September 15, 2015
When Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia was announced, it made sense to assume that hotel and Airbnb prices would go through the roof. More than one media outlet used the term "skyrocket" and said that no doubt Airbnb hosts would "see dollar signs" and "cash in on pilgrims" with prices reaching to thousands of dollars a night.
Less than two weeks before the papal visit, a check of listings on Airbnb confirms that, yes, average asking prices have doubled – but with so many people offering up their homes, it's still easy to find a deal.
Here are the results of a search for a place to stay in the Philly area for two guests on the weekend of the pope's visit (9/25 to 9/28). The average asking price: $663.
There are definitely more than a few people who are attempting to charge the hell out of fans of the Holy Father, with rooms that could rack up to more than $10,000 for the long weekend. But remember that these are the rooms that HAVEN'T been booked. On top of that, there are still more than 250 listings available for $100 or less per night.
Here's the same search, but one week later (10/2 to 10/5). The average price got cut in half, to $327.
Note also that Airbnb hosts can rent out an entire home, a private room within a home or even a shared room. Prices change correspondingly: the average price is $766 during the pope's visit for an entire home to yourself, $280 for a private room and, amazingly, only eight dollars less for a room you'll have to share with someone else.
One week later, you can rent out a whole home for $476 on average, or just $119 for a private room. Weirdly enough, the average price for a shared room is actually higher than for a private room, $149. (There's only a small number of shared rooms being offered, so perhaps an outlier is throwing off the averages.)
And charging the big bucks for tourists isn't limited to the papal weekend. There were 281 rental listings for the first weekend in October that ask for $900 or more per night.
Truly, it is a sign of great hope that even after the papal storm passes over Philadelphia, leaving a dazed and confused populace in its wake, our city's intrepid entrepreneurs will still be trying to make as much money from tourists as possible.