Hotels in Lexington are almost all booked for what may be the busiest weekend in Lexington history, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, when Keeneland hosts the Breeders' Cup and the Kentucky football team has Tennessee in town at Commonwealth Stadium.
Louisville is also booked up with 50,000 youngsters at the Future Farmers of America convention that weekend, and regional hotels are filling up quickly. In fact, the UT football team couldn't find rooms in Lexington, and according to spokesman Jason Yellin, they are staying "elsewhere."
So if you're still looking for a place to lay your head, you might need to turn to what travel experts call "the sharing economy," the informal lodgings in people's homes provided by services such as Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and Flipkey.
"The sharing economy is new since the World Equestrian Games (in 2010), and we have a healthy amount for a city our size," said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX.
Since 2010, Airbnb has become an international accommodations juggernaut, offering anything from couches to entire houses for those who prefer generally lower prices, or the convenience of people's homes.
Here in Lexington, there are still about 112 listings on Airbnb for the Oct. 30-Nov. 1 weekend, ranging from downtown apartments to small horse farms.
Flipkey usually lists about 18 rentals, but only a few remain for Breeders Cup weekend. VRBO has less than left.
On West Second Street, Gayle Cerlan has just started using Airbnb to rent out the upstairs of her 1866 Breckinridge House (named for Vice-President John Breckinridge who lived and died there). It's three bedrooms with double beds for about $700 a night.
Cerlan, a gallery owner, painter and ceramic artist has filled the space with antiques and art. The space includes two sitting areas with a small refrigerator and coffee maker.
Cerlan said she didn't really want to downsize after her daughter went to college, but Airbnb offered an alternative.
"This is a big house, why not repurpose it?" Cerlan said.
Airbnb takes a small percentage of the rental. What hasn't yet been worked out for the sharing economy are the taxes and fees — about 4 percent of the room cost — that hotel guests have to pay, money that goes straight into supporting the convention and visitors' bureau and tourism and economic development projects. Ramer said that Kentucky lawmakers will probably address the issue soon.
"Obviously, we have a vested interest in compliance," Ramer said. "We want to make it a fair playing field for everyone."
It's not yet clear if all those rooms and houses will get rented out for that Breeders' Cup. But, as Ramer says, the sharing economy is here to stay.
"What you're seeing play out on national scale is how a traditional hospitality industry is changing," she said. "There are kinks to work out but I think it's resonated too much with traveling public to go away."