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Financial Opportunities Available as Eclipse Draws Near, UW Expert Says

August 2, 2017

The days until the sun and moon do their dramatic dance across Wyoming are lessening, but that doesn’t mean economic opportunities are dwindling for Cowboy State residents, according to the agricultural entrepreneurship specialist with University of Wyoming Extension.

“This is a rare economic opportunity even if you aren't in the hospitality or tourism industry,” Cole Ehmke says.

The moon will pass directly in front of the sun Monday, Aug. 21, providing a two-minute blackout in a 70-mile-wide beltline from Oregon to South Carolina. Ehmke says the crowds provide financial opportunities for anyone in prime viewing territories.

“If you’re in the band of totality or near a travel route, I’d sit everyone down and have a talk about what you or your business could do; then I’d get moving, since there isn’t much time left to prepare,” Ehmke says.

Those opportunities could be:

-- Providing places to stay prior to Aug. 21, including camper and tent spaces as well as housing.

-- Providing places to watch the eclipse for those arriving Aug. 21.

-- Providing services to travelers, such as bottled water and snacks.

-- Selling solar eclipse souvenirs, such as T-shirts, provided they could be made in time.

-- Organizing anything that could benefit from increased road traffic, including farm stands, garage sales and recreational offerings.

Ehmke says potential eclipse viewers have heard negative publicity about sold-out hotels and potential traffic jams.

“But, this is an opportunity for those who can take advantage of providing places to park a camper or pitch a tent, since smart travelers will come the day before to avoid the traffic, even if they’re only now deciding to go,” he says. “I imagine there will be a steady stream of people from Salt Lake City and Denver on the roads.”

Online lodging facilitators like Airbnb and VRBO are getting low on Wyoming offerings during eclipse week, but especially Aug. 20, he says.

“So, renting a room or a whole house might be very interesting, given that prices are inflated for the eclipse at $125 for a campsite near Casper,” Ehmke says. “Farmers and market gardeners with access to highways could benefit by selling their produce to travelers at roadside stands, or even a festival with music, animals, stargazing, food and even a cowboy church service.”

Ehmke notes there are practical issues such as bathroom facilities, trash cans, permits and insurance, if considering renting out viewing spots or organizing events.

“Beware that lodging websites don’t automatically collect lodging tax, so the Wyoming Department of Revenue is offering temporary sales tax and lodging tax licenses for people who are interested in selling a product or renting lodging during the eclipse week,” Ehmke says. The tax information is at http://revenue.wyo.gov.

He advises to be as clear as possible about what people will be getting if creating a listing on lodging sites.

“Manage expectations up front so a customer isn’t surprised,” he says. “And then I’d work hard to provide a good experience or a good product. It’s a one-time event, but we want people to come back.”


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Chad Baldwin

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