Lonely Planet Writer

Stuck with a non refundable hotel room? Now you can sell it online

If you have a non-refundable room reservation but can’t travel at the last-minute, why not re-sell your room online to someone else? That’s the premise of  niche secondary markets for travel: Roomer and Cancelon.

Real hotel luxury at Sofitel, Bangkok.
Real hotel luxury at Sofitel, Bangkok. Image by Roderick Elme / CC BY 2.0

A case in point: A three-night July stay in a suite at the Hotel Fuerte Miramar in Spain was recently listed on Roomer for $113 a night, a 72% discount off the original pre-paid price of $419 a night.  If a buyer accepts the price, the seller would then transfer the name on the reservation.

The markets work both ways, of course: travellers looking for deeply discounted, last-minute getaways at upscale hotels may also want to bookmark these two bargain-bin sites.

The secondary market site with the most inventory in the broadest selection of popular destinations is Roomer which supplements its re-sale listings with discounted inventory directly offered by hotels themselves.

Roomer has a buyer protection policy. If you show up at the hotel, but there’s a problem with your reservation, the company will offer you a new room at either the same hotel or a similar one in price, location and ranking. Or you can receive for a full refund.

The other major re-sale site is the one that pioneered the concept: Cancelon.  Unlike Roomer, Cancelon has an auction model. A traveler could bid less and possibly have the seller accept a cheaper rate.

To illustrate, a four-night stay in an oceanfront suite at the Modern Honolulu  in Hawaii was recently listed on Cancelon for $500 a night, a 60% discount off the original pre-paid price of $1,249 a night.

One bought, the seller would then transfer the name on the reservation to the buyer, and Cancelon would keep the payment in escrow until the guest arrives. As for buyer’s protection, Cancelon offers a  refund option.

To be sure, you have to be a flexible traveler to use either of these sites, as the deals are often only posted on short notice.

But if you can get discounted last-minute airplane tickets from a name-your-own price site like Priceline or Hotwire, or if you can book ground transportation via a search site like Wanderu in the US, GoEuro in Europe or Rome2Rio elsewhere, you may be able to put together a quick and high value holiday on the fly.