Monday February 25, 2013
A new travelling experience
ONE MAN'S MEAT
By PHILIP GOLINGAI
This is the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter generation. Travellers want access to unique and affordable accommodations. And they want to picture update themselves in a Hello Kitty themed apartment or in a monastery.
PICTURE this: a 100-year-old farmhouse built in Batu Pahat, Johor by a Chinese family.
The wooden two-storey has been relocated and turned into two luxury suites in a resort in Langkawi.
Instead of describing the opulent suite with a private mahjong room and Chinese library in Temple Tree resort to my friends, I Instagram-ed it.
I took gorgeous photographs of the farmhouse and instantly shared them via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The response was immediate.
Friends tweeted that they were jealous of my three-day getaway to Langkawi.
They wanted to jump into the 35m pool adjacent to the farmhouse.
I also shared via social media the photographs of the other seven restored heritage houses, ranging from 70 to 110 years old, which were transplanted from other parts of Peninsular Malaysia.
Introducing the what’s next in travel.
What’s next in travel, according to Jia En Teo, the co-founder of Roomorama.com, is staying in quirky property which you want to Instagram or tweet to your followers.
“Travellers no longer want to stay in generic big chain hotels,” said the 30-year-old Singaporean over breakfast in Kuala Lumpur.
“This is the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter generation.
“Travellers want access to unique property at an affordable price. And they want to picture update themselves staying in a Hello Kitty themed apartment or in a room in a monastery.”
According to its website, Roomorama was “founded on the principle that there is more to travel than visiting a checklist of tourist attractions”.
The idea for the website was hatched by Jia En and her Italian husband Federico Folcia in January 2009.
Before that, Jia En and Federico rented their New York apartments to “a few friendly folks with a similar desire to live like locals”.
The constant travellers were travelling a lot and most of the time they could not afford boutique hotels but they did not want to stay in a faceless budget hotel.
“We thought that there must be thousands of property (all over the world) that was empty at a given time,” Jia En said.
But finding such a place can be a daunting task.
“You can look at the classifieds for such a place to stay but that took so much effort and involved too many risks such as you don’t know whether the owner would honour his agreement to rent his place when you turned up at his door,” she explained.
Even if you found an empty apartment in Bangkok that you want to stay in, how do you convince the owner that you are a “legitimate” person who wants to stay in his property?
This is how Roomorama.com, based in Singapore, came about.
“Basically, we aggregate all these empty apartments on our platform so that people can compare prices, locations and amenities so they can make their decision,” she said.
“It’s kind of like a hotel-booking website. Now, we have about 60,000 properties in 5,000 destinations all over the world.
“The only places we do not cover properly are North Korea and Antarctica.”
“You can’t rent an igloo from us,” she joked.
The founders of Roomorama want to change the mindset of travellers.
“I think our biggest competitors are hotels, because if you think about it, it’s what people are most familiar with. Whenever they book a vacation, the first thing they do is to book a hotel,” Jia En said in an interview with Travel Weekly.
“So, the idea is to open up the concept to people, living like a local, moving away from the cookie cutter hotels.
“If you’re looking at an apartment, you really get something different each time, so like an apartment in China, it’s very different from an apartment in Paris, very different from an apartment in Bangkok because each of them will have a bit of the local flavour, and the owners will also throw in a bit of their personal touch, so that’s when it actually becomes an eye-opening experience.
“This is especially so for people who want to pretend, for example, like they are living in Paris, and they have their own Pied à Terre.”
Living in apartments, she added, meant that travellers can get to know the neighbourhood, the cafes and restaurants around.
“For a hotel, you pay less attention to that, because everything is there for you already, so you know you don’t immerse yourself as much in the local culture,” she said.
I asked Jia En what are the must-stay Malaysian properties in Roomorama. She named the Temple Tree, China Tiger (studio apartments located in a 1940’s shophouse in the heart of Georgetown, Penang) and the Stable (an apartment which used to be a horse stable built during the Dutch occupation of Malacca).
“From what I remember of the (Malacca property) it was nice to step back into history.
“The owner takes pride in opening up the place for guests.
“And you can immerse yourself in the surroundings and live like a local,” recalled Jia En.
I can’t wait to Instagram it.