The two teams playing won't be known until Sunday, but long ago, many of metro Atlanta's hotels and Airbnbs were claimed. And even before the Falcons lost in Houston last February, corporations booked rooms in Atlanta as part of their Super Bowl packages to impress clients.
Much has changed since the city last hosted a Super Bowl in 2000. Beyond the world-class aquarium, bustling Midtown and thousands of new hotel rooms, online home rental service Airbnb has entered the market. Even with the additional stock, rooms are filling fast miles away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
In 2016, the NFL bought 20,100 of metro Atlanta's 100,000 hotel rooms for workers and sponsors of the 2019 Super Bowl. Some are near the airport, where officials said about 90 percent of the 8,000 rooms are booked, many for at least $300 a night. Clayton County's tourism department says it is 85 percent full.
With rooms closer to the stadium filled, the northern suburbs have some vacancies, but those, too, are disappearing. Cobb County reports that more than 60 percent of its hotel rooms have been booked that weekend — including the 264-room Omni Hotel at The Battery, which a spokeswoman said sold out in November. The tourism board for Alpharetta, about 25 miles from the stadium, said about 88 percent of the city’s 3,300 rooms are already claimed.
Just four of Alpharetta’s 26 hotels have availability. One of them, Courtyard Atlanta Alpharetta/Avalon, is a hotel that opens a week before the big game and just started taking reservations online — the hotel that isn’t even open, yet is 30 percent booked for Super Bowl weekend.
Peter McMahon is the general manager of the Hyatt Regency downtown, which features the rotating Polaris restaurant and lounge overlooking the city. He said 1,000 of his 1,260 rooms went to the NFL early and the remainder sold more than a year ago.
To prepare, he said he talked to supervisors at Hyatts in cities that had recently hosted Super Bowls. He said he decided to bring in a dozen operations managers, not only because of the number of guests, but also to be sure the hotel met the expectations of more elite guests.
“The people that are going to come to this event are going to be top-earning,” he said.
Those in Atlanta’s hospitality industry know that if they can impress the parade of VIPs set to swarm the city, it could mean repeat business in the form of conventions or blow away the right executive, which it could mean a new headquarters in the metro area.
“This is a chance for Atlanta to show itself to the world,” McMahon said.
Erica Qualls-Battey said she and her staff at the five Marriotts she manages, including three near the airport, have been preparing for more than a year. She said she plans to have 40 or 50 extra staff members in just the downtown Marriott alone. Qualls-Battey said all of the 3,000 rooms at her hotels are long gone.
A renewed push for rooms is expected after the conference championship games Sunday determine the two teams playing Feb. 3 and their fans race to make last-minute plans. They will probably be out of luck with hotels in the city, but maybe not with Airbnbs.
According to Airbnb's analysis from the Super Bowl last year in Minneapolis, 60 percent of its 7,000 guests booked after the two teams were set. The analysis found the average nightly room price booked the week of the event was $286, which was about 3.7 times the usual Airbnb listing for the area.
L.A. Adams thought ahead and checked every day for two weeks last year to see how the Airbnb prices were fluctuating in Minneapolis.
She has listed two properties near Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including one near Northside Drive and Magnolia Street, basically in the shadow of the stadium. The price for the house that can sleep six people: $4,000 a night. Adams, who lives in Gwinnett, thinks as soon as the teams are set on Sunday, her properties will both sell.
Kara O’Brien and Kate Giroux own the treehouse in East Atlanta Village that sits above grazing alpacas and llamas and a 30-foot-tall bamboo forest, it is the most wish-listed Airbnb in Atlanta.
O’Brien said she listed it at a “ridiculous” rate — $1,000 a night — on Wednesday. Someone snatched it up hours later.
But when some hosts realize how much money there is to be had, they can leave out-of-towners in the lurch.
Elisha McCready had two Airbnb hosts cancel on her once they realized she had booked during Super Bowl weekend. In January, she and a friend booked a room for $200 a night.
“My apologies, the rate was not set correctly for Super Bowl weekend,” read one response she received from a canceled host.
The landscape had changed by the time the host had canceled on her. “Way fewer options. There were still a few that ended up being under $200 that were smaller and further away from where we wanted to be,” she said.
Her friend isn’t coming, but McCready cashed in on some Southern hospitality and, after all the partying, she will be crashing on a friend’s couch.