Know someone thinking about coming to Wollongong for UCI 2022?
You might want to tell them to book soon as rentals and short term accommodation are in hot demand.
Based on a search of the Airbnb website, for the week of the race, September 18-25, there are few properties left and consistent interest.
Across the Wollongong LGA only 71 properties are available, as of Thursday, and searches are up for those dates by 140 per cent.
On Booking.com, which includes hotels, only one property has rooms available in the Wollongong CBD and there are slim pickings elsewhere.
It is perhaps no surprise that the city would be booked out for an event that is expected to draw up to 35,000 visitors from around the globe, but as Mark Sleigh from Destination Wollongong points out, the issue is not confined to a major event such as UCI 2022.
"It's not just a challenge when events of this size come to town, it's a challenge every Saturday night," he said.
"Wollongong is relatively under done, as far as commercial accommodation options, and when you compare it against areas like Newcastle, they would have around 3500 hotel rooms, Wollongong has around 1100."
Since Wollongong was announced as a host city, Mr Sleigh said Destination Wollongong has been working with Wollongong City Council to explore alternative accommodation options, such as expanded camping areas, but it was inevitable that many UCI 2022 visitors would have to stay in Sydney and travel down.
This reality presents a number of complications, from public transport access to ensuring that visitors do spend locally and have a positive impact on the local economy.
For those Airbnb hosts who still have availability, what the third week of September could look like is still up in the air.
Lavana Dancer, a wedding photographer who rents out her Clifton home on Airbnb, said she was largely unaware of what impact UCI 2022 would have on her property, but was looking forward to welcoming visitors.
"It's fantastic for the community, especially because the race literally goes right past my front doorstep," she said.
"It's pretty exciting to live in an area that's featured in one of the top five sporting events in the world."
In contrast, an Airbnb accommodation provider in Thirroul, who did not wish to be named, said planning was well underway.
"I just put it over a few weeks at six thousands [dollars per night], and I'm sure it will be jammed even at those prices," the homeowner said.
The house in question is a six bedroom luxury villa that sleeps 14 people, and the property owner - who manages dozens of properties in California, USA - said raising the prices ahead of a large event was standard practice.
"You just quadruple the price with any events, like [in the USA] Fourth of July, places I let for $500 a night I let for $2000 a night."
The style of home in Thirroul would suit bosses of competing teams or high-profile contenders, the homeowner said. While the provider had a couple of inquiries already, they said they would look to revise the price to meet the market's demand as time goes on.
During the Christmas to New Year period last year, reports of skyrocketing prices for holiday rentals included one Kiama Downs property listed for over $22,000.
Ms Dancer said that she was not yet looking to raise prices but that Airbnb's inbuilt algorithm would lead to some price fluctuation.
"My prices fluctuate according to demand. It's pure economics. It's simple. You know, if demand goes up and supply goes down, then price goes up."
Ms Dancer said the extra fees covered the cost of maintaining the listing.
"To be honest, with the amount of work that goes into hosting and the financial rewards, you need these extra peak periods to justify the amount of effort that it requires."
But, if you are thinking about heading off for a week and listing your home for a quick buck, Mr Sleigh sounds a note of caution.
"My advice would be to make sure you have contacted local council, understand the regulations in the local area and then follow all of those requirements before you undertake that commitment."
In the long term, the aim of UCI 2022 is to put Wollongong on the world map for travellers, and not just as a stop over on the way to the South Coast or a day trip from Sydney.
While COVID may have temporarily paused the development of new hotels in the CBD, the international interest is hoped to spur further investment in commercial accommodation.
"There's no shortage of investors who've been in Wollongong over the last couple of years looking at new hotel investments. It just takes a while. So you would hope that the legacy element of the World Championships in September is new hotel investment coming to town."
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