Sturgis Rally offers Airbnb hosts increased demand, revenue
Finding accommodation near the Black Hills at this time of year is easier said than done.
This turns into a great money-making opportunity for hosts and their listings.
Karen Smith has an Airbnb in Whitewood, South Dakota, just eight miles northwest of Sturgis. She and her husband decided to give Airbnb a try just over three years ago.
“We honestly did it for the money,” Smith said. “And listing on Airbnb makes it a little easier to put some in your pocket.
The couple started by building a master bedroom above the garage and renting it out year-round. When the time comes to the rally, the couple stays at the ranch where they work as ranch hands, then rents out their entire house.
“And we usually have one stay for the whole rally,” Smith said. She also cleans other vacation rentals in the area and sees many other people staying booked with bikers during rally season.
High demand, limited availability
In the Sturgis area, Airbnb hosts earned $2 million in 2021, with the typical host earning around $8,000 during the year, according to Airbnb spokesperson Haven Thorn.
In last year’s rally, these hosts collectively earned $400,000 and average earnings of $4,000 each just over those 10 days.
This means that an Airbnb host typically makes about half of their profit during the rally.
“It really shows how impactful these big events are,” Thorn said.
Generally, Airbnb does not share the number of hosts in a region, but worldwide the company has approximately six million registrations on their site.
Vrbo in comparison to about two million.
According to a simple search on the Vrbo app on August 9, there was 1% to 7% availability for listings from August 9 to 15.
This meant that there were around 550 listings on Vrbo near Sturgis with between 2 and 40 still available to rent, but there may be some overlap of listings with Airbnb (i.e. places listed on both locations).
Airbnb and Vrbo listings range from single rooms to lawn campsites to entire homes.
Many listings on both sites are only a few hundred, while some, like a place to camp in someone’s front yard, are as low as $50. One home near Sturgis in particular goes for nearly $2,000 on Airbnb once you factor in service and cleaning fees.
Airbnb host benefits from unique listings
Because demand for accommodation during the Sturgis Rally is so high, hosts like Lang Termes usually have to raise prices on their listings, but Termes always tries to keep things affordable, he said.
Terms has two unique listings on Airbnb.
The first is named the Turtle House, after its unique turtle shell shape. Terms has listed it as Airbnb for the last three gatherings.
The second is called I-Casa, and it is a new eco-friendly geodesic dome. This is the first rally in Termes to list the I-Casa. Both homes are about three miles from Spearfish and about 17 miles from Sturgis.
Her father, Dick Termes, is an artist and he built a geodesic domed house for the family in the 1970s.
“I was raised in geodesic domes and always considered them pretty normal,” Lang Termes said.
When the pandemic hit, Termes – who is a traveling musician – decided to build himself a geodesic studio. He was also trying to think of a way to make money, and that’s when Termes noticed people “springing” from the dome.
“I realized it could be a unique glamping experience,” he said. “And we were very lucky with that. I think people want to experience the rally but don’t want to deal with the chaos. It’s an interesting experience because the houses are secluded and quiet.”
Terms usually has someone renting a house for at least five days, if not for the whole rally.
“In my experience, the rally gets longer,” he added. “It seems like two weeks now. I received a lot of older people who want to be there before or after.
Termes said he plans to build two more I-Casa homes in the future to use as Airbnbs.
More people traveling to rural areas
New Airbnb hosts in the United States saw their income increase last year.
Since March 2020, over 8,000 cities and towns have had their first Airbnb book, most of which are rural towns.
“Rural travel was a big trend we saw during the pandemic. This trend continues with the return of events… like the Sturgis rally,” Thorn said. “People are traveling more than they ever have before.”
People also come to Sturgis from all over the country.
The top cities of origin for guests at the Motorcycle Rally this year, based on nights booked on Airbnb, are:
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Denver, Colorado
- Chicago, Ill.
- Lawrenceville, Georgia
- Madison, Wis.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Lake Road, Texas
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Hutchinson, Kansas
- Anaheim, California