Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Home Travel Hotel rooms still available in Bloomington Indiana

Hotel rooms still available in Bloomington Indiana

by Staff

Despite a possible 250,000 visitors coming to Bloomington for the April 8 total solar eclipse, hotels still have plenty of rooms available — though at steep markups from their usual prices.

Mike McAfee, executive director of Visit Bloomington, said the city will see lots of visitors even in mediocre weather, but if it’s a sunny day, the city could easily see a record-setting stream of visitors.

At the low end, he said the city likely will have about 60,000 visitors, or as many as during a big Indiana University football game. However, if it’s warm and sunny, the city may very well see four to five times as many eclipse enthusiasts.

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” he said. “It’s going to feel like a million.”

In a city with about 2,500 hotel rooms and normally about 500 short-term room and apartment rentals, managing the upper end of official estimates could prove challenging.

Some Bloomington hotels fully booked months in advance

A few hotels sold out months ago, including the Grant Street Inn, a locally owned boutique hotel with 40 rooms, and the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina, which has 118 rooms at Lake Monroe.

Paul Wagoner, director of operations at the Grant Street Inn, said some people asked for reservations two years ago, before the staff at the inn was even aware of the eclipse. The establishment couldn’t accommodate the callers at the time, because it takes reservations only about a year out.

When the Grant Street Inn last summer started accepting reservations for this April, rooms went fast.

“We were basically sold out within about 48 hours,” Wagoner said.

The Grant Street Inn used to require minimum stays but is no longer doing that because many guests who come to town for a football game don’t want to stay a second night, he said. The inn requires a minimum stay now only for IU’s spring graduation.

Wagoner said the inn will give away some eclipse glasses and may offer some eclipse-related treats or a modified breakfast menu, but it is not making big plans otherwise, as many people likely will want to partake in the activities being offered around the city. He is still weighing whether to have the inn’s parking areas guarded.

Wagoner said he also will have to keep an eye on the weather, as a cloudy forecast may prompt some potential patrons to cancel their reservations, which they can do up to seven days out, a typical interval for the inn during big events.

Brian Lewis, general manager at Fourwinds, said the inn has been sold out for almost a year.

Staff have secured a band to provide live music the day before the event, and will have some eclipse-related merchandise for sale, including can coolers, T-shirts and, of course, eclipse viewing glasses.

The inn requires a three-night minimum stay — as opposed to its usual two-night minimum on the weekend, and allows cancellation up to 72 hours before the stay.

Lewis said bookings usually pick up at this time of the year, but being sold out this early is unusual.

2-night stays in Bloomington for eclipse weekend can easily cost $1,000

Many other local hotels also require multi-day bookings for eclipse weekend, and with high demand pushing up prices, two-night stays in a lot of places will easily cost $1,000.

A two-night stay at TownPlace Suites by Marriott at 105 S. Franklin St., costs $900. That’s about four times as much as during a normal weekend. A one-night stay at Cascades Inn, 2601 N. Walnut St., costs $459, about 6.5 times as much as normal. A weekend in the Comfort Inn, 1700 N. Kinser Pike, usually costs $160. On eclipse weekend, it’s four times as much: $644. And a two-night stay at the Century Suites Hotel will set you back $1,198 — or about 5 times as much as normal.

McAfee said that’s just the nature of the business. Hotels are trying to see for how much they can sell their inventory.

“They’re trying to maximize revenue right now,” he said.

Large chains have revenue managers who are poring over spreadsheets to figure out how much they can charge and still get close to selling out, he said.

McAfee said he expects prices to drop in about 10 to 12 days, but then spike right before the event.

Some experienced eclipse watchers have made reservations in multiple markets in the path of totality and will wait as long as they can for weather forecasts to see which of their potential destinations gives them the highest chance of witnessing the celestial event.

Some die-hard eclipse fans will forego a hotel if they have to, McAfee said.

“They’re not afraid to sleep in their car,” he said.

Travelers should anticipate traffic congestion before and after event

Some people, of course, are crashing with friends and relatives, and others are renting rooms or apartments. Airbnb said last month that it saw a 1,000% increase in searches for stays along the path of totality.

McAfee said Monday that for the April 7-8 weekend, 29 such rentals were still available — much lower than the following weekend, for example, when 252 rentals were still available.

He urged people to carefully plan their visits and to show up early. If people expect they can leave from Lafayette or Louisville a couple of hours before the event, they may find themselves stuck in traffic a few miles away from Bloomington and will have to experience the eclipse from the side of a road.

McAfee also urged people to not leave as soon as the event concludes, as they’ll likely spend hours in traffic.

“It could be a zoo out there,” he said.

Boris Ladwig can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends