Maximizing hotel revenue in high season: Hotel room pricing for 8 summer festivals
Music festivals have evolved into some of the biggest regional draws possible for a local accommodation market.
The largest of these can bring in half a million people to the area, and completely change the supply and demand dynamics.
These should be marked and circled on any hotelier’s calendar as key moments in any year.
With the help of Market Insight's forward-looking demand data, and Rate Insight+ predictive pricing intelligence we have taken a snapshot of some of the most prominent upcoming festivals and plotted expected demand alongside pricing.
Our results point to some interesting dynamics: simply raising rates across the festival dates may not be the optimal solution, especially when you have the full picture of traveler behavior.
Primavera Sound and SONAR Music Festival
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Date: 29th May-4th June 2023; June 15-17, 2023
Expected attendance: 60,000+ per day and 120,000
Let’s start off in Barcelona, which is hosting two major events in early summer, with Primavera Sound in May-June, followed by the SONAR electronic music festival in mid-June.
For each event, we will be extracting our daily demand level metric, the share of unavailable hotels (as measured by those with length-of-stay restrictions, sellouts or closures) and future advertised pricing as compared to prior years.
The demand level dashboard is constructed from a variety of forward-looking search indicators, such as flight and hotel searches being made on various platforms.
Overall, these indicators can give us an impression of emerging and expected demand for a destination and point to the effect of an event on a regional market.
Hotel demand level for Barcelona
Unavailable hotels in Barcelona
Average hotel room pricing in Barcelona across all star ratings (USD)
In Barcelona, Primavera Sound is showing up distinctly across the dataset, with a high level of bookings. Now is the time to capitalize on late bookings with higher-than-average room rates.
At the point of data extraction, one month before the festival, 78% of hotels are registered as unavailable and market occupancy is peaking at 83% in the two days just before the festival starts.
This is pushing average room rates up by nearly €100 compared to the three weeks immediately preceding the event. It seems likely that there is still room to go higher, particularly at the top end, where prices are increasing by around €150 per room night.
SONAR Festival, which is slightly smaller, is not yet having anywhere near the same impact on price. This may be a point where local accommodation providers need to pivot towards the event and focus attention on it in the coming weeks.
Our demand indicators are showing elevated interest and 40% of hotels are unavailable, while market occupancy sits at just under half of total rooms.
We, therefore, recommend keeping an eye on booking rates during mid-June and being aggressive in pricing.
Location: Milwaukee, USA
Date: June 23-25, June 30 - July 2, and July 7-9, 2022
Expected attendance: 50,000+ per day
While Summerfest has yet to return to its highest attendance ever, where more than a million people flocked to Wisconsin, it continues to be a major crowd-puller with an undeniable impact on the local accommodation market, particularly during and following its closing weekend.
Hotel demand level for Milwaukee
Unavailable hotels in Milwaukee
Average hotel room pricing in Milwaukee across all star ratings (USD)
With even the most cursory of glances, it is clear that there is a huge impact locally, but it isn’t necessarily exactly when you would expect.
While prices, demand and unavailable hotels move upward through the festival’s other main weekends, it is after the final weekend that we see a huge jump in hotel demand and on-the-books reservations.
A massive 97% of Milwaukee hotels are listed as unavailable at the peak point of demand on July 15th, which is a week after the event ends. This compares to 43% on June 23rd, the opening weekend of the festival.
This high demand is pushing prices up significantly. While average advertised prices across the other weeks of the festival sit at a little over $200, these then rise to $333 for the week starting 10th July.
Given the high demand for accommodations during Summerfest and the surrounding areas in Milwaukee, it's important to treat available rooms as a precious commodity. It's also worth noting that prices are likely to increase during the final weekend of the festival due to the unusual surge in activity.
Location: Antwerp, Belgium
Date: 21-23 July & 28-30 July
Expected attendance: 600,000
Tomorrowland takes place just a short drive or train ride south of Antwerp, allowing journeys in and out to the festival, which takes place over two weekends in De Schorre, a repurposed former clay pit.
Hotel demand level for Antwerp
Unavailable hotels in Antwerp
Average hotel room pricing in Antwerp across all star ratings (USD)
The festival is expanding from a total attendance level of 400,000 entries pre-pandemic to 600,000 expected attendees. This is creating strong conditions for the local accommodation market.
Indicators for both weekends are almost identical, with the number of unavailable hotels shooting upwards from near negligible levels in preceding weeks to 62% of properties across both weekends. This is pushing prices up above the norm for the year and also against last year’s festival.
Prices peaked at a little over €150 per night in 2022, but are now sitting at above €180.
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Date: 10-15 August
Expected attendance: 70-80,000 per day
Budapest’s Sziget Festival has now become one of the most important weeks of elevated demand for the city’s hotels.
Before we get into the data for Sziget, let’s just briefly cover the enormous spike preceding it on the weekend of 22nd July, which is the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, another major event that hotels need to target.
Moving onwards to the week of Sziget and the week after, we can see a consistent and sustained period of elevated interest in the city’s accommodation, creating a corresponding bump in pricing during what is already peak travel season.
Rooms in the week following Sziget are currently priced 50% higher than those at the ends of July and August. It is also worth noting that the World Athletic Championships take place in the week after the festival.
As a result of these major events, Budapest hotels are looking at a very profitable summer of 2023 with numerous high points to maximize in what will easily be the strongest peak period since the pandemic struck.
Hotel demand level for Budapest
Unavailable hotels in Budapest
Average hotel room pricing in Budapest across all star ratings (USD)
Location: Chicago, USA
Date: 3-6 August
Expected attendance: 115,000 per day
Lollapalooza is one of North America’s biggest musical festivals, admitting a massive 115,000 ticket holders per day over four days. However, we are seeing an interesting, and somewhat muted market response.
Hotel demand level for Chicago
Unavailable hotels in Chicago
Average hotel room pricing in Chicago across all star ratings (USD)
Despite the fact that the festival is within Grant Park and therefore does not offer on-site camping as other events do, it looks like this year’s Lollapalooza is going to be a late bloomer. Demand for hotels in Chicago is moving upwards, but only at a modest rate.
Tickets were still available at the time of writing and advertised prices for rooms remain stubbornly consistent with the average prices for the weeks around the festival.
Nonetheless, our indicators suggest that a forecasted uplift should be priced in by revenue managers now, as we are seeing decent signs of increasing interest in accommodation. It seems likely that the event will move towards being sold out.
The Demand Level chart shows a surge in the number of flight and hotel searches corresponding to the days of the event. A closer look at the metrics reveals that while both flight and hotel searches are higher than usual compared to the surrounding dates, hotel searches are notably higher than they typically would be for a stay date this far out from travel.
Occupancy for hotels in our database is currently at 51% for the night of the 5th of August and 18% of properties are already listed as unavailable, further underlining the rising tide of demand.
We recommend monitoring your competitors closely, while also being proactive in responding to any signs of increased demand. By keeping an eye on demand and the rest of the market, you can price ahead of the competition, especially as we are already seeing stronger pricing uplift in the five-star hotels.
Monterey Jazz Festival
Location: San Francisco, USA
Date: 22-24 September
Expected attendance: 15,000 per day
While the Monterey Jazz Festival is not in San Francisco, being situated around a two-hour drive away, we thought that the market dynamics are illustrative of why a wider viewpoint than just the events directly situated in your city and their exact dates matter.
Hotel demand level for San Francisco
Unavailable hotels in San Francisco
Average hotel room pricing in San Francisco across all star ratings (USD)
The week of the Monterey Jazz Festival is bookended in San Francisco by two weeks of heightened demand before and after, suggesting that there is a considerable bounce being generated from those transiting the city on the way to and from Monterrey.
Peak demand is encountered in San Francisco on the Wednesday both before and after the festival, where, for those nights, already a quarter of rooms are sold in the hotels we monitor. Our market monitoring also shows that 54% of hotels are listed as unavailable on the Wednesday preceding and 16% in the week after, which are unusual patterns.
This is pushing prices upwards to an average of $400 per room night before Monterey opens, with the biggest gains at the upper end of the market.
While we can’t say for certain from just looking at the data alone that this prominent bump is being caused by Monterey, the remarkable symmetry surrounding the festival weekend and that demand is strongest for luxury accommodation strongly supports the notion that there is considerable traffic passing through the city as a result.
Hoteliers may want to look closely at the week following the Monterey Jazz Festival and move prices upwards in line with market demand.
Austin City Limits Music Festival
Location: Austin, Texas
Date: 6-8 and 13-15 October
Expected attendance: 75,000 per day
To round things out, let’s take a look at Austin, Texas and the City Limits Music Festival scheduled for October this year.
Hotel demand level for Austin
Unavailable hotels in Austin
Average hotel room pricing in Austin across all star ratings (USD)
We have noted this event before, but it is worth revisiting as the demand bump is exceptional, especially this far out.
Much like last year’s City Limits, prices are soaring on the back of massive early interest. Peak advertised prices are above those for 2022’s edition, but it is also worth noting that the absolute height of interest and bookings appears to be immediately after the event.
The peak of unavailable hotels, prices and demand indicators comes in the week after the event’s final weekend. Once again, this underscores the critical role that post-festival demand plays as a key target for hotels to capitalize on.
Major events are obviously critical points to accommodation providers, but what comes through in this data is that granularity and detail can help increase the yield achieved.
This may come from the understanding that demand is likely to strengthen more than is priced into the existing rates advertised, or it may be that there is spillover demand from an event not necessarily located directly in the market space or on the exact dates it is taking place.
This is what makes accurate business intelligence vital to any revenue management operation.
With the right data, insights and strategies in place, hoteliers can prepare to maximize their revenue opportunities during music festivals in 2023 and beyond.