KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Football fans are paying a premium this weekend to see the Vols take on Georgia. A quick Google search shows hotel rooms are going for $700 to more than $1,000 a night. The No. 1 team in the country coming to town is just one reason behind the rates.

Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville, says hotel rates in the city were going up before football season. In fact, she said they increased 30-40% during the pandemic. And people are paying the higher prices.

The city received record revenue from the hotel/motel tax during July and August.

It’s all driven by demand. Basically, Bumpas explained, rates increased because Knoxville is a place people are willing to spend money to spend the night. During the pandemic, more people turned to Knoxville as a getaway destination, took advantage of the outdoor recreation, walking trails, among many other other attractions.

“We have a certain customer that’s in the marketplace now that’s either budgeting to spend more or just has more money to spend,” Bumphas said. “We’re capitalizing off that. Honestly, I’ve been saying that Knoxville should have been getting these rates years ago. That’s a silver lining of COVID.”

Michelle Arline, vice president of sales and marketing for Gibson Hotel Management Inc., said most rooms are full at their 10 area hotels – and not just because of football.

“There are so many other great things going on as well, too. You have Eric Church that’s performing at Thompson Boling Arena on Friday,” Arline said. “With the fall season and all the beautiful colors out there and the trees all turning, it really creates this beautiful background for weddings and family reunions coming to town.”

Bumpas and Arline recommend booking early to find the most budget-friendly prices. Arline recommends rewards program members book directly with a hotel brands, or individual hotels, to ensure they earn points.

Bumpas said it’s a good idea to check out the discount sites since many hotels have a block of rooms at lower rates. However, she urged the public to book early as they sell out quickly.