Anyone looking for a hotel room in Grand Forks for the UND-NDSU football game may be out of luck.
Grand Forks hotels are nearly full for the first weekend of October as the city gets ready for an Eric Church concert on Oct. 1, as well as the UND-North Dakota State football game on Oct. 2. Adding to the full schedule is a UND hockey game against Bemidji State, also on Oct. 2.
Grand Forks is coming off a wild weekend with Luke Combs setting a concert attendance record for the Alerus Center, which led to hotels getting some much-needed revenue in the process.
Now, local hotels are preparing for the Oct. 1 weekend with three large-draw events at the Alerus Center and Ralph Engelstad Arena. Rooms for the weekend have already become scarce.
Joe Cozart, former general manager of the Grand Forks Ramada Inn who now runs the OpXGroup consulting firm, said there are a few big opportunities for high local hotel occupancy in the near future, but the Oct. 1 weekend is the biggest upcoming opportunity in sight.
“These concerts last week and the one coming up, we’re at 100% (occupancy) already,” Cozart said. “We already know that’s going to be big.”
For those looking to book hotel rooms in Grand Forks for the Eric Church concert or the games, Cozart said it’s now or never.
“There’s some rooms available, but they’re filling up fast,” Cozart said. “We’ll be really close to 100% (occupancy) again.”
High room prices during big weekends come with the territory, but prices have already skyrocketed as of this week. Earlier this week, Hotels.com, which compiles room prices for hotels, B&Bs and other commercial lodging properties, had only two available rooms for two occupants in Grand Forks for the entire weekend -- one priced at $216 per night and the other at $421 per night. Checking out on Saturday before the game won’t help either, as rooms for only Friday night are all completely sold out. However, rooms are available in Fargo for the entire weekend, some of which for less than $100 a night.
Cozart said supply and demand, while a simple factor, is still the most important one when it comes to hotel rooms prices.
“It’s simple economics, just like the airlines,” Cozart said. “I’d say we average $300 a room night, and we have plenty of people that are turned away. Otherwise we wouldn’t go that high, but that’s how the industry makes up (money).”
Cozart said because the hotel industry is completely determined by the current market, it thrives during busy times and subsequently suffers during slow periods. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the industry’s woes, so Cozart said hotels are looking forward to weekends with large events drawing people into town.
“It’s not a regulated industry, so therefore, that’s how we make up (money),” Cozart said. “We give rooms away sometimes, and sometimes we hit them hard for the price of the room. That’s mainly to make up for all the discounts that we do. It’s the same thing with the airlines. They’ll give the airfares away when they have no business, but when they’re booked and they’re doing well in the big seasons, they’ll do the same thing. The prices change when it’s high occupancy.”