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New Booking Site Assists At-Risk Youth

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LOS ANGELES—With the launch of Rooomr, travelers can now book eclectic and boutique properties around the world, all set against a backdrop of arts and culture events. What’s more, with the motto “Book a Room Change a Life,” Rooomr donates 5 percent of their gross revenues to at-risk youth each time a room is booked. Rooomr guarantees price parity with other sites, and passes none of the donation costs on to the consumer.

In beta launch now, Rooomr’s focus is squarely on individualistic millennials, a diverse group historically ignored by the one-size-fits-all travel establishment. Rooomr pairs curated hotels around the world with arts and culture festivals of particular interest to millennials: music festivals like Coachella and Winter Music Conference; film festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Cannes and Berlin; fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York; as well as volunteer and eco-treks.

Rooomr also places a premium on tailored content, both in terms of editorial and imagery. The site features travel-related interviews with well known “creative and social revolutionaries,” original hotel write-ups, and peer-sourced Instagram feeds of the featured hotels. Founders David Andreone and Alex Carlton believe Rooomr possesses the one thing that virtually all other travel sites lack: authenticity.

“Of course our users care about price and amenities, but they also care about the culture of the hotel: the vibe, the neighborhood, the access it may or may not have to the right restaurants, shops, venues and cultural institutions, so we’re building that context gradually into the site,” said Carlton, who spent the last 12 years marketing his all-natural beverage company, Funkin, to a similar audience. Nuance isn’t lost on millennials.”

Greater Than Usual Donation

Besides authenticity, another word important to Andreone and Carlton is social: social good, in this case. Unabashedly influenced by Screw Business As Usual, Richard Branson’s recent book, finding an industry sufficiently robust to support a double bottom line enterprise was Andreone’s goal. And the online travel space is just that robust. Taking the double bottom line concept even a step further, Rooomr went beyond the usual percentage donation, which is often based on profits, and instead has allocated 5 percent of gross revenues to youth causes. Carlton explains, “Most companies give from their bottom line—their profit—which in many cases is non- existent. Our model of giving ensures that with every room booked by our customers, there is a one-for-one correlation to changing lives.”

Specifically, Rooomr is partnering with The RE*Generation, Virgin Mobile USA’s charitable initiative tackling youth homelessness, run by Virgin Unite, the nonprofit foundation of the Virgin Group, which focuses on “empowering a generation to help its own.”

“For an industry as huge as the travel industry, we were shocked at how little corporate social responsibility exists,” said Andreone, an ex-A&R executive from Columbia Records and Warner/Chappell Music. “We saw the opportunity to create a business that not only made a lot of money, but also gave away a lot of money.”

While Andreone and Carlton are based in Los Angeles, managing director Benjamin Hay runs Rooomr’s European operations. A London native, Hay practiced law in the United Kingdom for a number of years, and with a Crown appointment, worked on cases of public importance such as the Inquiry into the London bombings of July 2005. Hay said, “There’s a growing and influential trend amongst consumers, particularly millennials, of making social choices about their spending. David, Alex and I are passionate about using business to solve social problems, such as youth homelessness, and believe that the online travel space is a powerful platform to achieve that.”

Go to Rooomr.

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