July | August 2017







Cities Prepare for Influx of Tourists Seeking Totality

By Shawntaye Hopkins, CSG communications associate
Missouri State Parks personnel started discussing plans for the state’s first total solar eclipse in nearly 150 years, which will occur on Monday, Aug. 21, about two years ago.
“Our reserved camping is over 90 percent full,” said Eugene Vale with Missouri State Parks’ Resource Management and Interpretation Program. “Many towns and cities within the path of totality are reporting no hotel rooms available. This will carry over to restaurants and souvenir sales across the state.”
Many cities across the U.S., including some smaller towns that do not often see influxes of tourists, are preparing to welcome crowds of people seeking totality as the sun, moon and Earth fall into a direct line. About 12 million people live within the 70-mile-wide path of the total eclipse that will cross 14 states. The number of people expected to travel to the path of the total eclipse is estimated at 1.8 million to 7.4 million, according to greatamericaneclipse.com, a site managed by Michael Zeiler, an eclipse chaser who works in the geographic information systems, or GIS, industry.
Vale said planning within Missouri State Parks began in earnest in January 2016. Souvenir protective eclipse glasses were ordered and special web pages were created for Missouri State Parks and the Missouri Department of National Resources. The path of totality in Missouri will touch 42 state parks and historic sites.
“It is very difficult to estimate numbers for something that hasn’t happened before,” Vale said.
But he pointed to Zeiler’s estimate that between 323,000 and 1.3 million people will travel to the path of totality in Missouri.
“That’s a wide range, and includes Missourians moving within the state,” Vale said. “We are using a doubling of the local population as our best guess for attendance at any given event. Where a site is remote from population centers, we are taking the largest attendance at any special event at that site as the planning number.”
Vale said all Missouri State Parks rangers would work during the eclipse, which is unusual for a Monday.
Dozens of special events are planned in Salem, Oregon, including viewing parties at local wineries and breweries and weekend-long festivals, said Kara Kuh, public relations manager for Travel Salem.
She said Travel Salem estimates that at least 200,000 visitors will arrive in the region, including four or five surrounding towns, but “it’s very hard to say since this is an unprecedented event.”
“We are estimating $9 million in economic impact over a three-four day period,” she said.
A website dedicated to all things eclipse in Columbia, South Carolina—totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com—referenced several mentions of the city in major media outlets that named Columbia one of the best cities in the nation for viewing the eclipse.
“Total eclipse weekend in Columbia, South Carolina, will have a tremendous impact on the Midlands region,” City Councilman Howard E. Duvall said in a statement on the site. “This impact will not be concentrated in just one area. The entire Columbia, South Carolina, region will enjoy benefits from visitors coming to view the total eclipse here. The lasting benefit will be from our visitors recognizing the uniqueness of this area and returning for another visit.”
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a statement that public safety officials had “undergone great efforts planning for the eclipse and eclipse weekend.”
“We’re looking forward to a safe, fun day in our city, and we encourage visitors and residents alike to contact local officials with any questions they may have,” Benjamin said.