Business

Cosmic yoga, portable toilets: Solar eclipse will deliver 'tourism boom' for economy

NEW YORK — A fully booked hotel in Maine said it received its first request from a solar eclipse tourist five years ago. A portable toilet vendor in Indiana said it is doing 10 times more business than it usually would at this time of year. A botanical garden in Texas already sold out its eclipse viewing event, warning "walk-ups will not be accepted."

A wave of travel to the 15 states in the viewing path of the total solar eclipse, set to take place on April 8, will generate a surge of spending to the tune of at least hundreds of millions of dollars, delivering a windfall for local businesses and a burst of activity for towns suddenly transformed into tourist destinations, some economists told ABC News.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," Adam Kamins, senior director of economic research at Moody's Analytics, told ABC News. "It will essentially be a weekend-long tourism boom."

In the U.S., the path of totality will begin in Texas and travel upward through midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio, ultimately reaching the likes of New York, New Hampshire and Maine.

As many as four million people will travel to the path of totality for the eclipse, making it the largest travel day of the year, according to research group Great American Eclipse.

Travelers will mainly shell out money for gas, lodging and food, generating between $372 million and $1.5 billion in economic activity, Bulent Temel, professor of practice and economics at the University of Texas, San Antonio, told ABC News.

Temel examined the spending of a typical tourist during the most recent solar eclipse, in 2017, adjusting for inflation and projecting that visitors this time around would each spend about $244 each.

"It's quite significant," Temel said.

Rangeley, Maine, a snowy resort destination for stargazers and snow-mobile riders, is home to 1,200 people.

The town expects as many as 20,000 visitors for the eclipse, Travis Ferland, owner of the Rangeley Inn and board member at the local chamber of commerce, told ABC News.

The Rangeley Inn, which began taking reservations in November, sold out in January. To serve eclipse tourists, the hotel will host a "Coffee & Constellations" discussion leading up to the eclipse and a themed party afterward, replete with a live band.

Other activities on offer for eclipse tourists in Rangeley: "Cosmic Yoga," "Total Eclipse Paint Night" and "Night Sky Trivia."

Parkside & Main, a local restaurant, has received about 20 calls per day from eclipse visitors as far flung as Washington State, California and Australia, Kash Haley, the part owner of the businesses, told ABC News.

"People love their astronomy," Haley said.

The restaurant plans to stock 50% more food than it typically would at this time of year, but Haley said he doesn't want to run the risk of purchasing too much and suffering the cost.

"For a small business, it's tricky," Haley said. "There's no science behind it."

The restaurant has sold themed T-shirts bearing the slogan, "Parkside of the Moon," and an illustration of a fork and knife inside the iconic triangle that appears on the cover of the Pink Floyd album by a similar name.

In all, the eclipse is expected to bring more than $24 million in spending to Maine, according to research firm The Perryman Group.

The spending in Texas, which Temel estimated could reach more than $600 million, will make it "the most profitable 22 minutes in Texas history," Temel said, referring to the expected duration of the full solar eclipse over the state.

In Arkansas, the eclipse could bring nearly $50 million in economic activity, according to a study by Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

"It might very well be the biggest single tourism event in the state's history," Pakko told ABC News.

Kamins, of Moody's Analytics, said the eclipse would bring a significant, albeit temporary boom for towns and cities along the path of totality. However, he added, the economic benefits will be limited by the lodging and restaurant capacity of the regions involved.

Some of the states -- including Arkansas, Ohio and Indiana -- rank among the lowest for their share of the nation's consumer-driven economic output, Kamins added.

"Obviously, it's a natural event," Kamins said. "It has no concern for where the tourism infrastructure might be."

An unsung feature of that infrastructure: toilets. In Bloomington, Indiana, where local officials expect 300,000 visitors for the eclipse, a portable toilet company called Izzy's Rentals is seeing more customer demand than it ever has in its nearly 20 years of operation, Cindy Lewis, the company's part owner, told ABC News.

Izzy's typically rents out about 20 portable toilets on a typical weekend day in April, Lewis said. On the day of the eclipse, she added, the company will rent out 200.

In preparation, the family-owned firm added a third employee and expanded its inventory with help from a company in Indianapolis, Lewis said.

"To have a big day like this in April is wonderful," Lewis said, while acknowledging some trepidation about the frenzy headed her company's way.

"It feels like a big impending storm," Lewis added. "You don't quite know what's coming."

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