Stuck with an expensive hotel reservation? Maybe you can sell it


In March, Alysa Turner, a Washington publicist, booked a hotel room as part of Southwest Airlines’ rewards program. She paid $ 400 for an overnight stay at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, but her plans changed after the reservation cancellation window closed.

Not wanting to waste the money, she found a hotel resale website called Travel lodger. With little to lose, Ms. Turner listed her hotel room for $ 350 just 36 hours before check-in. “It was a last minute effort,” she said.

As travel bookings fragment and restrictions and cancellation fees become widespread, travelers like Ms. Turner are backing down. They are turning to technology and listing non-refundable hotel reservations on resale sites.

Think of them as StubHubs for the hospitality industry.

EBay has long had vacation rental resales. Now Roomer Travel, with offices in New York and Tel Aviv, and to cancel, a Boston-based company, offers similar services with a wider variety of options.

The practice of reselling by individual travelers what the industry calls “distressed inventory” is still in its infancy. A coin may not sell, let alone break even. And some who buy hotel rooms are reporting erratic customer service.

Still, experts say sites are growing and have the potential to transform hotel bookings.

“It’s definitely not going to go away,” said Christopher K. Anderson, faculty member at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

Mr Anderson said sites like Tingo and tripBAM, which automatically change bookings for a lower price, pose a greater threat to hotels because they artificially inflate the cancellation rate. “Automatic reservation cancellation and modification is scarier for hotels because it has a negative effect on prices and profitability,” he said.

Instead, Roomer Travel and Cancelon are creating an aftermarket for hotel rooms. Sellers can ask for any price for a room, although resale is not guaranteed.

“The average discount is 45%,” said Richie Karaburun, managing director of Roomer Travel, although rooms in high-demand cities like New York, Paris or Rome have higher prices. At Cancelon, a potential buyer may offer a lower and acceptable price.

When a room sells, Roomer Travel charges vendors a 15% fee, cancellations 10%. The two say they are coordinating with a hotel to make sure the name of the reservation and the credit card guarantee are changed. (The services are free for buyers.)

When a room is listed on either site, it also becomes available on online travel sites like Kayak and Trivago. Rooms via Roomer Travel also appear on Skyscanner; those on Cancelon are on TripAdvisor.

But there is a downside for consumers. A room becomes indistinguishable from any other hotel offering on these sites, which could confuse buyers.

Jon Eichelberger, regional manager for North America at Trivago, said his service was designed to find rates available and bookable, but, he added, “we can’t say” of where does a room come from.

Shawn Haag, an instructional designer at the University of Minnesota, searched TripAdvisor for a hotel room in Orlando, Florida, and booked two rooms at the Florida Hotel for $ 468. He was surprised when the booking confirmation came from Cancelon and not directly from the hotel.

“I hadn’t heard of it and I was surprised and a little nervous,” he said. The site promised a full refund on his credit card, which it received several weeks later after changing his mind. At first, he only received a screenshot of a refund voucher.

Alex Boian, an executive with the Outdoor Industry Association in Boulder, Colorado, said he had a patchy shopping experience with Roomer Travel.

On a business trip to Washington, he wanted to stick to a budget of $ 300 a night. He was surprised when he was directed on Kayak to Roomer Travel for a Marriott reservation.

“I had no idea this was a resale site,” he said, adding that he believed all the rooms on Kayak were excess capacity. (Kayak said that if a user liked a hotel rate and it was provided by Roomer or Cancelon, Kayak would send the person to this site to complete the reservation.)

The day before he left, he checked his Marriott app, saw no sign of the reservation, and called the hotel. His stay was news to them, as was the $ 300 fare. Their rate was $ 500 a night.

He tried calling a Roomer Travel customer service number, which he said was offline. After complaining on social media, he received a Marriott confirmation number through Roomer Travel.

Now he has vowed to leave the site for business travel. “I really need certainty,” he said. Roomer Travel said its customer service number is available 24 hours a day.

Henry Harteveldt, Travel Analyst at Atmosphere Research, said: “It is important that the consumer knows what the product is and what it is not.

He stressed that it was important that all changes be made to the system in the right way. Otherwise, he said, “there’s a risk that someone will show up and claim to have a reservation when they don’t.”

For its part, the hotel industry is cautious.

“The American Hotel and Lodging Association is aware of the existence of sites like these and is constantly monitoring new entrants like these to the digital marketplace and their impact on guests,” wrote Rosanna Maietta, spokesperson. word of the association, in an e-mail.

Six hours before check-in, Ms. Turner, the Washington publicist, received confirmation that her room had sold for the full asking price. She doesn’t know the price of the room that night or if she could have gotten more money. The sale has been credited to his PayPal account.

“It worked really well for me,” she said.


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