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Opening new doors

Roomerama brings together travellers and the owners of thousands of empty apartments worldwide to offer choice, convenience and good value. Hotels beware, says co-founder Jia En Teo

Roomorama's co-founder and chief operating officer Jia En Teo says the accommodation rental platform is gaining popularity worldwide as more business people, holidaymakers and families turn to its service rather than typical hotel rooms.

Roomorama was founded in New York City in 2009 by Teo and her Italian husband as a response to their own frustration in searching for accommodation in big cities like New York.

"My husband and I are avid travellers and we like unique accommodation at an affordable price. We don't want to stay in budget hotels or hostels so we thought there must be thousands of apartments that are empty. How do we find them and book them for short-term rentals.

"At the same time, when we travelled we would rent out our own place to online classifieds, which are unreliable and a hassle. So we put all these problems together and then came up with a solution. And that was how Roomorama was born.

"Basically, we aggregate all these empty apartments on our platform so that people can compare prices, locations, amenities so they can make their decision. It's kind of like a hotel-booking website. Now, we have more than 5,000 apartments and homes around the world. The only places we do not cover properly are probably North Korea and Antarctica.

"The minimum stay depends on property owners, who may require a one-night minimum or a three-night minimum, while others may prefer a seven-night minimum.

"For our customers, the benefits are prices which are 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than comparable hotel rooms. And with an apartment, you can choose a one-room or two-room apartment. And if you are a big group of travellers you can go for a big apartment so that all can stay together.

"Other benefits include kitchen, living room, dining room, so you really have that 'home away from home' feeling and you get to live like the locals.

"For property owners, the benefits include higher yields from short-term rentals due to the premium you can charge. Others like Roomorama because they can also use their own apartments during certain times of the year. For example, they may want to use a family-owned villa in Phuket once or twice a year, and if they rent it out long-term they can't use it.

"If they use Roomorama, they can block out those days they want to use the villa and rent it out the rest of the time. To start, you list your property on our website and go through the validation process where we check you are the legitimate owners. As a guest, you can go to the website, search for what you want and filter by location, by price, by amenities and then make a booking.

"Right now, we have about 200,000 registered users on our site. They comprise small-business travellers going for conferences and trade exhibitions who need a place to stay for one week, or small groups of friends or families going away together who would typically need three separate hotel rooms. But instead they can stay together in one apartment using Roomorama. On a per-person basis, it's cheaper than typical hotel rooms."


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