Finding a place to stay near the Black Hills at this time of year is easier said than done.
This turns into a big money-making opportunity for hosts and their listings.
Karen Smith has an Airbnb in Whitewood, South Dakota, just eight miles northwest of Sturgis. She and her husband decided to try doing an Airbnb a little over three years ago.
“We honestly did it for the money,” Smith said. “And listing on Airbnb makes it really easy to put a little more in your pocket.
The couple started by building a master bedroom above the garage and listed it for rent during the year. When it comes time for the rally, the couple stays at the ranch they work at as ranch hands and then rents out their entire house.
"And we usually have some stay for the whole rally," Smith said. She also cleans other vacation rentals in the area and sees many other people stay booked with bikers during rally season.
High demand, limited availability
In the Sturgis area, Airbnb hosts earned a collective $2 million in 2021 with the typical host making about $8,000 over the course of the year, according to Airbnb spokesperson Haven Thorn.
During last year’s rally, those hosts collectively earned $400,000 and averaged earnings of $4,000 each just over those 10 days.
That means an Airbnb host typically makes about half of their profit during the rally.
“It really shows how impactful these big events are,” said Thorn.
As a policy, Airbnb doesn’t share the numbers of hosts in a region, but worldwide, the company has about six million listings on their site.
Vrbo in comparison has about two million.
According to a simple search on the Vrbo app on August 9, there was a 1%-7% listing availability for August 9-15.
That meant there were about 550 listings on Vrbo near Sturgis with anywhere from 2 to 40 still available for rent, but there may be some overlap of listings with Airbnb (i.e. places listed on both sites).
Airbnb and Vrbo listings range from single rooms to campsites on the lawn to entire houses.
Many listings on both sites go for in the low hundreds while some, such as a spot to camp in someone’s front yard, may only go for $50. One house near Sturgis in particular goes for nearly $2,000 dollars on Airbnb once you factor in service and cleaning fees.
Airbnb host profits off unique listings
Because demand for lodging during the Sturgis Rally is so high, hosts like Lang Termes typically have to increase the prices on their listings, but Termes still tries to keep things affordable, he said.
Termes has two unique listings on Airbnb.
The first is named the Turtle House, after it's unique turtle shell shape. Termes has listed it as an Airbnb for the past three rallies.
The second is called I-Casa, and it's a new eco-friendly, geodesic dome. This is Termes’ first rally listing the I-Casa . Both houses are about three miles away from Spearfish and about 17 miles away from Sturgis.
His father, Dick Termes, is an artist, and he built a geodesic dome house for the family in the 1970s.
“I was raised in geodesic domes and I always thought of them as pretty normal,” Lang Termes said.
When the pandemic hit, Termes – who is a traveling musician – decided to build a geodesic studio for himself. He was also trying to think of a way to make income, and that was when Termes noticed people “gushing” over the dome.
“I realized that it could be a unique glamping experience,” he said. “And we’ve had a lot of luck with it. I think people want to experience the rally but don’t want to deal with the chaos. It’s an interesting experience because the houses are secluded and quiet.”
Termes usually has one person rent out a house for at least five days if not for the entire rally.
“In my experience, the rally is elongating,” he added. “It seems to be two weeks now. I’ve been getting a lot of the older crowd that want to be there before or after.”
Termes said he plans to build two more I-Casa houses in the future to use as Airbnbs.
More people traveling to rural areas
New Airbnb hosts in the US saw an increase in income last year.
Since March 2020, over 8,000 cities and towns have had their first Airbnb book, most of which are rural towns.
“Rural travel was a big trend we saw over the pandemic. That trend is continuing with the return of events … like the Sturgis Rally,” Thorn said. “People are traveling more than they ever have before.”
People also come to Sturgis from all over the country.
The top origin cities for guests to the Motorcycle Rally this year, based on nights booked on Airbnb, are:
St. Louis, Missouri
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sturgis Rally provides Airbnb hosts with a surge in demand, income