COLUMBIA — MU Homecoming is a tradition that brings thousands of people to Columbia. But this year, because of its 100th anniversary, even more people are coming to fill the campus and the hotels.
There are 36 hotels in Columbia and more than 3,500 rooms available. For this weekend, every hotel in the city is completely booked.
Some people started booking rooms right after last Homecoming. The Gathering Place Bed & Breakfast has been sold out since October 2010, innkeeper Deborah Strid said.
James Weirich, general manager of Candlewood Suites, said all his rooms were booked by early in the year.
“We had lots of calls immediately after Homecoming last year, but we still had rooms available until January,” Weirich said.
It's not unusual for hotels in Columbia to sell out for Homecoming, but there's been even more demand this year.
Both the Travelodge on Vandiver Drive and the Days Inn on I-70 Drive Southwest have been full since six months ago.. "This is exceptional," Leela Jashnani, the owner of both hotels, said.
“Usually it is busy, but not so early," she said.
October is a good month for hotels in Columbia thanks to MU football games and festivals.
Hotels usually raise their prices for special events such as Homecoming. “It is supply and demand,”Jashnani said.
Travelodge has flat rates regardless of how many people occupy a room, but it did raise those rates for the 100th anniversary.
“Financially speaking, Homecoming has one of the highest rates of the year,” Weirich said. Candlewood Suites has a $20 premium on rooms this weekend.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau has been tracking Homecoming weekend bookings for more than six months and said all Columbia hotels and motels are full for Friday and Saturday. When that happens, the bureau keeps a list of hotels outside Columbia.
“We want to make sure that everybody coming to Columbia is happy," Amy Schneider, acting director of the bureau, said. "If that means we have to send them outside of Columbia to get a room, we will do that because they'll remember in the future that the people of Columbia took care of them.”
Hotels in nearby cities also are nearly full. In Jefferson City, the Baymont Inn and Suites has been completely booked for the weekend since a couple of weeks ago. Briar Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast has had no rooms available on Friday or Saturday for the past couple of months.
Moberly, which is about 35 miles north of Columbia, also is seeing a boost from Homecoming. The Holiday Inn Express had no vacancies, and the Best Western Moberly Inn had only a few rooms left.
“That's great news for the whole surrounding area,” Schneider said.