’t want to stay in.
This isn’t the end of Kayak’s planned updates for its skill, either: the company said that it is hoping to make its integration available on Amazon’s Echo Show device later this summer. Adding a screen could be useful for Kayak, since that will allow the company to display information about the hotel — even pictures of the room and grounds — and a possible reservation without talking customers through every detail.