Those of you who have been reading Vagobond for a while are certainly aware of the many ways technology has changed travel. In many ways, I’m a big fan of just how easy it has become to find the perfect place wherever you might be going. Sites like TripAdviser and Couchsurfing have made it possible to find out what a hotel is REALLY like or to skip the hotel altogether and just make some new friends and then crash at their place.
Still, there’s a lot of space between those two realities and over the past year or so, I’ve been keen to watch companies spring up that fill that gap. First there was AirBnB which gave those who liked the idea of couchsurfing but wanted to earn something out of it a chance to do so and at about the same time came Roomorama.com which makes it easy to list and find short term rentals just about anywhere in the world.
Here is a blurb from Roomorama’s about page:
Roomorama is the discerning traveler’s one-stop shop for short-term rentals. Wherever your next trip will be, or wherever your property is, use our online marketplace to connect and transact with hosts and guests who believe in convenient, rewarding and unique travel experiences. With an ever-growing inventory of hospitable accommodations, Roomorama is working to make you feel at home wherever you are.
I was contacted by one of Roomorama’s agents back in February and asked to try the service. Even though I had a lot of travel lined up at the time, I wanted to wait and share the experience with my wife to see how it worked for a couple. By the time we were ready to take them up on the offer (and this is a sponsored post) our first daughter had been born. So not only was this a test run with a husband and wife, but also with a one month old baby!
We needed to go to Casablanca, Morocco to file the paperwork for our daughter’s passport and citizenship at the American Consulate and while we had planned on staying with friends, it occurred to me that this was a great time to give Roomorama a family field test. I contacted their rep and they agreed to cover the costs of our stay in return for an honest review of the service.
Here’s the way Roomorama works. If you have a rental space such as a hotel or guest house room or an apartment you want to use for short term rentals – you can list it and the availability on Roomorama. They use a confirmation process to make sure that you are the person renting and then you are off. Now, the guests come – people who want to see more than just hotel rooms visit Roomorama and see a wide variety of accommodation. They contact the owners about the availability. The owner confirms. Guests pay Roomorama and Roomorama gives the guest a confirmation code which when presented to the owner is redeemed for payment from Roomorama by paypal, check, or bank transfer.
Ideally, there will be a large number of properties available in the city you are heading to. For example, if you go to Marrrakech, Morocco you will find more than 120 different rooms, apartments, villas, or riads available ranging from $40 all the way up into the $1000 range. Granted, Roomorama is new to Africa and so most of the inventory is actually guest houses and riads looking to fill their vacancies (which means you can save some money). In places like New York, Paris, or Tokyo you can find regular people renting out their homes, rooms in their homes, or turning their long term rental properties into vacation rentals. For me, this is exciting as it makes the number of places I can stay, the number of neighborhoods, or even the range of prices far greater. This is a super-win for the consumer and the person renting.
When I looked at Casablanca, I saw eight different properties. After looking through them, I realized it was one property offering eight different rooms or rates. Morocco is a funny place. I told my wife about the place and she asked what the name of the owner was. When I told her she said “Everyone in Morocco knows that name and they are one of the richest families here. They don’t need money and they will treat us indifferently. This is just extra fruit from their orchard.” Granted, the place was way beyond my normal budget. I wrote to the owner and requested the room they had available for $255 per night.
Within minutes I had an email from Roomorama that told me the owner was being contacted and offered to let me look at other properties while I waited. They also said that if I didn’t hear from the owner they would help me contact him. I didn’t hear from him.
The next day Roomorama sent me another email saying that the owner hadn’t responded and they would contact him if I wanted. I was using the standard Roomorama request by the way and this wasn’t any sort of special treatment. They contacted the manager but she didn’t speak any English so the next day they called when the owner returned and had one of their agents speak to him in Arabic (but funny enough – he actually does speak English). He confirmed that he had space and said that I could bring my family. Roomorama contacted me and told me that we were confirmed.
The next part was a bit of a problem. After we were enroute (and we didn’t find this out until after we arrived) he informed Roomorama that he couldn’t accept any of their payment methods and that we would need to pay cash. We arrived expecting the confirmation number to be honored but found that instead, we had to pay cash – which I should point out – Roomorama reimbursed within 12 hours. In speaking with the host, he claimed that he didn’t know how he had become connected with Roomorama and that the prices were wrong. He also said that none of this was his fault. This, was a fairly typical reaction and when I pointed out that he was a confirmed host and that all of his information was being used, he told me that he had signed up just as a way to promote his hotel for free and listed higher prices and his guesthouse name in the hopes of using Roomorama to send direct business to himself.
If all of this sounds tricky and ugly, it is – but none of this was actually Roomorama’s fault. I spoke with the manager later and found that she had received our emails but been told not to answer. I don’t pretend to understand the Moroccan mentality at times like this – for me, it seems that he wanted free promotion and in me, had the perfect opportunity, but instead chose to treat me and my family (and Roomorama) as if we were trying to trick him. The agent with Roomorama was attentive and considerate with us all the way through and helped to make everything work. As for the property we selected…somehow I don’t think they will be listed with Roomorama for very long. Roomorama and I agreed that this particular property and owner seemed to be not only pretentious but also inconsiderate and unethical. My wife simply shook her head knowingly (after telling me I told you so more than a few times).
If you’d like to see my review of the hotel – you will find it at:
Riad Jnaan Sherazad and other overpriced Casablanca Hotels
As for Roomorama – I’m impressed. I recommend that you give them a shot – but here’s a pro-tip- if you are attempting to rent a room that looks like it’s from a commercial property – make sure you read the TripAdviser reviews before you decide.
To list or find interesting properties in the city you live in or the one you are going to – check out Roomorama.com.