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Are Airbnb hosts price gouging for the Boston Marathon?

Hotel industry-backed group claims that local Boston Airbnb hosts are charging exorbitant rates for the eve of Marathon Monday

Boston Marathon
Boston Marathon
Photo: Michael Doyle.

The Boston Marathon attracts more than 30,000 runners each year, with a significant portion of those participants being from out of town.

In 2017, an estimated US$192.2 million was generated for spending impact in the Boston area, with a chunk of that going towards travel. As thousands visit Boston for Patriot’s Day weekend, with Marathon Monday in 2018 set for April 16, people need a place to stay, whether that be at a hotel, with family or friends or at an Airbnb, a marketplace where local residents rent out their homes for various lengths of stay.

AirbnbWATCH on Wednesday released a report which claims to show “significant price gouging by Boston Airbnb hosts, most of whom are commercial operators running multiple listings, for rentals during Boston Marathon weekend.” The organization compares the spike in prices to a trend they claimed occurred at this past year’s Super Bowl, the championship game of the National Football League.

The term price gouging refers to a significant spike in price to a point which is considered unreasonable. Laws vary by state in regards to price gouging.

For Airbnb stays, the company explains that per-night-pricing is based on nightly price, a cleaning fee, extra guest fees, an Airbnb service fee and local taxes.


The report comes from a group which has been called a “pseudo grass-roots organization” aimed to “publicly malign the company,” referring to Airbnb. AirbnbWATCH is supported by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), an industry trade group which itself represents hotels and owners.

The report does not refer to supply and demand at any point. “Many of these listings are not true home sharing, but instead a cover for commercial operators who are taking advantage of the system and depleting affordable housing citywide,” the report states.

AirbnbWATCH in its report, which includes screenshot comparisons of Airbnb listings for off-peak nights (the comparison dates range from one week before Boston to more than a month before) versus race-relevant nights, focuses on the eve of the Boston Marathon, April 15. A search on Google shows that hotel prices for the Boylston Street area range from approximately CAD$440 (The Boxer) to $724 (Courtyard by Marriott Boston Downtown) to $1,100 (Four Seasons).

Comparing those three hotels to the night of April 1 results in rates of $197 (+123%), $185 (+291%) and $807 (+36%), respectively. AirbnbWATCH lists the percentage increase for sample Airbnb listings to be between 137 per cent and 2,497 percent. “Boston Airbnb hosts increase prices by as much as US$1,900 per night,” the report states.