Mar 18, 2024 - News

Projecting the solar eclipse's impact on Austin

<span style="display: block;text-align: center;">Path of the April 8, 2024 eclipse</span>
Data: NASA; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

In just three weeks, Central Texans and thousands of visitors will crane their necks up toward the sky to get a good look at the total solar eclipse.

Why it matters: The April 8 natural wonder is expected to bring an extra 1 million tourists to the Austin area on an already busy weekend, with the Capitol 10,000 race and CMT Music Awards scheduled for Sunday.

The big picture: Areas in the path of totality have been competing for attention from eclipse chasers traveling to see the solar spectacular — Northwest Arkansas, Cleveland and Indianapolis are all drawing tourists.

  • San Antonio officials have been marketing to eclipse visitors for years, Visit San Antonio chief marketing officer Andrés Muñoz tells Axios.

What they're saying: Visit Austin officials haven't been "actively marketing" Austin as a destination to see the eclipse "because we already anticipate the city will see an influx of visitors," Visit Austin's Wesley Lucas tells Axios.

By the numbers: The tourist bureau does not have an economic impact estimate, but downtown hotels are averaging 77% occupancy for Saturday through Monday night, Lucas said. Citywide occupancy rates are around 68%.

  • On Sunday night alone, downtown hotels are averaging 78% occupancy, compared to about 55% during Sundays in April 2023, according to Lucas.
  • Austin and the Hill Country made Airbnb's recent list of popular and most-booked cities along the path of totality, and Expedia Group ranks Austin No. 2 out of destinations in the path of totality for hotel room bookings in early April.

Zoom in: "Hotel average daily rate is pacing to be 29% higher than 2023 for early April timeframe over the eclipse," Lucas said. "Strong signs point to increased visitation and tax revenue for April 2024."

Between the lines: While a large city like Austin can handle the tourism strain, surrounding towns are bracing for an unprecedented influx of visitors. In Hill Country cities like Kerrville, the population is expected to double or even triple.

  • "We expect that kind of visiting traffic here to cause extreme traffic congestion on our roadways, place an enormous strain on our first responders and hospital systems, drain our food and fuel supplies and strain our city and county infrastructure to, quite possibly, over capacity," Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly said in a statement.
  • Kelly issued a disaster declaration in anticipation of the eclipse, activating the city's emergency management plan and qualifying it for potential state or federal assistance.

What's next: Locals should plan for crowds, busy roads and airport delays.

  • The Texas Department of Transportation warned drivers to be on the lookout for distracted pedestrians looking to the sky and says drivers should not wear eclipse glasses while behind the wheel.
  • Local officials have encouraged people to shop, fill prescriptions and get gas in advance.

The bottom line: We're about to learn how much all the solar eclipse hype translates into real dollars spent in Austin.


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