LateRooms is a hotel reservations website used as an online clearing house by hotels for their unsold hotel rooms. Launched in 1999, the site originally started as a simple directory listing hotels but in 2002 moved to enable users to book hotels online (some hotels require a telephone call to LateRooms). In 2006 it lists over 12,000 hotels. The site has featured in the Telegraph, is listed in The Sunday Times Top Travel Sites and was 16th in the Sunday Times/Microsoft sponsored Tech Track league table of the UK's fastest growing private technology companies, 2005.
The majority of hotels listed are located in the UK and Europe although the site does include a growing selection of hotels on other continents. The company is based in Manchester
and has offices in Milan
LateRooms was bought by First Choice in January 2007 for between £108M and £120M.
Hotels enter their own rates on LateRooms and are supposed to update daily to reflect genuine availability. LateRooms generates revenue by charging the hotels commission for any bookings generated.
A few hotels do not honour the "live availability" undertaking, in effect attempting to use LateRooms as simply an advertising medium. Such hotels will leave a dummy room on show at attractive rates, which is not available to book. However, LateRooms do genuinely seem to deprecate this practice and take steps to prevent it - it is now relatively rare. Such hotels can usually be spotted by having rooms "available" for all nights and all at the same price, while genuine hotels have some nights unavailable and different nights at different rates.
The site lists hotels categorised primarily by location. Discounted room rates (ie below 'rack rates') are shown in orange text. Cynics point out that most hotels now sell their rooms at prices lower than their ‘rack’ rates, except to an unwary visitor walking in off the street and simply asking for a room. Although it is true that chain hotels which use Lateroom may be offering the same rates on their own web sites, this is not true for independent hotels, and LateRooms real USP is to show a live (or nearly live) availability for a large number of hotels (all of which meet the customers date/location/facilities requirements) at a single glance. When the user selects a hotel, the full list of available room types for the desired dates is shown. Late rooms themselves now admit that many hotel rooms on their site are "for referral" - in other words, the hotel is not guranteeing that the room is available, and late rooms have to ring them to check (these rooms usually turn out to be not avaialable at the price quoted, if at all.)
To narrow down the list of hotels presented, a number of different ‘quick searches’ are available to help users of the site. These filter the lists of hotels to display various specific subsets, for example those offering the largest discounts, cheap hotels, luxury hotels and hotels with disabled facilities for a particular area. An enhanced search on the London Hotels
pages of the site enables users to find hotels by nearest tube station, specific London area or London postcode. All rates on LateRooms are quoted on a per room basis and therefore single people will have a wider choice when searching if they don't specify a room size.
Maps showing the hotel locations are available together with a number of comprehensive city guides for main destinations including London, Paris and Rome.
Although the site claims to specialise in live-availability last minute hotel reservations, bookings can actuially be made up to 12 months in advance, and availability of advertised rooms is not in fact guaranteed. Bookings are secured by credit card but payment is made to the hotel on departure. Hotels can be booked online or by phone in English, French, Italian, German or Spanish.