When Virginia Beach City Council approved a request by music artist Pharrell Williams to host a three-day music festival over College Beach Weekend, council members hoped it would help reinvent and boost the city’s image for this time of year.
With popular headliners like Missy Elliot and Chris Brown, it turns out the festival is boosting more than just Virginia Beach’s economy: hotel rooms in Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News have also been filling up.
The festival, “Something in the Water,” will be on April 26 to 28 at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Organizers and the City of Virginia Beach anticipate 35,000 guests for each day of the festival.
While the Virginia Beach Hotel Association has said it expects the weekend to sellout for hotels in the city especially at the Oceanfront, hotels and Airbnbs on the Virginia Peninsula are also filling up fast.
Well, Williamsburg and York County still have some room.
“As it rises down there it starts to trickle west a bit,” said Ron Kirkland, executive director of the Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association.
Although Williamsburg is more than an hour away, Kirkland anticipates it could see some overflow guests from the festival, including last-minute hotel-bookers.
What about Airbnb?
While Pharrell Williams has encouraged area homeowners to list their homes and rooms on Airbnb to house festival goers, those rooms are also averaging more than $450 for the festival weekend, compared to about $150 or $160 on other weekends this season.
The average nightly rate for the weekend of April 26-28 in Williamsburg and York County is slightly lower than other April and May weekends — averaging $274 and $249, respectively, according to Airbnb data Friday.
Comparatively, Hampton and Newport News Airbnbs are, on average, a couple hundred dollars more per night than other weekends this month. Those rentals average more than $400 per night.
On Friday, Airbnb listed a notice saying 78 percent of rooms in Newport News had already been booked for the weekend of April 26 to 28.
Kirkland said Williamsburg-area hoteliers have not yet seen any major impacts by Something in the Water.
That doesn’t mean Williamsburg won’t see festival goers, Kirkland said.
Kirkland said some last-minute guests might book in Williamsburg where rates are lower.
“We might see a groundswell in middle of next week, when it’s inside that 72 hour window,” Kirkland said. “That’s when people know about weather and plans they may or may not have. Then they might start calling.”
Kirkland said large events in the region can sometimes drive visitors to and from Williamsburg, including the area Greek festivals.
Hampton and Newport News
The Southside community has grappled with how to handle the influx of people caused by College Beach Weekend and Something in the Water — but those are not the only events bringing people to Hampton Roads that weekend.
The annual Nike Elite Girls Basketball basketball tournament in Hampton and the International Tattoo Festival in Norfolk are also happening that weekend.
“A majority of our hotels have already been sold out,” said Elizabeth Parker, president of the Newport News Hospitality Association.
Parker noted the event typically sells out or is completely booked months in advance since both events always occur on the same weekend in April.
The Nike basketball tournament brings anywhere from 220 to 400 teams to Hampton for the weekend.
The status of the open hotel rooms in Hampton is similar to Newport News.
“That’s typically a sell-out weekend for us,” said Mary Fugere, director of the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau.
While Virginia requires hotels to post their maximum nightly rates, Fugere noted the association isn’t responsible for the price of hotels rooms and “can only do so much.”
“We’’re not able to limit the hotels,” Fugere said. “We just encourage them to be reasonable.”