The Solar Eclipse Is Coming. So Is Big Spending.


Next week’s total solar eclipse is injecting a spirit of economic optimism for the towns and cities in its path, and some are estimating a boost of billions of dollars in tourism spending.

The moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun for only a few minutes on April 8, plunging a narrow area spanning 13 states into darkness. That area includes places such as Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Rochester, N.Y.

These cities and others from Texas to Maine are throwing eclipse watching festivals featuring live music, food carts, and art and craft shows, hoping to lure throngs of tourists. Hotels and restaurants are offering eclipse weekend packages, and officials expect big spending on dining out, rental cars, watch parties, and souvenirs.

Indiana anticipates 500,000 people will travel to the state from out of the zone, with officials calling it “the largest natural tourism event in Indiana’s history,” said Amy Howell, the vice president for tourism and marketing at VisitIndiana.com, the state’s tourism development corporation.

University of Texas-Austin professor Raji Srinivasan forecasts direct spending from $1.6 billion to $2 billion, based on estimates that four million people will travel to somewhere within the zone of totality and spend $400 to $500 each.

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Ray Perryman, of the Waco, Texas-based economic research and analysis firm Perryman Group, estimates the U.S. economic impact could reach $6 billion when factoring in indirect effects, including a $3 billion bump in gross domestic product and a $1.8 billion gain in personal income.

Perryman said restaurants could see a $685 million boost in direct and indirect spending, retailers a $1.1 billion boost, and short-term rentals and hotels a $810.8 million gain.

Perryman’s town of Waco happens to be in the zone of totality. Carla Pendergraft, the assistant director of tourism for its convention and visitors bureau, estimates 100,000 visitors will descend on the city from April 5-9, part of the three million visitors expected in Texas alone. Perryman estimates a jolt to local spending in Waco of roughly $30 million, including $8.5 million in direct spending.

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Events that weekend include free concerts, a fun run, and a lantern festival and drone show, all capped off with the main event “Eclipse Over Texas: Live from Waco,” which has been in the planning for three years, Pendergraft said. The event is being held in coordination with Baylor University, which will have on-campus activities and viewing stations.

In Dallas, hotels are booked solid, according to Shalissa Perry, the chief marketing officer for Downtown Dallas. An interactive art installation in the city that made its debut this weekend has been scheduled to remain in place until mid-May, well after the eclipse has passed.

Dallas and Austin have seen the most demand for rental car bookings, a

Hertz

spokesperson said. April 6 has seen a 3000% increase in advanced bookings compared with last year.

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One reason for the evident excitement is anticipated future effects for areas that don’t normally get much attention, Perryman said. “While the eclipse is a one-day event, many areas are hoping that the influx of visitors from across the nation and beyond will lead to lasting benefits.”

Officials have studied the 2017 total eclipse in the U.S., which crossed a different path, for clues about how they stand to benefit. Rochester, N.Y., tourism officials point to Greenville, S.C., which saw a $12.3 million economic boost from eclipse tourism seven years ago.

Rochester is estimating an influx of 300,000 to 500,000 overnight and day-trip visitors to its greater metro area based on what happened with Greenville then, according to Rachel Laber Pulvino, a vice president at VisitRochester. The economic boost is expected to be $10 million to $12 million, she said.

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Back in Indianapolis, multiple viewing events are planned in parks and green spaces throughout the city, its fairgrounds, museums, and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where NASA will be holding a live broadcast.

In Cleveland, The Cleveland Clothing Co. has nearly sold out of its commemorative “Solar Eclipse: Path of Totality U.S. Tour” and “Total Eclipse of the Sun” T-shirts and refrigerator magnets.

Destination Cleveland, the region’s marketing and economic development agency, also has been planning eclipse-related promotions since 2017, and expects to release its economic impact study this summer.

Spokeswoman Emily Lauer said Cleveland area hotel rooms for next weekend are selling for $700 to $800 a night, if available. The Cleveland Fed said it would more likely issue an economic impact estimate after the event.

Write to Liz Moyer at liz.moyer@barrons.com and Janet H. Cho at janet.cho@dowjones.com



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