Oct 5, 2022 - Business

Hotels and short-term rentals gear up for ACL

Illustration of a lit up hotel sign with dollar signs on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Austin City Limits Music Festival-goers have snapped up hotel rooms and short-term rental properties, a promising sign for the recovering leisure and hospitality industry.

Driving the news: Downtown hotel rooms are close to selling out, according to new data Expedia-owned Hotels.com provided to Axios.

  • Compared to last year, Austin-based short-term rental site Vrbo saw demand for rental properties in Austin increase 15% during both ACL weekends.

Why it matters: ACL is the city's largest music festival, shutting down Zilker Park for at least a month each year and driving tens of thousands of tourists to the city.

  • The hospitality sector, a significant driving force of the local economy, was hit hard by the pandemic, but ACL festival officials said last year's two-weekend event raked in $369 million for the local economy, the first time the figure surpassed $300 million.
  • And while the industry hasn't entirely recovered, leisure travel during South by Southwest earlier this year offered a glimpse of a near-return to normalcy.

Yes, but: Business travel, which typically requires weekday trips, has yet to bounce back.

  • Weekend travel is largely driven by leisure travelers.

What they're saying: Total visitors to Austin in 2019 reached more than 30 million people. Visit Austin's Tom Noonan said he anticipates this year's figures to reach or surpass pre-pandemic numbers.

  • Hotel tax collection is expected to be at an all-time high for the fiscal year 2021-2022, Noonan added.
  • "There’s not a lot of cities in the U.S. that can say that right now because of the impacts of the pandemic," he wrote in an emailed statement.

Of note: Hotels in northwest Austin and the Domain remain available, according to the booking site. Vrbo also still has availability for both weekends of ACL.

Go deeper: Hoteliers haven't slowed down their construction plans in Austin, with more than 6,000 hotel rooms added to the area since 2019, according to Visit Austin.

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