Every four years, D.C. residents get a chance to witness history – and make some money on the side.
That is certainly the case ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, as hotels, homeowners and businesses across the District look to profit from the influx of spectators and protesters alike.
Experts estimate about 400,000 to 500,000 people will come to Washington for the events, short of the estimated 1.8 million who arrived for the first Obama inauguration but still enough to jolt the local economy.
Analysts expect the visitors will spend more than a billion dollars all together.
“It has an enormous economic impact,” said Stephen Fuller, public policy professor at George Mason University. “The context is that this is the slowest time of year for the economy. … Hotels have the lowest occupancy rates in January, February, around 40 percent, so anything that changes that can have enormous impact.”
The road to these hospitality industry riches, however, has been rocky.
Many hotels and private homes were booked well in advance of the actual election. Airbnb, which allows homeowners to rent out residences on a short-term basis, saw a huge spike in prices and bookings.
But that may have been when many prospective visitors thought Hillary Clinton would be the victor. Then Donald Trump won.
One person who manages those kinds of bookings in the region said he had a 90 percent cancellation rate in the 48 hours after the election.
Since that time, though, room stays are back on the rise.
Airbnb now says bookings in the D.C. area are about to hit an all-time high leading into the inauguration.
A scan of local hotel rates found a significant spike for the three or four days around the inauguration. And one of the Ritz-Carltons in Washington is completely sold out – room rates ranged from roughly $6,000 to $40,000 for a four-night package.