December 6, 2021


The travel folks

The Commander and the Hawk: Sometimes it’s good to let go

8 min read

KAYAK and Open up Desk chief on entry into hospitality and alterations to operate routines

THIS week, KAYAK declared two much more lodges in New Mexico, in addition to its current just one in Miami. Steve Hafner talks about what this enlargement into hospitality implies in addition how he’s been handling by the pandemic, how it is generating him assume in different ways and how it is altered him.

In numerous
strategies, Steve Hafner is pleased he contracted Covid at the begin of the pandemic.
“Got that out of the way,” he reported. “I’ve been travelling by way of the

Steve Hafner at his penthouse: “It’s been an attention-grabbing few of decades, skillfully.”

I caught up with the CEO of KAYAK and Open Table in his Miami penthouse, just a handful of months in advance of he’s because of to shift out. This report states that he stated his penthouse for shut to $40 million, reportedly a few situations the cost he acquired it six many years in the past, and he’s relocating to Fisher Island, described as “a personal, 216-acre tropical paradise” in authentic estate listings.

He offers me a fast tour – enable me
just say this, it’s Huge. I think my whole apartment would fit into just one of the
bedrooms. The “wow” factor is the infinity pool deck that aligns completely with
the massive, blue ocean out there. A hawk circles and Hafner claims it once in a while
drops useless factors on his deck and “it’s major sufficient to pick up my dog”.

Hafner wears his wealth as easily
as he wears his CEO duties, even by means of the worst of instances. “It’s
been an interesting couple of a long time, professionally,” he stated. “We have been in two
of the toughest hit industries – eating and travel – and ended up contending with
inconsistent protocols by governments close to vaccinations and screening.

“Personally, I have younger kids
and owning to use masks in faculty, this interval will impact on their
enhancement. The upside is, I bought to expend much more time with them.”

For these who do not know him,
Hafner is recognised for his optimism and for him, there’s constantly a positive in
just about every destructive function. “It’s your mindset that establishes it.” And the silver
lining has been the opportunity to “rethink work habits” and the likelihood to
“work from anywhere”

Steve Hafner at Phocuswright: “We are selecting, and we will be adaptable. You want to get the job done from dwelling or an workplace, we will make it operate for you.”

Rethinking workplaces, and talent can come from wherever

“It’s designed us check with inquiries like,
do we require the office place? We have 22 workplaces, I wished I didn’t have to spend
hire. Could we relook at how we could share workplaces with our sister brand names?

“It also usually means we can recruit
from anywhere. In the previous, we assumed of incredibly hot places the place talent congregated as
the big cities of New York, Sydney, London, Singapore but now they can perform
anyplace. This is a good leveller.

“In the earlier, to make it in the
US, you both have to be on the West or East Coastline. Now you really don’t even have to
be in the US,” mentioned Hafner, who was born in Peru and who also counts Sweden as

Among KAYAK and Open up Desk, his
employees depend is about 2,000, 60% of whom are in the US although the relaxation are in
Europe and Australia and South Korea, the latter the outcome of the
HotelsCombined acquisition).

Requested if the ratio will adjust, supplied
the possibility to faucet expertise from any place, he reported, “I’d like it to change.
Staff members must be as numerous as our customers. Sixty five percent of our
prospects are People in america.”

At the Phocuswright meeting,
he manufactured an open simply call for expertise. “We are using the services of, and we will be versatile. You
want to get the job done from residence or an business, we will make it get the job done for you.”

The finest
investments built in the course of the pandemic

The pandemic has pressured all
travel providers to localise and I asked if the retreat to regional has established again
KAYAK’s expansion programs. “Well, we can only do what governments let us do, Asia
Pacific is however in lockdown. But we have two several years of pent-up need making
up and as a lot more limits ease up, a lot more cross-border travel will return. The
US is a large spot but the globe is even bigger.

“Our look for traits demonstrate that
everytime restrictions simplicity, leisure journey bounces again. Business enterprise vacation will
be slower to return, and we will see people today mixing small business and leisure and
taking for a longer period trips.”

For him, the greatest investments
he’s made in the course of this time has been in people and the workplace tech tools. “We
did not all have laptops, VPN or Slack, even though we are rather a tech-ahead
business but now we have all the resources needed for our persons to carry out
successfully, with flexibility.”

