Throngs of believers are expected to go see the Pontiff, but where are they all staying?

By Michal Addady / Fortune
September 21, 2015
pope visit
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| Credit: Carl Court

The Pope’s visit later this week isn’t turning out to be the big payday that hotel owners had hoped for.

A quarter of Philadelphia’s 11,200 hotel rooms are still vacant during the Pope’s visit there, according to Delaware Online. Hotel operators there have been cutting prices, forgoing minimum stay requirements, and offering extras like subway tokens and even Philadelphia-themed snacks, the New York Times reports.

Philadelphia is expecting 1 million people to attend the Festival and Families and 1.5 million people to attend the Papal Mass, according to However, hotel vacancies could be a sign that those predictions are off.

Surrounding areas expected some tourism overflow from the cities, but that’s not the case. One hotel even lowered rates to just $10 per night and still saw no increase in reservations. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told the Times that he’s expecting many people to make late decisions about attending and that it hopefully translate into more last minute hotel bookings in the city.

One hotel in Washington, D.C., which the Pope is also visiting, has said that its bookings are up 20% from normal. Many hotels, particularly those closer to the action, are fully booked for Wednesday night, when the Pope will be in town. This is especially good news considering that just two weeks before the pope’s visit only 83% of the city’s hotel rooms were booked, the Washington Post writes. Although it seems like a high occupancy rate, Elliott Ferguson, the president of Destination D.C., a non-profit that handles the city’s tourism marketing, has said that it is normal for this time of the year, regardless of whether the Pope is visiting.

Hotels may be seeing some competition from online home rental service Airbnb. The Washington Post says that the company has booked 3,600 guests during the Pope’s stay in Washington, with 2,300 listings still available.

The pope himself will be staying on church properties.