Hotels often book up for graduation weekend far in advance. Bed and breakfasts and camp sites are other alternatives. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Lindsy Mobley

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Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn.

Business is booming for San Luis Obispo’s local hotel community with graduation just around the corner.

Those who plan on staying in town for graduation weekend need to make a reservation now, before the entire county is booked.

“I’d say you really ought to start planning now for graduation weekend,” Madonna Enterprises President Clint Pearce said.

“It’s important,” Pearce said. “If you know you’re coming, you need to start figuring out your head count and reserving rooms at least a couple months ahead of time. Because the closer you get, you know there’s always cancellations and things, but the hotels book up fast.”

Grace Allen, the director of visitor services for the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, advises visitors to book rooms as early as eight to nine months in advance. The already high number of graduating students multiplies when each student has family members coming, she said.

“Our city is going to be impacted by all these people that are going to be graduating,” she said.

Allen pointed out that it’s a busy weekend not only in the city, but throughout the county as well.

“People will notice the hotels will be booked right away in our city because, of course, it’s easy access,” Allen said. “And then there’s always bed and breakfasts that you can stay at and there’s camp sites you can book. But hotels throughout the county will be booked.”

The longer you wait, the fewer choices you will have. And vacancies are rare on graduation weekend, Pearce said.

Some visitors book reservations for big events such as Open House and graduation a year in advance, Pearce said.

“Some people start that far in advance,” Pearce said. “You know, (there are) really good planners out there. And then there’s folks that don’t really think about it much, I guess, and try to get it almost the day of.”

Fortunately, those who fit into the latter category still have options.

“I think that sometimes the day of, or very last minute, you almost have a better chance than two weeks out,” Pearce said. “There’s always last-minute cancellations with hotels.”

Pearce suggests getting the closest room available, whether that be as far as Atascadero, Paso Robles or Santa Maria. Then, the week leading up to graduation, continue to call your desired hotel and make sure you’re on the list to get a room if any cancellations occur.

Some hotels have no-cancellation policies, though, so do research before calling, Allen said.

“You can always contact the visitor’s center here at the (Chamber of Commerce), and we’ll be more than happy to help you find any place, and we won’t stop until we find you somewhere,” Allen said.

Another option, she said, is getting a vacation home for a more relaxed atmosphere.

“That way, they are able to have barbecues and they can host parties at their vacation home, rather than going out,” Allen said. “Because more than likely, the restaurants are going to be booked as well.”

For desperate situations, she said families can camp, since there are many great camping areas in the county, including El Chorro Regional Park, Montaña de Oro, Morro Bay State Park, Pismo State Beach and Santa Margarita Lake.

Camping is also a cheaper option, since hotel prices rise during the summer season.

It’s normal in the hotel industry to raise prices during big events such as graduation because it will raise hotels’ revenue, Pearce said.

These events have positive economic effects for the city, Allen said. When people are here, they want to go to wineries, restaurants, concerts, art museums or explore shopping options, which means Cal Poly makes a positive impact on the community, she said.

“Graduation weekend is a huge benefit and boost to the local hotel industry,” Pearce said. “Just as Open House — or Poly Royal, as I like to call it — is. It almost goes without saying how much business comes to our local economy during those big events from campus. It’s a great piece of business that we benefit from.”

Allen also pointed out that it’s special to see the visitors’ support, not just as a tax boost to the city, but as a community helping the graduating students’ success in the world.

“Our hotel community in San Luis really embraces all the Cal Poly events, especially graduation and Open House,” Pearce said. “And we do everything we can to accommodate those guests. The city works with hotels from providing shuttles to alleviate traffic congestion and things like that, too, so it’s a great time to stay during those big Cal Poly events. You can just enjoy the beautiful community.”

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