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College graduates’ families, friends pump up Airbnb bookings

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Lodging alternative marketing service Airbnb released figures Thursday that shows families and friends of college graduates piled into vacation rental homes from Pensacola to Miami

Guests booking rooms in Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes more than doubled in Gainesville and Tallahassee during the University of Florida and Florida A&M University commencement weeks in April.

Tallahassee also saw a significant spike the following week for the Florida State University Commencement, while Pensacola, Jacksonville and Daytona Beach also saw large increases in Airbnb bookings during the weeks of commencements for the University of West Florida, Daytona State College, and the University of North Florida.

Orlando saw 4,000 Airbnb bookings during the week of the University of Central Florida’s commencement in early May, far more than any other college town in the company’s survey. But that turned out to be typical for Orlando, no real difference from the previous week’s vacation rental homes activity.

“Home sharing provides significant economic value by expanding lodging capacity during commencement weekends for Florida communities that are home to large universities,” Tom Martinelli, policy director of Airbnb Florida, stated in a news release.

“As a Gator alumnus, I can certainly relate to my family having to book Gainesville hotel rooms a year in advance of my graduation, as is the case in college communities throughout the state,” he recalled. “We’re very encouraged to see how our platform has been utilized to provide affordable lodging accommodations for college families during stretches when hotels traditionally reach peak occupancy.”

Among the college towns in the company’s survey:

In Gainesville, 290 Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes hosted 752 guests during the week of UF’s late April commencement. That’s 136 percent more than rental activity than the previous week.

In Tallahassee, 290 Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 444 guests during FAMU’s graduation week, a 138 percent increase. The following week they hosted 637 guests for FSU’s commencement week, but since the previous week was FAMU’s graduation, the increase was just 35 percent. [Tallahassee also was hosting the last two week’s of the Florida Legislative Session during those weeks.]

Jacksonville’s 350 vacation rental home hosts saw 759 guests during UNF’s late April graduation, a 59 percent increase over the previous week.

Pensacola’s 230 hosts had 433 guests during UWF’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week.

Daytona Beach’s 330 hosts had 207 guests during Daytona State’s commencement in mid-May, a 27 percent hike over the previous week.



Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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