News & Politics

Trump’s July 4 Spectacle Did Not Translate Into an Airbnb Bonanza

Attendees at the Salute to America countered the miserable weather that day with a Trump flag. (Photograph by Andrew Beaujon)

President Trump’s “Salute to America” this past July 4 definitely did not overwhelm DC properties rented on Airbnb, according to data the short-term-rental service released Tuesday. The five biggest weekends for the District included those preceding Columbus Day (12,100 guest arrivals; $5 million in host earnings) and Memorial Day (12,500 arrivals; $4.9 million) and two weekends around the cherry blossoms’ projected peak bloom: April 5-7 (12,400 arrivals; $4.5 million) and April 12-14 (12,400 arrivals; $4.3 million). DC’s top weekend for Airbnb hosts was May 17-19 (12,700 arrivals; $5 million), a timespan that included several local universities’ commencement weekends.

July 4 fell on a Thursday this year, effectively creating a four-day weekend for many people, albeit one that resists a perfect comparison with other weekends. An Airbnb spokesperson tells Washingtonian that DC hosts saw 10,900 arrivals between July 5-7. One bright spot for advocates of the President’s celebration, which included tanks, a VIP section, and a very long fireworks show? Host earnings were higher that weekend than the Top 5 weekends: $5.7 million, the spokesperson says.

A flag-burning by the White House on July 4 turned into a melee between Proud Boys and Trump critics. Photograph by Evy Mages

Airbnbs were, of course, not the only places to stay during the event, which took place on a beastly hot, humid, and rainy day, and Airbnb’s data doesn’t include properties in Northern Virginia and Maryland.

Destination DC doesn’t track visits for particular events, but hotel occupancy in the District over the July 4 period was 95.2 percent, a spokesperson for the city’s official tourism-marketing organization tells Washingtonian. That’s above the average July 4 occupancy over the years between 2012-2018, 87.2 percent, though the spokesperson notes occupancy is highest when the holiday falls on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. The Telugu Association of North America’s annual conference took place over the July 4 weekend last summer and accounted for at least 1,250 hotel rooms, the spokesperson says.

The highest occupancy rate in recent years was Saturday, July 4, 2015, when it was 97.5 percent. Hotel occupancy is an indicator of tourism trends, but it doesn’t offer a direct measurement of people who visited because more than one person can occupy a hotel room. For what it’s worth, Metro ridership on July 4, 2019, was up 1.7 percent over 2018.

One event that definitely failed to move the needle, tourism-wise, over the July 5-7 weekend was the “Demand Free Speech” rally in Freedom Plaza that attempted to piggyback on the President’s spectacle. I covered the event, which was headlined by alt-right activists like Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer, and counted at most 200 attendees.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.

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