Demand for hotel rooms declines with size of Indy 500 throng

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Hotel rooms are always hard to come by on Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis, but the demand this year is lagging the demand from last year.

Hotel officials say that’s no big surprise. 

Last year marked the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, witnessed first-hand by an estimated crowd of 350,000. While Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials say they're expecting another huge race-day crowd on Sunday, it almost certainly won’t measure up to last year’s oval-packing throng.

Speedway officials are hopeful as many as 300,000 will attend this year's race. It should be noted that this year's attendance is expected to be as good or better than in 2015. (The Speedway is notoriously tight-lipped with crowd numbers, so it's difficult to make definitive comparisons in crowd size.)

That attendance decline appears to be reflected in area hotel prices.

On average, central Indiana hotel rooms this Memorial Day weekend are selling for $195 per night, according to HotelsCombined, a national hotel price comparison platform. That’s down 26 percent from the same weekend last year, when the average room was sold for $266 per night.

On the upside, central Indiana hotel rooms this weekend are selling for 51 percent more than the $129 average expected during the following weekend (June 2-4), according to HotelsCombined.

Officials for Visit Indy and Visit Hamilton County said that while hotel demand isn’t up to speed with last year’s, it is still very strong.

“We started seeing demand pick up very early this year,” said Visit Hamilton County CEO Brenda Myers, who added that she expects most if not all hotel rooms in Hamilton County to be sold out this weekend.

Indianapolis too has seen strong demand for this weekend since the early part of this year, Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops told IBJ, with a complete sellout of downtown hotels expected Saturday night.

“It’s difficult to match a year like last year, but we’re seeing very strong demand,” Hoops said.

According to local hospitality officials, the busiest—and most expensive—nights are expected to be Saturday and Sunday. Many area hotels require two-night minimums.

According to HotelsCombined, some of the area’s best known-hotels are scoring some of the highest prices.

The JW Marriott and Hyatt Regency are charging more than $400 more for certain rooms over a two-night stay this weekend compared to next weekend, according to HotelsCombined. The Alexander and Omni are both commanding prices this weekend $350 higher than next weekend for certain rooms. 

For example, the JW Marriott is asking $933 for a king or queen room with a city view on May 26-28, but just $524 for June 2-4. The Alexander is asking $886 for a deluxe room with two queen beds on May 26-28, but $519 the following weekend.

And it’s not just the posh downtown hotels that are cashing in. The Holiday Inn Express at the airport is getting nearly $500 more for a standard room over two nights this weekend than next weekend, according to HotelsCombined. That's $818 versus $322.

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