MARGATE — She’s been a tavern, a summer home and a shoreline beacon for ships offshore, and now she can add Airbnb host to her resume.
Lucy the Elephant, the popular Downbeach landmark, will be turned into a shorefront rental property for three nights only in March.
Airbnb is an online platform that offers lodging, mainly through homestays, for travelers.
Up to two guests can book a stay inside Lucy for one night on either March 17, 18 or 19. A one-night stay to sleep inside the famous elephant costs $138, because Lucy is 138 years old. The package includes a complimentary breakfast and dinner at local restaurants, as well as a tour during which the guests will learn the history of Lucy. Each guest will also receive a gift bag with Lucy and Atlantic City merchandise.
The Save Lucy Committee, the nonprofit that oversees operations and fundraising efforts for Lucy, is hosting the stay and partnered with Airbnb to “translate access to Lucy into the 21st century and get more people into Lucy year-round,” said Liz Debold Fusco, spokeswoman for Airbnb.
“It was sort of a meeting of the minds,” Fusco said. “We have long admired Lucy, as many hundreds of thousands of people around the world do, and she’s one of the last of her kind. ... She’s truly incredible.”
Airbnb has an ongoing promotion listing exotic places to stay — the Goodyear Blimp and Oscar Mayer Wienermobile have both been listed for stays on the site.
“I reached out to (Airbnb) and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come and meet our elephant,’” said Richard Helfant, CEO and executive director of the Save Lucy Committee.
The three one-night stays are a one-time marketing effort to bring people to the area, educate them about Lucy and raise money for her. There are no future plans to host the elephant as an Airbnb, although the committee is open to having further discussions about more one-night stays.
“This is not about turning Lucy into an Airbnb,” said Helfant. “This is a way for us to tell a much larger audience, ‘Hey, Lucy is here. She’s so unique, and she’s definitely worth coming to see.’ The more people that come, the more money we make.”
March 17, 18 and 19 were picked because the committee wanted to host guests quickly. It also wanted to host before April, when Lucy opens five days a week (Tours are only available on weekends January through March).
The Airbnb space has Victorian-style furniture and finishes to mimic the look of the early 1900s and is laid out similarly to how it looked 100 years ago when it hosted a British family for the summer. The bedroom is in the belly of the elephant, and a dining and kitchen area are a few stairs up inside the elephant’s head.
“It’s very reminiscent of her history,” Fusco said. “And it’s one of the first National Historic landmarks to be on Airbnb. Unless I missed something, she’s definitely the first elephant.”
One challenge for guests is that there is no running water in Lucy, but Airbnb will provide a trailer on site with a toilet and shower.
“What’s so special about this listing is that it is historic and a little bit educational in nature,” Fusco said.
While the stays aren’t available until March 17, visitors can come see the space decorated for the promotion during tours available Saturday and Sunday.
In working together, Airbnb made a donation to the Save Lucy Committee, although Fusco would not disclose the amount.
It cost the committee about $500,000 annually to operate and maintain Lucy, Helfant said. Funds come from small grants, tour and gift shop sales and donations.
But given her age, she needs some work, including an exterior surface restoration for which her paint needs to be stripped down to the metal then rust-proofed, primed and repainted. The project will cost about $500,000 and take two years to complete.
Once Lucy is listed on Airbnb and receives her overnight guests, Helfant anticipates the elephant will gain popularity on social media and bring more people to town to see her for themselves.
“I can only base it on the response when Airbnb did the blimp and the Wienermobile. It was overwhelming, and we’re hoping to have the same reaction,” he said.
Lucy’s Airbnb listing will go live at noon March 5 at airbnb.com/lucy.