Tampa Bay residents hope to cash in on last-minute football fans via Airbnb

TAMPA – Keith Goan has never stayed or listed his home on Airbnb before. But he hopes to capitalize on the hundreds of thousands of football fans heading to Tampa for the NCAA championship game in Tampa on Monday by listing his homes for rent to last-minute travelers and fans.

Goan, general counsel in Tampa, changes house in parallel. He listed the homes he currently has for sale in Tampa and Indian Rocks Beach on Airbnb, an online room-booking and home-sharing service. One is within walking distance of Raymond James Stadium. In online ads, he describes his properties as “perfect for the national championship game.” The Tampa house is listed at $1,500 a night and the condo on the beach at $1,000 a night.

“This time of year is usually slow for house hunters, so I decided to put them on Airbnb and see what happens,” Goan said. “I can see why anyone would want to use this service. For me, I have these homes right here anyway, so why not list them.”

The championship game is poised to be the biggest sporting event to come to Tampa since the Super Bowl in 2009 and could make more money than even the 2012 Republican National Convention. Early estimates show that up to 100,000 people will visit the area just for the football game. That was reason enough for Goan and other Tampa residents to list their homes on Airbnb in hopes of attracting last-minute fans looking for a place to live for the big game.

Hotel rooms in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties began being booked months in advance. Most hotels in downtown Tampa and the West Shore area have been reserved for teams, officials, corporate sponsors and media, said Kevin Wiatrowski, spokesman for Visit Tampa Bay, the travel agency. Hillsborough County tourism marketing. More than 15 beachfront hotels in Pinellas County have completely sold out, including the Sand Pearl Resort, Opal Sands Resort, TradeWinds Island Resorts and Vinoy Hotel. A group of Alabama alumni booked 50 rooms for three nights at TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach about a month before the big game.

“We expect hotel occupancy to be 90%, if not higher, for the game,” said Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “And we know that Clemson and Alabama fans travel really well and often. We’ve seen that in the past. So there’s going to be a lot of people in Tampa.”

But there are still dozens of accommodation options available on Airbnb, ranging from rooms in residents’ homes in Carrollwood and West Tampa for $30 a night to entire homes for rent in South Tampa for $2,000. the night.

Read more: Using Uber for college football playoff events this weekend? Here’s what you need to know

As of Thursday morning, Goan hadn’t had many bites on houses for rent. But he hoped last-minute fans could still find his properties.

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“Maybe my prices are too high, but I based myself on the prices of other houses around me,” he said. “I think we are reaching the busiest time now. I imagine there are a good number of people coming to the game, regardless of who is involved. But now the Clemson and Bama fans are scrambling to come here.”

South Tampa’s Jenny Kniesly also put her house up for rent for the first time this week in hopes of attracting football fans. Kniesly and her family have stayed in Airbnb places before and always enjoyed it, but she’s never tried hosting before.

“I would much rather stay in an Airbnb than a hotel. The rates end up being cheaper and you usually have more amenities, which is great if you have kids,” she said. “We listed our house on Tuesday just to see if there were potentially people who wanted to stay here because of the game.”

Their South Tampa home is listed at $1,750 a night. Kniesly said that if booked, she and her family would stay in one of the rental homes they own in a nearby neighborhood.

“I just don’t know if you can even get a hotel room at this point,” Kniesly said. “But if somebody is going to pay all that money for tickets anyway, they’re going to want a decent place to stay.”

A father and son booked Sarah McHugh’s in-laws suite at her Riverside Heights home in Tampa nearly two months ago. McHugh said football fans will be two of the hundreds she has hosted at her Tampa home since listing on Airbnb in May 2015.

“We’ve never had a bad experience. Some guests were locals getting their homes fixed. Others are from other parts of the state or other countries,” she said. “It was a really cool experience. We love showing the real side of Tampa and giving local recommendations to guests. Plus, we love the extra income, which really helps.”

Major sporting events are a lucrative business for Airbnb. During Super Bowl 50 last year, Airbnb guests generated $21 million in economic activity in San Francisco, according to an Airbnb report. More than 15,000 guests stayed in Airbnb accommodations for the Super Bowl. Guests paid an average booking price of $225 per night, which was significantly lower than most hotels in the area. San Francisco-area hosts earned up to $1,500 from game bookings.

The Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office last month signed a voluntary collection agreement with Airbnb to collect tourism development taxes and sales taxes on rooms booked through the service beginning February 1. With Airbnb rentals listed in Tampa this month, Hillsborough County expects the deal will bring an additional $250,000 in new annual tax revenue to Hillsborough County if bookings at least match 2016 levels.

“Airbnb has followers, like Uber or Lyft, with this next generation. It’s going to continue to be popular and we wish we could have reached a deal sooner,” Corrada said. “There are already over 600 Airbnb properties in Tampa that are in operation. We plan to maximize this activity in the future.”

Airbnb hosts welcomed nearly 33,000 guests in 2015, an increase of 188% year over year. The typical host earned about $6,300 in additional income from Airbnb. The Tampa hosts earned a combined $4.6 million in incremental revenue last year, which jumped to $5.1 million when considering hosts in all of Hillsborough County. Pinellas County Airbnb hosts earned $12.3 million last year. The county, which was among the first to sign an agreement with Airbnb in Florida, collected $900,000 in additional tourist taxes through Airbnb reservations in 2016.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected]. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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