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Kayak lands on Amazon Alexa, bringing voice search to travel discovery

Travel search engine Kayak has launched voice-enabled travel search on Amazon Alexa, underscoring the interest in the platform and the potential for natural language processing to support research for products and services.

Consumers can now use one of several Alexa-enabled devices to search flights, hotels and rental cars as well as receive real-time flight status updates. While booking on Kayak is not currently available via Alexa, the travel brand is considering adding this capability as well.

“We want Kayak to be accessible on the platforms where people are spending their time,” said Giorgos Zacharia, chief technology officer at Kayak. “Given the consumer interest in Alexa and the enormous potential we see with interfaces powered by natural language processing – we were excited to launch this integration.

“Kayak’s skill on Alexa allows users to jump-start their travel planning, whether they are looking for inspiration, pricing info on flights, hotel and rental cars or real time flight tracking,” he said.

The right questions
Consumers with an Alexa-enabled device such as an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap or Fire TV can turn on the Kayak skill in their settings menu in the Alexa app. Once this is done, users can tell Alexa to “Open Kayak” or “Ask Kayak” to receive travel-related information on demand.

Users simply ask their device questions about specific flights or locations as well as questions designed to help them discover new destinations.

The Kayak Alexa skill can provide information such as where users can go for $300, hotels in Barcelona and a flight’s expected arrival time.

The launch of Kayak on Alexa-enabled devices marks the first time that the travel service has become accessible other than on a desktop or mobile device.

Mobile’s role
Alexa is a cloud-based voice service that continues to get smarter in terms of natural language understanding and accuracy. It boasts more than 800 skills, which is what third-party brand integrations are called.

As the Internet of Things, voice recognition and artificial intelligence evolve and gain adoption, the future of travel is expected to integrate voice, chat and other new ways to plan and manage a trip, per Kayak.

Mobile continues to play a key role for marketers even as these other areas pick up, often integrating with the new devices and making the smartphone a consumer’s way to control his or her personal ecosystem. For example, Alexa users typically leverage a smartphone app to enable new skills for Alexa.

Commerce-driven actions are growing on Alexa as well, such as Domino’s offering pizza ordering (see story).

Booking travel could be the next step for Kayak on Alexa.

“As far as a booking goes, for now, you will still need to access Kayak via mobile or desktop – but helping travelers complete a booking via Alexa is absolutely on our radar,” Mr. Zacharia said.

“Mobile is – and will continue to be – a very important part of our business,” he said. “More than one-third of our traffic is from mobile, and that number is climbing all the time.”