getaroom.com one year laterNewsBy Dennis Schaal | September 3, 2010Share This article was originally published on It's been more than a year since the launch of getaroom, the brainchild of the founders of hotels.com, and the most consistent thing you hear about this start-up hotel-reservations business is that it "flies under the radar."getaroom.com traffic statistics don't regularly show up in any top 10 U.S. travel website lists and you hardly hear any mention about the company.For getaroom President Bob Diener and CEO David Litman, that's a far cry from the heady days of running hotels.com, which now is owned by Expedia Inc.In getaroom.com, which launched in July 2009 and quickly began a self-funded $10 million ad campaign, Diener and Litman founded a hotel-booking site with a twist.The company markets and prices hotel rooms online, but you have to call a toll-free number to get the best rates."You call us. You save more. It's that easy," says an ad on the homepage.And, once you call, that's where a lot of the up-selling begins.Asked whether the launch of getaroom.com has proceeded as expected, Diener says of the privately held company: "We are on track and expect to continue our growth as planned."getaroom offers hotels in about 33 U.S. and European cities and markets, including the recent additions of Seattle; Denver; the Florida Keys; West Palm Beach; Venice, Italy; and Atlantic City.Diener says getaroom.com should begin in the "next few months" offering rooms in "30 to 40 new cities.""Next year, we will have a big push internationally," Diener says. "This is where we see the best opportunities ahead."Among getaroom's current areas of concentration, Diener says it is "working on many creative promotions with hotels, such as various advance purchase rates, better rates for longer stays and pushing slower periods."One thing is clear about the plethora of online travel agency, hotel and metasearch brands operating online, many of which may not be household names: They don't all have to be hotels.com to make some money.And, Diener and Litman may be able to labor away, outside of the limelight, and find their niche, too.Douglas Quinby, PhoCusWright's senior director of research, places that niche in the private sale realm."It is an interesting model," Quinby says of getaroom's business, "and is a part of the growing private sale trend, with sites such as Jetsetter, Voyage Prive, OffandAway, Groupon, and expanded opaque sales where brand an/or price is shielded from view.""All of these services are niches, operating in a niche, and the question is whether they can be a niche success or if there is a breakout opportunity," Quinby adds.So, despite the lack of buzz these days about getaroom.com, is it possible Diener and Litman are making a go of it?"Litman and Diener have no reason to toil in futility and/or obscurity, so I take them at their word -- there is no reason to believe they are not profitable and on track," says Robert Cole, a marketing and distribution consultant for RockCheetah, with a focus on the hotel sector."Most importantly, with the amount of money both made from hotels.com, they don't have the distraction from outside investors that many not be fully aligned with their growth or profit targets," Cole says.Cole says getaroom is unique."They created a fence for shielding discount pricing that others have not reproduced -- a phone call," he says. "They also pick their spots, set their own timeframes and secure as many hotel partners and inventory as they deem necessary.""They are not trying to be everything to everybody," Cole says. "It seems they simply want to be valued partners to the hotels they work with."And, lots of people are putting stock in Litman's and Diener's resumes.Among them are Tom Botts, managing partner, Hudson Crossing, who characterizes the duo as "well-seasoned travel professionals that really understand the industry."Says Botts: "Just like they created great companies in the past, I expect that getaroom.com will continue to grow into a significant channel for hotels to sell additional product, diversify their distribution channels and inject new competition into the online travel agency marketplace."Henry Harteveldt, Forrester Research's principal analyst, travel, says getaroom never is mentioned when he talks to hotel distribution and salespeople and faces an uphill battle because of the marketing clout of the OTAs.Says Harteveldt: "An uneven economic recovery could be getaroom.com’s best friend, because it will mean that hotels will need more help moving excess inventory. getaroom.com will need to be very efficient in how it runs its business, because a critical factor for its future success will be providing a more cost-efficient distribution option than the incumbent OTAs. To succeed long-term, it may have to charge meaningfully lower merchant rates than the other OTAs. That, of course, means it needs to generate a lot of volume while simultaneously keeping a firm hand on its headcount, overhead, marketing, and other costs."Share this quote Whether getaroom eventually becomes a blip on OTA radar screens remains to be seen.