Graduation is quickly approaching, and with that comes families of students looking for a place to stay.
Nicole List, director of sales for Courtyard Marriott Oxford, explained just how competitive getting a hotel room for graduation can be.
“We’ve actually had guests book rooms a year in advance, or try to book a room further out than a year in advance,” said List. “So as soon as they have a sophomore or a junior, they’re already calling us.”
List said this proactiveness is a good thing, but sometimes parents jump the gun a little.
“We can’t necessarily book them because you can only book a little less than a year out per Marriott standards,” List said, “but we’ve seen it quite early in the year, some of the inquiries of the parents, which is great because they’re thinking in advance.”
Lena Snow, reservation and revenue manager at the Inn at Ole Miss, said graduation-related reservations set a record this year.
“We posted on our social media prior to Aug. 1, 2017 that at 8 a.m. that day was when we would start taking reservations by email for spring 2018 graduation,” Snow said.
The morning of Aug. 1, the whole hotel was booked in about 45 seconds. According to Snow, it’s the fastest the hotel has ever filled up for graduation.
While many parents plan far in advance, List said the Courtyard Marriott doesn’t get to capacity quite as early.
“Generally, in the fall prior to graduation is when we get the bulk of reservations, and the last-minute ones like now, the April ‘We’re desperate for a room. We need to stay somewhere,’” said List.
However, as rooms are booked and rates go up, some families look for an alternative to hotels — rental homes.
Ole Miss junior Karlee Kilker said her parents have already booked a rental home for her graduation in May of 2019.
“My parents are coming from about six hours away, and so they’re looking for a place where they can have flexibility to just come in and out,” said Kilker. “It’s kind of like home, and they can be closer to me.”
“It’s not just a done-up like every other room that you get in a hotel, it’s custom,” said Kilker. “Most of the time, it’s going to be a lot more homey than your hotel chain room would be. The places that they’ve been fortunate enough to stay in have always been kept up very nice so that you get a clean experience, but it’s in an actual home instead of a travel hotel.”
While some families, like Kilker’s, planned ahead, others didn’t know they should book a place that far in advance.
“We started looking in January, thinking that was early, but we were wrong,” said senior Kirsten McGill. “Almost every hotel room in Oxford was booked, and if it was available, it was very expensive and over-priced, or it was just one room available, which was too small for my family.”
According to List, hotel rooms tend to get to get more expensive closer to busy dates because of high demand and low inventory.
“We start off at a certain rate, and as the demand starts coming in, and the pick-up of the booking of the rooms, our rate will go up a little bit higher and higher,” said List.
As graduation approaches and parents can’t find accommodations at a hotel or a rental home in Oxford, List suggests looking outside of the town for rooms.
“We recommend them going over to like New Albany,” List said. “We have a sister property in New Albany, which is only 25-30 minutes away. We’ll also suggest Tupelo as the next biggest town to stay in, and we – as a management company – have some sister properties out there, too.”
However, even the hotels outside of Oxford aren’t cheap. Rates in Batesville are skyrocketing in anticipation graduation crowds. According to a recent check of Expedia.com, a room at America’s Best Value Inn in Batesville will cost $167. The following weekend, the same hotel is only $69, down nearly $100.
McGill, who ended up booking hotel rooms in Batesville, also said she has 16 family members traveling from the Mississippi coast and California to see her get her diploma, so she would rather them be able to stay together.
“At that point, Batesville was basically the only option,” McGill said. “But I’d rather them all be together in the same hotel than a few being in Oxford, and the others being in Batesville or Tupelo. It won’t be bad.”