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by Michael Shapiro | July 31, 2014

Roomer, a site that facilitates the resale of prepaid hotel reservations, launched a program this week at the Global Business Travel Association Convention that is designed specifically for meeting planners. Like the higher-profile shared-economy entities Airbnb and Uber, the previously consumer-focused Roomer is making a play for the lucrative business travel and meetings markets. The new Roomer Partner Network is designed to help planners unload rooms they've booked but can't use, helping to reduce or avoid attrition charges and cancellation fees with hotels.

Roomer launched a few years ago as a consumer travel tool, a site that connects people who have already paid for hotel rooms they can't use with travelers looking for bargains. Sellers set the price of the room (Roomer advises them to offer steep discounts of around 50 percent) and can reduce the asking price as the reserved dates grow closer. Roomer handles the back-end logistics of the deal, changing the reservation names with the hotels and ensuring that the sellers get paid after the stays.

For the past five months Roomer has been quietly testing the waters with some planners, helping them to recoup some of what they've paid for unused rooms. The new network, dubbed RPN, is the official launch of that planner-focused tool. Planners pay nothing to register and list the rooms; if the rooms are sold, Roomer takes a 15 percent cut of the resale price. "Everybody wins," explains Roomer's U.S. managing director, Richie Karaburn. "We have the incentive to sell the rooms, the planner recoups some of the room spend, the hotels get people in their venues and some traveler gets a very good deal." While hotels would otherwise have the opportunity to "double-dip" -- resell an unused room for which a planner has already paid -- that happens relatively infrequently, according to Karaburn. With Roomer, the hotel needn't do a thing and gets the benefit of having more guests on-site to take advantage of F&B and other ancillary services.

This selling aspect is likely to be more quickly embraced by planners and corporations than the other side of the service, which is, of course, the deeply discounted hotel rooms that are being made available. But Karaburn doesn't expect that the volume of available rooms on the Roomer Marketplace will be significant enough for substantial numbers of attendees to go around the room block to book there, or to wait it out for a planner to dump unused inventory there.

Like his peers in the shared-economy marketplace, though, Karaburn also has an eye toward integrating Roomer's service with corporate travel programs, for transient hotel bookings. "We want to convince them that they can save money by booking nonrefundable hotel rates, which are usually 10 to 15 percent cheaper on average, knowing they can recoup cancellations using Roomer."