Steve Hafner, co-founder and chief executive of Kayak, is living up to his reputation for being one of the liveliest annual on-stage interviewees at the Phocuswright Conference.
On-stage he says that he was chatting with the two make-up artists beforehand and asked them what they use to book flights. They said, “Google.”
“That was not a great way to come on stage…. But Google has come long way. They have a pretty good product. It’s really fast and intuitive to use. It’s uncluttered with ads, which Kayak is a bit guilty of. It’s fun to compete with them.”
In perhaps the newsiest bit of his talk, he says that by the end of the year Kayak will end its relationship with ITA Software by Google as a supplier of flight data. The metasearch giant has relied on Google since its earliest days. It will instead use data sources from the major global distribution systems, online travel agencies, and some suppliers.
When asked about whether Google is unfairly promoting some of its services over its advertisers’s, Hafner says it is.
“I think it is totally unfair, you know if we were all the CEO of Google we would be doing the … same thing. Look, they built a great service, people go use Google, if they want to provide answers to people showing travel intent on Google they are well within their space to do that….“
“Unlike TripAdvisor, we at Kayak have never relied on Google for a lot of free traffic.
“Our goal is to make a better product than Google and to advertise so that people come directly to Kayak.”
“Our product is more comprehensive than Google’s. We show airlines and suppliers that they don’t. We’re more accurate. But we’re not as fast. So it depends what you’re in the market for as a consumer.”
Little over an hour before Hafner began speaking, Airbnb says at its conference about five blocks away that it would start adding flights, via its new Trips effort. Hafner says he isn’t worried because he believes the attempt will be “unprofitable” for the startup.
“I’m not really worried about Airbnb getting into flights any more than I worry about Hotels.com getting into flights by adding a flight tab.
“Airbnb is an interesting story overall. They pioneered this new category and brought this content online for people to consume.
“But the reality is that most of that content is professionally managed. Most of that content will find its way onto other demand sources like Booking.com and Expedia/Homeaway.
“Their problem is they have this two-sided marketplace where they’re charging the provider of content and they’re charging the guest and. Basically they take a search fee, a tax. I think that’s going to be competed away.
“Normally I don’t give free advice. But if I were one of the Airbnb guys, I’d worry less about experiences and more about the consumer fee.”