If it’s not cloudy, those of us who bring you SmallBusiness.com will have some of the best seats in the house on Monday (August 21, 2017) for the first U.S. coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in over a century. That’s because our home-base is Nashville, Tennessee, the largest city along the entire 70-mile wide “path of totality” — the area where people will witness a total solar eclipse. How lucky are we?
3.7% (12 million) | Percentage of U.S. population that live within the “path of totality”
But when it comes to solar eclipses, the entire U.S. population will be lucky this Monday. Everyone in the continental U.S. will be able to witness at least a partial eclipse. And for thousands of small businesses who live in or near the path of totality, a 2-4 day travel and tourism boom is taking place.
27% (88 million) | Percentage of U.S. population who live within 200 miles of the “path of totality”
Because of the proximity of so many Americans to the path of totality, experts predict millions of people will drive hundreds, even thousands, of miles to see the total eclipse. Over the past few months, these “eclipse chasers” have snapped up hotel rooms, camping ground spots, and campus dorm rooms set aside for the event. According to Bloomberg, Airbnb listings and bookings have surged within the path of totality.
50,000 | People booked to stay this weekend in an Airbnb rental in the path of totality
11,000 | People typically booked to stay in an Airbnb rental during a weekend in the same area
With such an influx of visitors, many small business owners, small town Chambers of Commerce, and regional tourism agencies have been planning for the eclipse for months, even years, hoping it will be an opportunity of a lifetime…and not a logistical disaster.
Welcome to Eclipseville, Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Ten years ago, Cheryl Cook, the executive director of the regional visitors’ bureau that includes Hopkinsville, Kentucky (population 33,203), received an email from an eclipse chaser informing her that a spot near Hopkinsville would have the “greatest eclipse” in America a decade later. (The “greatest eclipse” refers to the spot that will provide the longest time for people to watch the total eclipse — 2 minutes and 40 seconds for Hopkinsville.) Once Cook learned the caller wasn’t a prank, she notified local hotels and business owners. In 2015, the city and business owners started preparing in earnest, first with the formation of ten host committees. Hopkinsville is expecting over 100,000 visitors and nearby towns like Clarksville, Tenn., and the large Army base, Fort Campbell, are expecting equally large numbers of spectators to the region. The city of Hopkinsville even registered the domain name Eclipseville.com and has received international media coverage.
Similar phenomena are occurring across the country. For example, according to the Great American Eclipse website, Nebraska is the closest destination for 33 million Americans who do not live in the path of totality. State tourism officials estimate the state will see between 117,000 and 466,000 visitors to Nebraska communities like North Platte, Kearney, and Lincoln that will be in the totality path. The town of Beatrice, Nebraska (population 12,362), expects as many as 50,000 visitors, many of whom will be headed to the Homestead National Monument, four miles outside town. Homestead is hosting scientists from NASA and Bill Nye the Science Guy at its eclipse-watching events. Overall, the state could see a three-day growth of 25 percent over its population of 1.9 million. “It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” John Ricks, director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, told CityLab.com.
Businesses and makers recognize the entrepreneurial opportunity
In addition to the individuals who have turned their extra rooms, yards (for camping) and houses into weekend rental units, other types of businesses, community groups, churches, schools and individuals along the path of totality have created festivals, marketplaces, and other events to celebrate the eclipse. For example, 3,500 items turn up on Etsy for a search of the term “solar eclipse.”
The Path of Tee-Shirt Totality
Of course, it wouldn’t be a community event without designers creating and selling tee-shirts to commemorate the 2:00 minutes or so of total eclipse. Here are just a few of the countless tee-shirts you’ll find along the Path of Tee-Shirt Totality. Oh, and that reminds me: We may be hard to reach on Monday as we’ve declared the day an official office scientific phenomenon and small business tee-shirt sale.
Note: Feel free to share the Path of Tee-Shirt Totality image.
To purchase any of the Tee-Shirts (temporary)
Corvallis, Ore. Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Amazon.com
Casper, Wyo. Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Amazon.com
Lincoln, Nebraska Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Amazon.com
Kansas City Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Amazon.com
Nashville Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Olivia Frankenstein
Smoky Mountains Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Amazon.com
South Carolina Eclipse Tee-Shirt | Amazon.com
Tee Shirt HT | Space.com
Photo of solar eclipse: istock