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New and experienced Airbnb hosts prep for eclipse guests

Idaho Falls

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Keepsake hand towels Melanie Keyes is giving her guests who are staying during the eclipse weekend. She has guests from New York City and Oklahoma renting rooms at her house via Airbnb. | Photos by Carrie Snider

IDAHO FALLS — Melanie Keyes has stayed at Airbnb locations during her travels over the years and she’s always thought about renting out a room or two at her house, but didn’t get around to it until recently.

“The eclipse came up and nudged us a little harder,” Keyes said.

So Keyes and her husband, both of Idaho Falls, listed a room in their house on Airbnb and started bookings a month ago. They had guests for three weekends — visitors from California touring colleges, a family from China touring the sights, and a California couple visiting the national parks.

Next up, they’ll be hosting people for the eclipse.

“We’ve loved it so far. Best, easiest part time job I’ve ever had,” she said.

They’ll be adding another room and plan to continue with it after the eclipse is over.

According to Airbnb, Idaho saw a huge surge in rentals, and many are booked to stay in eastern Idaho during the eclipse weekend.

RELATED: Airbnb rentals in Idaho spike 450% for solar eclipse; Biggest night ever in the state

Keyes definitely expected a lot of people would be visiting the area for the eclipse.

“I figured it would be a big deal! I know there are people who travel the world chasing them,” she said. “I’m a scientist so I keep up with astronomy anyway. I figured there would be lots of nerds out there like me but with enough money to travel.”

Her guests for eclipse weekend are from Oklahoma and New York City.

Her New York City guest is Willie Xu, along with his dad from Texas. “We’ll be in Idaho for the eclipse because it’s got the best chance of clear skies and also we’ve never been out here before!” he said.

Xu and his dad are flying into Salt Lake City to start their trip; they plan to see the salt flats, then Twin Falls, and then Idaho Falls for the eclipse.

The upcoming eclipse also prompted Kathryn Kelly of Ammon to become an Airbnb host.

“I’ve been curious about it, and have a few friends who are hosts. The eclipse gave me a good reason to give it a try,” Kelly said.

She’s renting out four of the six bedrooms in her house for eclipse weekend.

RELATED: 10 things that will likely happen in east Idaho on eclipse weekend

A room Kelly offers for rent in her home via Airbnb.

“I didn’t know quite what to expect as far as who the house would rent to, but was excited when a family of seven from Germany requested to stay. A couple, a grandfather and four teenagers,” she said. “It appears they are planning to be here for the eclipse as part of a longer sightseeing tour.”

Even though meals are not included in the Airbnb arrangement, she said anybody who comes to her house is going to be well fed, plus Kelly has eclipse glasses for everyone.

“I originally thought this might be a good money making opportunity, but honestly, I don’t know if I will make that much after expenses,” Kelley said. “Still, it’s a fun way for my family and me to enjoy people from another culture, and also to represent Idaho and America in a positive light. I think we will make some happy memories!”

While there are many new Airbnb hosts who are seeing some of their first-ever guests this eclipse weekend, there are also experienced hosts who see it as another regular booking.

RELATED: Looking for eclipse glasses? Here’s where you can find them

Lorana Johnson is a long-time Airbnb host in Ammon, and she didn’t change her prices for the eclipse. Visitors from all over the world have stayed at Johnson’s home for the past several years. As an empty nester, renting out rooms in her house via Airbnb has been a great way for her to supplement her income. She also works at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

Johnson has three rooms in her house she rents out regularly. “For the eclipse I have one guest from Australia, one guest from Paris, and one guest from California,” Johnson said.

The “Idaho Room” at Johnson’s home

Back when she started hosting, there were hardly any Airbnb options in town. A friend gave her some guidance, and she made a profile and started renting.

“At first it was slower, because I didn’t have any reviews. Now I keep really busy,” she said.

She has hundreds of reviews and even has several regulars who prefer to stay with her.

Hosting people from all over the world, and then seeing her different guests interact with each other, has made for some fun times over the years. One memorable night she had visitors from Iran, someone originally from China, and a medical specialist. They all stayed up talking until late into the night.

Some of her guests come to stay in eastern Idaho for work, and many are here to visit the local sights.

“They always ask for suggestions about what to see in Yellowstone or where to eat,” Johnson said.

She does worry a bit that with the larger volume of Airbnb hosts that past guests will have a harder time finding her profile; but she’s also curious to see how many of the new Airbnb hosts will continue after the eclipse.