Tampa will make history Sunday as the first city to hold a Super Bowl that includes the home team, a dream come true for long-suffering Bucs fans and a region that has been at the pinnacle of professional sports championships for the past year.
But having a home team play in the game compounded with a global pandemic also spurred worry over how much of a bump the hospitality industry would see this weekend.
Yet for local vacation rentals — properties listed on popular websites like AirBnB and Vrbo, for example — the Super Bowl is still drawing increased bookings and marked-up nightly rates.
According to AirDNA, a Denver-based analytics company that collects data on short-term rentals, the Tampa area has seen an 18 percent increase in its occupancy rate for Super Bowl weekend compared to the same timeframe last year. The average daily rate has also gone up nearly 111 percent, from $128 a year ago to $270 this weekend.
Those percentages are even higher than the boost Miami got in the same categories when it hosted the Super Bowl last year. Jamie Lane, vice president of research at AirDNA, said Tampa’s small supply of rentals compared to Miami is likely the cause of this area’s major price uptick.
The company estimates total revenue from Tampa rentals booked over the weekend will be more than $1.6 million.
“All of my properties are booked. I have nothing available, so I hope people coming in have already made their reservations,” said Kathie Wild, the owner of the Tampa franchise iTrip Vacations, a vacation rental company. She manages about 15 properties.
Owners of rental properties around Tampa Bay feared for the future when the pandemic first took hold in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis temporarily shut down all new reservations and check-ins at the properties via an executive order on March 27, which did not apply the same ban to hotels. The restrictions began lifting in mid-May.
But since then, many local properties have seen their business start to bounce back at a rate faster than hotels.
The industry has touted the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists staying in a vacation rental with members of your household as safer than staying in a hotel (though the agency still lists it as “less safe” than staying home). AirBnB also has a policy in place that bans parties and limits gatherings within their properties to 16 people. Guests who break the rules can have their accounts suspended.
All in all, many travelers are opting for standalone lodging without the worry of shared lobbies and elevators, local property managers said.
“June and July were a little bit softer,” Wild said. “We started to see some momentum in August, then September was a record-breaking month for us. Then October beat September, and November beat October.”
Still, the numbers don’t all spell good news. Despite the year-over-year gains, Tampa still has a much higher percentage of available units — at nearly 40 percent — than Miami did a year ago, according to AirDNA.
Britney Mroczkowski, who’s on the management team at Florida developer BTI Partners, built a tiny house next to her Tampa home, not far from the Raymond James Stadium, about two years ago with the Super Bowl in mind. But it still hasn’t been booked.
“It’s definitely because of the pandemic,” she said. “Before COVID, I was making about four to five times what I’m making on it now per month.”
Additionally, while rentals in Hillsborough have seen a boom, the pandemic may have stunted surrounding counties’ benefit from the Super Bowl, said Denis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association.
“Orlando is actually down a few percentage points from where they were last year,” he said. Pinellas, too, isn’t seeing much of a Super Bowl boost, according to an analysis by the association.
“I think because capacity at the stadium is limited, you’re probably not going to see a larger radius spreading out as it would if we had the whole stadium (full) and we didn’t have to worry about COVID issues,” Hanks said.
One key to keeping properties booked during the pandemic has been keeping prices reasonable and competitive, said J-Ryan Stewart, one of the co-founders of Teal Door Hosting, which manages about 70 rental properties, mostly in Tampa. He said they were able to raise rates about two to four times normal prices for Super Bowl weekend, but intentionally didn’t go any higher.
“We’re not getting any of these fantasy stories of $3,000 per night,” he said. “We consider that price-gouging. It’s not only less friendly to consumers, but you’re not going to get booked for that much.”
He said about 90 percent of Teal Door Hosting’s properties are booked this weekend, and those that aren’t are ones they just recently listed.
“A lot of people are coming here even if they don’t have tickets to game, just to be in the city while all the hype is going on. I know Ybor is going to be completely lit,” Stewart said. “If COVID wasn’t happening, I’d be there.”
• • •
Tampa Bay Times Super Bowl 55 coverage
ATTENTION SUPER BOWL VISITORS: Here’s our guide to Tampa Bay’s socially distanced attractions
PARTY PLANNING IN A PANDEMIC: How to host a safe Super Bowl party
FANS IN TAMPA: A first look inside the Super Bowl Experience in Tampa
MORE BUCS PHOTOS: Follow the Tampa Bay Times Bucs coverage on Instagram
BUCS NEWSLETTER: Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter with team reporter Joey Knight:
We’re working hard to bring you the latest Super Bowl news from around the Tampa Bay area. This effort takes resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a digital or print subscription.