Airbnb is making money out of Comic-Con

Finding a hotel room anywhere in the city center this weekend is about as likely as landing a coveted badge for the always-full Comic-Con rally starting today. Enter Airbnb, whose growing number of hosts are taking advantage of roomless attendees with rentals that, in some cases, match five-star resort room rates.

While often a more affordable option than a full-service hotel, prices for some of the condos and guest rooms listed on the increasingly popular short-term rental site have soared up to five times typical nightly prices as entrepreneur hosts capitalize on increased demand around San Diego’s biggest convention.

Consider a downtown resident who gets a rate of $1,300 per night for four nights for his rented condo, which is $400 more per night than the rate he was able to get last year.

“Classy place listed for Comic-Con.” “Yacht made available for Comic-Con.” “Walk to Comic-Con, downtown condo.” So read the lists of hosts who have chosen to specifically woo this week’s delegates.

Franklin Coopersmith decided on a whim to list his future East Village apartment on Airbnb for the first time, just to see how much money he and his roommate could command for a weekend getaway. The answer: $900 a night for two nights.

“The reason we decided to do this is because a friend of ours said he was renting out his one bedroom, one bath apartment, which is even further away, for Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday for $2,000,” Coopersmith, a Starbucks store, said. director. “Since we’re moving to Bird Rock and paying rent for two units, it’s an easy way for us to help pay the rent. So what we’re doing is moving all of our personal items to our new place and leaving that place to Airbnb for this weekend only.

According to Airbnb, there are 70% more rentals during this month’s four-day convention than during a typical weekend. And the popularity of short-term vacation rentals as an accommodation option for Comic-Con has clearly grown over the past year. Just a year ago, reservations for Comic-Con weekend stood at nearly 800, a figure that has jumped to nearly 2,200 this year, Airbnb said.

And many of those bookings are at rates significantly higher than typical Airbnb rental fees, according to analysis prepared for The San Diego Union-Tribune by Already booked, an Oakland-based company that provides price and market analysis to Airbnb hosts in the United States.

Nearly half of a large sample of Airbnb listings in downtown San Diego revealed price increases during Comic-Con, with an average increase close to 100%. Some hosts have raised their prices by nearly five times the normal rate, Everbooked found. In Downtown alone, its data analysis showed nearly three times the average number of nights booked on Airbnb during Comic-Con.

“San Diego Airbnb hosts as a group showed a high degree of sensitivity at Comic-Con, as evidenced by the fact that 1 in 2 downtown listings our data experts reviewed reflected price increases for event,” Everbooked co-founder Douglas Ross said. . “However, many hosts have been overzealous in their pricing for Comic-Con…and there are unbooked Airbnbs today in San Diego for the event.

“Hosts who have exceeded prices and have not booked will now be required to hold a clearance sale on their listings.”

Even at high rates, Airbnb rentals are proving more affordable for attendees who tend to group together to save on individual hotel rooms. That’s the case with Los Angeles-based Starstream Media, which produced a film directed and written by Comic-Con icon Kevin Smith. He will debut with a trailer for “Yoga Hosers” when he appears in Hall H.

“We decided to come to Comic-Con later in the game, and we looked at the hotels, but everything is crazy and nothing was available,” said Lauren Russell of Starstream, which has five employees who will rent the Coopersmith town center apartment. “I would rather pay a certain amount for a nice apartment where we can all stay together in an Airbnb where you feel like home instead of just a hotel room that looks like any other hotel room. ”

While Airbnb’s reach has clearly grown in recent years, with a presence in more than 190 countries, it’s particularly attractive at major events that attract large volumes of overnight visitors. Earlier this year, Airbnb announced it had signed an agreement to be the Official Alternative Accommodation Provider during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. And last year, more than 120,000 international guests were hosted on Airbnb for the FIFA World Cup world.

“Home sharing plays an important role in helping cities host thousands of guests for major events around the world, including the Olympics in London, the World Cup in Brazil and now Comic-Con in San Francisco. Diego,” Airbnb spokeswoman Alison Schumer said.

To help accommodate the tens of thousands of overnight visitors during Comic-Con, more than 50 hotels, representing approximately 13,000 rooms in most of downtown San Diego and Mission Valley, have contracted with organizers. of the convention to provide discounted rooms, ranging from $166 to $380 a night. . But many rooms at hotels outside of this block will be considerably more expensive than already high summer rates.

Of the few downtown hotels that still had a room or two vacant for this weekend, rates for last-minute accommodation needs are sky-high, with some approaching $800 to $1,000 a night.

Doug Korn, general manager of the US Grant Hotel, which has reserved 90% of its standard rooms for Comic-Con’s discounted hotel inventory, said he has no hard feelings against Airbnb hosts who take advantage of a period of high demand.

“Guests are going to choose whatever options they have, whether it’s a hotel, Airbnb or a vacation rental, so I have no problem with that,” Korn said.

Opinions on the rise of colocation vary among hoteliers, but the one area where there is consensus is the need to ensure that these short-term rentals follow the same rules as hotels when it comes to collecting transitory occupancy taxes and compliance with safety rules. , said Namara Mercer, executive director of the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association.

“Some hotels feel like it’s major competition, and some feel like the (Airbnb) clientele wouldn’t be staying at their hotels anyway,” she said.

Starting next week, Airbnb has agreed to begin collecting resort taxes directly from visitors to the city of San Diego on behalf of its hosts.

What remains up in the air, however, is the legal status of home sharing in San Diego. There are no regulations on the books that specifically govern short-term rentals, except for bed and breakfasts which require special use permits. Planners are drafting a proposed set of rules that could reach city council by the end of the year.

A number of hosts listing their homes and guest rooms for Comic-Con appear to be newbies like Coopersmith and his roommate, according to Everbooked’s analysis. Of the 188 listings identified as having included “Comic-Con” in their titles, about 154 appear to be new to Airbnb, Ross surmised, given that they had no user reviews as of July.

Seda Altinyuva and her husband, Fabrice, are relatively new to Airbnb, having made their foray into home sharing a year ago, just before Comic-Con. This will be the couple’s second year renting the two extra bedrooms in their Pacific Beach home to out-of-town attendees. Altinyuva initially raised its regular rates from $99 to $129 a night to $175, but lowered it to $150 when there were no takers. They are full with three sets of guests, including one from Italy who is extending his visit to Comic-Con for a two-week vacation in San Diego, she said.

“I started doing this after I lost my job at a software company, Altinyuva said. “Comic-Con really helps because last year we were sold out. If we didn’t have Comic-Con, we’d be booked 15-20 days a month, but because of Comic-Con, it’s almost 28 days. We do this to supplement our income but we also like to meet people from all over the world.

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