Demand for hotel rooms, along with pricing, shot up with California’s wildfires

It was highest as people fled and then returned to their fire-ravaged towns

Dec.December 11, 2018 03:19 PM
The Woolsey Fire rages northeast of Los Angeles on November 9 (Credit: iStock)

Demand for hotel rooms shot up in certain areas of California in the aftermath of the recent wildfires.

In Southern California, the average price for a room in Oxnard and Ventura counties from November 7-21 rose to $145.05 per night, or 8 percent more than the same period a year before. Strong demand pushed occupancy up to nearly 82 percent, or about 12 percent more than the same period a year earlier, according to STR, the real estate data tracker.

Demand spiked some days more than others. It spiked by more than 40 percent on November 11, for example, compared to a year earlier as the Woolsey fire raged across Ventura County and officials ordered evacuations. Demand was also about 35 percent higher on November 18.

Areas just outside the fire-ravaged areas were also up, as residents fled there ahead of flames. Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, and the northern parts of Los Angeles saw increases in demand of about 9 percent.

The impact of the Camp Fire in Northern California on the local hotel industry was even more pronounced. Between November 7-27, Butte County’s hotels saw a 43 percent increase in demand compared to the same period a year earlier. Demand increased by 120 percent on November 25, the day firefighters contained the fire.

Spikes in demand are common in areas affected by natural disasters. Miami’s hotel industry had one of the strongest fourth quarters of any market in the country last year because of the devastation of Hurricane Irma in September 2017. That maintained through the early months of 2018.

Price-gouging laws exist to ensure that people aren’t unfairly charged for essential items in the wake of an emergency. In California, landlords cannot raise their rents by more than 10 percent following a disaster. Food, medical supplies, and gasoline are also subject to regulation. California’s attorney general charged a Keller Williams agent for price gouging after she nearly doubled the asking rent on a property near last year’s North Bay fires.

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