Left: Pope Francis Right: DNC

It was just a few weeks before Pope Francis visited Philadelphia when people started to worry. Hotels still had a third of their rooms available for rent for the weekend, and a frenzy involving ticketed Papal events was leading to room cancellations. But just a few days before the Pontiff touched down in Philly, nerves started to calm, a curious number emerged. Hotels reported they were about 90 percent full.

And though rooms were actually less full on Friday and Saturday than they were on the same weekend last year, the hotels in the city still fared generally well for the visit, bringing in an aggregate of $5.7 million more than they did that same weekend in 2014. So even though the rooms weren’t full at the inn, the inn was at least making money.

Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said in terms of actual occupancy rates that “it was a little slower than what we had hoped,” but because rates were increased, “revenue is off the charts.” Here’s a look at the aggregate hotel occupancies for the 90+ area hotels represented:

Credit: Billy Penn

The occupancy rates on Friday and Saturday represent a slight decrease in occupancy compared to the same weekend last year, while the 80 percent full number from Sunday is significantly higher than the rates on the same Sunday last year. But Grose said more importantly for the hotels, it was daily room rates and revenues that made the Papal visit a success. He said in total, hotels brought in just over $10 million for the weekend, or 127 percent more than they did the same weekend last year.

Here’s how much the hotels charged each night, on average:

Credit: Billy Penn

That represents a large increase in room rates — Grose said on average, hotels in the city charged $160 on the same Sunday last year, meaning hotels marked up their prices for just Sunday night by some 180 percent.

So what’s all this mean for the future? When it comes to what was learned during the Papal visit, Grose said hotels did what they could, and ended up doing well in the end.

“I think everything that was in our control, we did very well,” he said. “Some of the things were out of our control like the security, we didn’t have anything to do with. I thought the whole weekend was a success. It was great exposure, we were on an international stage, and there’s no way we could have bought that kind of exposure.”

Now that Philly’s hosted the Pope, the next major event coming to town is the DNC next summer, which Grose said every hotel in Center City has already blocked off rooms and reservations for.

“Compared to the Papal visit, they’re two different things,” he said. “One you have pilgrims, the other is delegates. I think it will be very easy as far as housing is concerned because the delegates will be assigned hotels. But I don’t know what the city will look like as far as security and everything else.”

Anna Orso

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.