TIFF: a case of bedbucks

Letting a stranger into your bed might make you some money this TIFF.

With hotel prices skyrocketing during these 11 days of the Toronto International Film Festival, many movie-goers coming to the city are looking to classified advertising sites like Craigslist and Airbnb to save money on accommodations.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer if you have the space and you’re able to do it,” says Kisha Powell, 32, who lives in the city’s east end.

Hearing the news that hotel rates were skyrocketing to an average of $800 a night during the festival, Powell now hopes to rent her home out during next year’s TIFF. She’d be willing to provide not just room, but board too, she says. “If you want to pay me $400 a night, I’ll even stock the fridge for you.”

Like the Olympics for moviegoers, TIFF doesn’t just attract Hollywood’s biggest stars, but hordes of press and public. Last year, the fest drew some 1,200 accredited media and over 400,000 public attendees, according to an October statement. Many scramble to find a place to stay during the event.

Gabor Forgacs, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers school of  tourism and hospitality and Research specializes in hotel revenue management, and says the spike in hotel prices can be linked to a surge in Toronto’s luxury hotel market.

“Toronto has a little bit of an issue with so many high-end hotels entering the market. We had the new Shangri La open, new Four Seasons, new Ritz Carlton, new Trump — that’s a lot of competition,” he says. “(TIFF) is a time when they will do well. Maybe the only time in the year they will do well. This is their time under the sun.”

During some months, luxury hotels in Toronto can operate at as low as 40 per cent occupancy. “Who in their right mind comes to Toronto with that kind of money in February? That’s when they struggle,” he says. Big events like TIFF are their chance to make up for those months.

Forgacs warns people looking to rent out their spare bedroom to do their research, however, before offering up their home.

“Many people don’t necessarily understand what they’re in for,” says Forgacs, who spent 20 years working with the Four Seasons Hotel. “If you’re just prepared to count the money coming in, you are not necessarily prepared to do more than mopping up the floor.”

Natalie Hunt, 23, a new Toronto resident in the Dufferin and St. Clair area agrees with that sentiment.

“This is my home. This is my furniture. I don’t want strangers just hanging out, throwing wine all over the couch.”

But for people like Hunt, TIFF isn’t about making money anyway.

“I want to see some good movies and come back to my own bed at night.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on September 11, 2013.

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