For Open
Desk, it waived fees for a calendar year to aid restaurants survive. “That was a massive
financial investment and which is gained the goodwill of the field. Now service fees are again,
and dining establishments are back. KAYAK also invested in merchandise, versatile cancellation
insurance policies, Covid protection guidelines, launched Matters To Do, KAYAK loyalty and KAYAK
for Small business. Who launches a new travel software at a time when there was no
business enterprise journey?”

Two new KAYAK accommodations in New Mexico – “more like Yanolja than OYO

Sol Playa Del Carmen, one of two new resorts in Mexico

It’s also been a time when KAYAK obtained into hospitality with its to start with lodge KAYAK Miami in April 2021. Is that simply because you live in Miami, I requested? “Yes, most likely,” he laughed.

This entry into the independent resort business is by means of a partnership with accommodation startup Lifestyle House which supplies the technological know-how and manages the motels.

Hafner, “We uncovered that through the pandemic, people today have been not remaining at Marriott
or Hilton, and they preferred smaller boutique, off the beaten track hotels. The
suggestions was, they liked the experience but they imagined it was antiquated – no
instant bookings, they weren’t far too confident about cleanliness benchmarks – and we
thought, we can enable with that, we can carry the tech and some manufacturer

Though the
partnership with Daily life Household is not unique, it is obviously performing due to the fact he
introduced at the Phocuswright conference two extra branded resorts in Playa del
Carmen, Mexico, “where KAYAK can develop and examination new lodging software” although
Lifetime Home will control day-to-day functions.

KAYAK Luna – Playa del Carmen and KAYAK Sol – Playa del Carmen are obtainable for reservations from December 13 and both homes offer you rooftop pools, self test-in, and conversation capabilities directly with lodge staff via the KAYAK application.  Every has its possess distinct design, glance and feel.

shared ambition is to improve the guest practical experience and maximize profitability
of the resort,” stated Hafner of the partnership.

Asked if
the model was comparable to what OYO is undertaking, he mentioned, “I assume we aspire to be
increased up the food chain, four star lodges. We believe that our platform know-how
can be democratised to personal lodges. Software program shouldn’t be fragmented, it
must be on one particular system, we have it with Google, Microsoft and Apple – this
needs to materialize in the lodging space.”

In truth, he sees more similarity with Yanolja, the South Korean hospitality tech corporation that has a customer superapp supplying a selection of travel solutions and Yanolja Cloud, offering B2B hospitality tech options. “What they are executing is super intriguing,” he explained at the conference. With KAYAK Miami, 90% of the need is coming direct from the KAYAK channel.

maintaining a “jaundiced” eye on the fintech area. “Every several several years, anyone talks
about a new innovation in air fares or insurance policies. These corporations really do not seem to
previous. Points can go mistaken pretty speedily.”

claimed that, he’s “testing stuff” with Hopper’s Fare Lock product. “We will see,
but I really do not see a working day when 70% of our revenues is coming from fintech.”

Asked the
variations and similarities among Open Table and KAYAK as companies, Hafner
said staying shopper facing manufacturers, they have a single common competitor – Google. The
distinction concerning the two providers is that “Open Table has software package mounted
in 55,000 dining establishments but KAYAK program is not set up in an airline or resort
nevertheless. The two are essentially great companies.”

How about
slender margins, really don’t both of those businesses share that similarity? “I really do not know about
that,” explained Hafner. “Open Table tends to make fantastic income. Door Sprint has a US$70
billion current market cap but it is never produced a dime.”

On the
issue of superapps and no matter whether a single will arise in the US, Hafner said the US
now has two superapps – Apple and Android. “They could  build a vertical superapp, but they are gun
shy right now. It is simpler to develop a product than get traction.”

As for
how the pandemic has transformed him as a leader, he reported, “It’s produced me a lot less of a
manage freak. Trusting my colleagues was normally a problem, I am now additional
at ease with a coordinating function vs a commanding 1. I also appreciate
being with family a good deal extra.

“I imagine
at the start of the pandemic, I was frightened the effects was likely to be a large amount
even worse on our company companions – not everybody has the equilibrium sheet of Reserving
Holdings. It would have been a ton even worse if the government experienced not created the
big cheques. It also showed us how significantly of economic action is voluntary.
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