A Travel Booking Site Opened a Hotel. And You Know What? It’s Lovely

Launching a hotel during a pandemic may seem like a daunting task, but it helps if the hotel you’re launching is looking to reimagine hospitality with innovative–and contactless–solutions for the guest experience. In April, Kayak, the travel search engine, debuted their first branded hotel in Miami Beach using tech-savvy elements to streamline usually tedious processes like check-in, ID verification, and payments. Kayak partnered with “Silicon Valley-backed” Life House, which already has its own boutique hotels in four locations, including Miami Beach. We got the first-hand experience of staying at the hotel during opening weekend and were pleasantly surprised at what this small-but-mighty property offered.

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Housed in a 52-room landmark art-deco building that dates back to 1934, the Kayak Miami Beach delicately dances between contemporary sensibilities and Miami’s love affair with its glamorous 20th-century past. The rooms are petite but cozy, outfitted with millennial-approved earth tones (the warm burnt orange accents are a nod to Kayak’s logo), macrame, and locally sourced artisanal snacks in the mini-bars. There’s a rooftop pool and sun deck lounge replete with rattan furniture that transforms into a night-time speakeasy with craft cocktails made by local mixologists. On the ground floor, a Middle-Eastern inspired restaurant called Layla–based on the Middle Eastern love story of Layla and Majnun, two star-crossed lovers reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet–serves mezze dips and grilled fish in a space decorated with brass fixtures and Persian carpets while an outdoor patio is lushly landscaped and offers waterfront dining on the diminutive Collins Canal. It’s all tucked away in a quieter pocket of South Beach, across the street from the must-visit Bass Museum of Art and the Miami City Ballet.

In conjunction with all this Instagram-ready charm is the tech element, which comes in the form of a Kayak app where guests can receive real-time alerts, and easily organize, manage and share their itineraries, text the concierge for dinner requests or housekeeping, and check out without having to interact with a human. “Over time, we want the Kayak app to help our users plan and manage every aspect of their stays,” Hafner said in the press release. “The big hotel chains have been working on this tech for years and we look forward to leveling the playing field for independent hotels.” The rooms lack telephones but are equipped with Apple TVs and Marshall speakers along with luxe toiletries sourced from Le Labo Fragrances.

“We use the tech to enhance our hospitality, not as a replacement for it,” says Rami Zeidan, founder and CEO of Life House. “These tools enhance the interaction between people, creating more efficient use of time at check-in and check-out, for example, so guests can focus on what’s important to them during their stay.”

Some of the features of the app, such as keyless entry and contactless room upgrades, are not yet available. A representative for Kayak said those features should be available by late summer. And while the rooms at the Kayak are lovely (especially those Revival New York robes and the pour-over coffee kits from Stumptown), the heart of the hotel’s energy is its public spaces and welcoming vibe. The restaurant was always pleasantly busy during our stay and the morning yoga and workout classes that took place on the beach (a five-minute walk away) gave the hotel a well-rounded feel with activities and opportunities for safe socializing that travelers so desperately crave these days.

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