[Alvin Brickman for Metrosetter Wire]
In this edition of the Wire Interview, we spoke with Cherry Bacolod, Marketing Manager of Roomorama.com. Roomorama.com is the leading online booking platform for short-term home rentals, catering to discerning travelers and business professionals worldwide seeking unique alternatives to the generic hotel experience. In this interview, Ms. Bacolod speaks about Roomorama.com’s most successful features and makes the prediction that short-term rentals will supersede hotels as the norm in travel accommodations.
Can you give a brief description of what your company does and why it is unique in the marketplace?
Roomorama focuses on mid-range to high-end properties which are professionally managed and, hence, are of higher quality and more reliable. Most of the properties on our site are completely private as well, making them more suited to families and small groups than what our competition offers. We also offer extra services to our customers like Express booking, business concierge, and a Perks program (we offer discounts to brand partners all over the world).
Can you describe your revenue model?
It’s free for hosts to sign up/list on Roomorama — they keep one-hundred percent of the profit. Guests are charged a booking fee of eight to twelve percent (depending on length of stay) of the total room-rate cost.
In the next few years, over seventy-five percent of vacation rental bookings will be made using mobile phones. In addition, as hotel rates continue to rise higher and higher, travelers will see vacation rentals as a more economical option than staying in a hotel, and will turn to Roomorama or other short-term rental sites for their accommodations. Short-term rentals will become the norm instead of an alternative.
What are some of the challenges the short-term rental industry faces?
The main challenge that the short-term industry faces is awareness. Renting a home and booking a place other than a hotel when traveling is a new and foreign concept for most everyone. Roomorama has been consistent in spreading the concept to both homeowners, travelers, and the media.
The types of travelers who use Roomorama are typically young, savvy working professionals, families, small groups, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses. These are smart travelers who are looking for value-for-money accommodations that offer amenities, more space, and more character than a typical hotel.
Sixty percent comes from independent travelers, and forty percent comes from corporations and other companies.
There has recently been a push in the US to regulate vacation rentals. What is Roomorama’s position on this development? What kind of regulation does the short-term housing industry need?
We definitely support the regulation of the vacation rental industry. If the short-term rental industry is regulated and requirements/restrictions are put in place, it will be much safer for all — accommodation providers will have to make sure that they have safety measures in place, and the interests and welfare of guests and neighbors will be protected.
What are some of the more successful features of the Roomorama website?
Six-digit payment code – This is the most successful and important feature that is unique to Roomorama because it protects our guests. Guest payment is put in escrow until the guest successfully checks in, at which point the guest hands over the six-digit payment code to the host, who then enters the code into the system to collect the payment.
Certified Host – Hosts that have had a minimum of three stays with three positive reviews get the ‘Certified Host’ badge. Guests are assured that the host is legitimate and reliable and that s/he has been approved by Roomorama.
Reviews – Roomorama is not just a booking site — it’s a travel community as well. Both guests and hosts can leave reviews about their stays. These reviews serve as a guide for future guests/hosts who want to transact with a particular person.
How many corporate housing properties (i.e., properties that cater exclusively to 30+ day rentals) exist on the site?
Less than ten percent. Most of our properties have a minimum stay of one to three nights. However, almost all properties have an option for a monthly rental.
What is the average stay of your travelers?
Eight to 10 nights.
How important is social media in promoting your business?
In these modern times, social media is very important. We take this very seriously at Roomorama. Social media makes it easier to reach out to our users, answer their questions, and to quickly address any problems they might be having.
We use our Twitter and Facebook pages to share travel tips and tricks, destinations, and inspirations with our users. Through the help of Twitter, for instance, we were able to spread the word that all booking fees would be waived all over New York during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We also regularly do cool contests in which our users can win vouchers from Roomorama or from our Perks partners.
What is the optimal experience you want your clients to have when they use the Roomorama website?
In an optimal experience, the user would have a seamless, easy, safe and convenient transaction, starting from the inquiry, to booking, to check-in, to completing their stay. The guest and the host would interact with each other so that by the end of their stay, the guest will have lived like a local through their host, resulting in a unique and enriching travel experience. At the end of their stay, they’d be wondering why they ever chose to book with a hotel!
Any future plans or developments for the business?
Over the next few years, we plan to deepen and widen the selection of properties available for people to book, and to make the process of doing so as quick, as seamless, and as safe as possible with our upcoming instant-booking service and mobile app. At Roomorama, our goal is to get travelers to realize that hotels aren’t the only travel accommodation out there.