As hotels fill up, evacuees might consider Airbnb

Hotels all over our area are filling up fast, if they're not already full. Thousands of people are getting out of South Florida and trying to book rooms here. On top of that, Pinellas County has mandatory evacuations in place.

Over the past three days, TJ Johnson has answered hundreds of phone calls at the Hilton Garden Inn near Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. She’s had to turn away hundreds of guests, because all of the rooms are booked.

“They're calling from I-75 stuck in traffic, and they're just fleeing without anywhere to go,” she said.

She’s called other area hotel chains for guests, but hasn’t had any luck. They’re all full too.

At this point, a hotel might be hard to come by. It might be obvious to some people, but it’s worth checking Airbnb.

There are still a lot of rooms available, even in the areas where all the hotels are booked.

“Right now we have a guest room open,” said Jody Burnett, an Airbnb host in Lakeland.

The room comes complete with all the comforts of home, plus a back-up generator if power goes out.

The welcome sign is out now. But there's even an alert on Airbnb saying rooms are filling fast. They're only going to fill up faster as Irma moves closer.

Airbnb has also activated its Disaster Response Program, which allows residents who have had to evacuate or first responders to find temporary housing with hosts who open their homes for free.

As of Thursday afternoon, none of the counties in Tampa Bay are on this list.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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