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Firefly caps out Kent County hotels

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The Firefly Music Festival has been a successful yearly room-seller for Kent hotels and home and room rentals. | PHOTO COURTESY OF AEG PRESENTS

DOVER — Even with the campgrounds surrounding the Dover Motor Speedway filled with RVs, tents and even pre-set tents for “glampers,” Kent County hotels and home rentals enjoyed a long weekend of filled rooms from the Firefly Music Festival.

Kent County Tourism Corporation President Pete Bradley said that for years, his organization has served as an intermediary with Firefly producer AEG Presents to find hotel rooms for vendors, security and support staff that work the four-day event. Just days before the event, he was still fielding calls to find open rooms.

“I’ve been hearing that the county is full, so now they [AEG Presents] are going to look further out of the area to find hotel rooms,” Bradley told DBT last week. “This is a huge event for our hotels, in just handling support groups alone. It’s a huge economic generator for us. In the big picture, that does put us on the map, because when these visitors are here, they have to eat and they shop.”

At this point, the Delaware Hotel and Lodging Association does not have figures for room occupancy for the weekend of the Firefly Music Festival. But Tom Kramedas of Axia Management told the Delaware Business Times that the four-day weekend fills the hotels the company owns in Dover.

“We’ve had a relationship with Red Frog [Firefly producer until 2018] and AEG since the beginning,” Kramedas said. “We give probably 75% of our inventory for their staff, contractors, vendors and entertainers in our four properties in Dover through a contract.”

The Dover hotel market does not quite fill up the week leading up to the event, but Kramedas said it’s typically sold out for the event nights. 

Axia Management owns four hotels in Dover, as well as some in Middletown and Lewes. The Axia hotels outside Kent County do not see the same business boom from Firefly, but some fans and AEG Presents staff do book in Middletown, Kramedas added.

“Firefly has been a great event, and it’s been very positive for our businesses over the years,” he said. “With the loss of a Dover NASCAR race, Firefly has been a great replacement. I hope it never leaves.”

For Bally’s Dover Casino Resort, Firefly Music Festival is a mixed event for its business. The resort has 500 rooms and is the largest hotel in the state, according to Delaware Business Times records.

“Firefly is a big weekend for Kent County. Typically, it tends to keep away our regular loyal casino customers that frequent Bally’s Dover Casino Resort, for the most part,” Bally’s Dover Vice President and General Manager Nick Polcino said. “We do see an increase in cash customers into the hotel. We sell packages that run the span of the Festival. We also have daily rates that festival goers gravitate to.”

Meanwhile, home and room rental service Airbnb welcomed 3,000 arrivals in Dover during the Firefly Music Festival of 2021. The top ten cities guests came from who stayed at an Airbnb included: New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Arlington, Trenton, Virginia Beach and Wilmington.

Airbnb Dover hosts earned more than $700,000 during the four day weekend in 2021. In the last six months of this year earned more than $16 million, according to an Airbnb spokesperson.

Even as the campgrounds are filled with festival goers, Bradley did note that not all stay on the site the entire four days.

“Some do get out and go to the AMC movie theater, hiking in our parks, going to restaurants, bars and breweries,” Bradley said. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase Kent County, and when the attendees get older and they need to think about where to live, work and play – they may choose us.”

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