LARAMIE – 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,” said Cole Ehmke.
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 said 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,”
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
• Providing services to travelers, such as bottled water
• Selling solar eclipse souvenirs, such as t-shirts, provided they could be made
• Organizing anything that could benefit from increased road traffic, including farm stands, garage sales and recreational offerings.
Ehmke said 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 said. “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 said.
“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,” said Ehmke. “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, star gazing, food and even a cowboy church service.”
Ehmke noted there are practical issues like bathroom facilities, trashcans, 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,” said Ehmke. The tax information is at http://revenue.wyo.gov.
He advised 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 said. “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.”