There are all manner of predictions about which NFL teams will meet at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2 for Super Bowl XLVIII and which team will leave the field hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
But online travel agency Expedia suggests that spikes in Super Bowl weekend travel searches offer a good indication of which teams fans believe will actually end up in the championship game.
“For the eight remaining teams in the playoffs, demand for flights into New York is the strongest out of Seattle, followed by San Francisco, Raleigh-Durham and Denver,” said Jeremy Boore, travel analyst for Expedia.com.
Though Super Bowl favorites the Denver Broncos “had a slight hiccup” in week 15 of the season after losing to the San Diego Chargers, searches for flights into New York from that area have grown “at about the same rate as their probability of playing in the big game,” Boore said.
The probabilities, from Massey-Peabody Analytics, are determined by teams’ Massey-Peabody ranking and home-field advantage, as well as by chance.
The Bronco’s favored opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, “had a similar hiccup” in week 16 after losing to the Arizona Cardinals. However, Boore said, they not only remain the odds-on favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl “but have the highest volume of searches for flights into the NYC area for each of the past eight weeks of the season.”
And though the San Francisco 49ers have just a 5 percent probability of making another appearance in the final game, according to Massey-Peabody analysis, on Expedia the team has the second-most searches for flights into NYC over Super Bowl weekend. That correlates with many pundits’ laying odds that the 49ers will win the game.
Of course, any fan planning to be at the Super Bowl in person will soon have to stop searching for fares and actually buy a plane ticket and a game ticket, and find a place to stay.
Travelocity reports that for Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, round-trip airfares below $385 are currently available between New York-New Jersey area airports and most all Super Bowl-hopeful cities.
On Jan. 6, fares could be found from Denver for $266, New Orleans for $216, Charlotte for $299, San Diego for $379, Boston for $199, Seattle for $385, San Francisco for $318 and from Indianapolis for $358.
It’s no surprise that hotel rates for Super Bowl weekend are extremely high in the areas around the stadium, and are up appreciably in New York City compared with the same weekend in 2013 and to other weekends in February 2014.
In New York, “expect to pay an average of $300 per night with restrictions and minimum stay requirements,” said Courtney Scott, Travelocity’s senior editor. “Although cheaper rates may be found by booking a flight and hotel vacation, or by searching hotels across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the New Jersey metro area.”
Hotels closest to the Super Bowl venue are the ones charging the most, “and there have been reports of a hotel in New Jersey charging $1,000 a night,” said John Fox, of hotel advisory firm PKF Consulting.
But people don’t just go to the Super Bowl for the football. Many related events will be held in Manhattan, including a four-day celebration in Times Square.
“Remember, New York City has almost 100,000 hotel rooms,” Fox said. “That’s considerably more than most past host cities. And the city is already geared up to welcome more than 55 million visitors, overall, this year.”
While the Super Bowl may push up nightly hotel tabs in the city to match those during the peak holiday weeks in December, Fox said, “there should be plenty of options of finding a place to stay.”
(My story about getting ready to head to the Super Bowl first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)