Businesses, event planners forming plans to draw eclipse crowds next spring
By Holly Riddle
In April 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross the country and the Adirondacks fall into the eclipse’s path of totality — considered the best spot for eclipse viewing. A year in advance, organizations and businesses around the region are preparing for an expected influx of visitors.
In Tupper Lake, Seth McGowan is president of the Adirondack Sky Center, the only astronomical organization in the Adirondacks. Total eclipses are events people travel for, said McGowan, who headed to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 2017 to see one for himself. “There were so many people there, it was like Woodstock. I think that Tupper Lake has the potential to be the same.”
McGowan said that many of the organizations around Tupper Lake, including the Adirondack Sky Center, The Wild Center, Tupper Arts Center, libraries, schools and others, are partnering to create a full experience for visitors to the town. Officials and organizers are keeping an eye on logistical concerns such as traffic control.
McGowan also said he already noticed area hotels booking up, for what will be a “once-in-a-lifetime” event.
“This has never happened in Tupper Lake before… We’ve had other types of eclipses, but never a total eclipse, and we’re not going to have another one for hundreds of years, maybe,” he noted. “[The Adirondack Sky Center] has big followings and audiences in Boston, Syracuse and New York [City], so I think people will be coming up.”
“In 2017, there was a partial eclipse that came through, and Tupper Lake was very crowded that weekend. This is going to make that look like a play date.”— Seth McGowan is president of the Adirondack Sky Center
Hotels offer eclipse packages
Several hotels and other accommodations options in the region are promoting eclipse packages and deals, or adjusting their prices for eclipse demand. Adirondack Vacation LLC, which offers home rentals in destinations like Wilmington and Jay, has already listed solar eclipse rates for nearly triple the nightly rate, in some instances, that the business charges during other high-traffic travel periods. In Chestertown, Twin Pine Lodge is offering a solar eclipse special, giving guests a third night free with a two-night booking.
At High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, marketing manager Anne Reilly is expecting the property to be “much busier than a typical April,” which she clarified is normally part of the resort’s off-peak season. The resort is planning special entertainment and activities around the eclipse, but expects to work closely with community leaders in order to ensure a safe experience, as well as to handle extra crowds appropriately.
Getting the word out
This is where the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) comes into play, which McGowan also mentioned as providing significant support for the planned Tupper Lake events. ROOST recently launched 2024-eclipse.com, which will not only act as guide to all things eclipse in the Adirondacks for visitors, but also provide resources for businesses and other regional partners.
While not able to provide concrete estimations of the crowds business owners and residents can expect in the Adirondacks for the eclipse, Michelle Clement, director of marketing for ROOST, does fully anticipate that next April will look quite different from a typical April in the region.
“You can anticipate an influx of people during a time of year that’s usually very slow for us.”— Michelle Clement, director of marketing for ROOST
One of ROOST’s concerns with the anticipated crowds? Uneducated visitors attempting to view the eclipse from a high vantage point — such as from a High Peak summit — during a time of year when hikers are urged to stay beneath 2,500 feet of elevation, in order to prevent trail erosion.
“If you’re not from here, you may think it’s spring in the Adirondacks and what a great time to go out. What we all know is, once you start gaining elevation, you’re back in winter and downright mud season, which is not only not the safest location for watching the solar eclipse if you’re not prepared, but it’s also a time of year when we really want to keep people out of the back country while the trails are sensitive,” Clement said.
As such, ROOST is working with its planning committee to redirect visitors to preferred eclipse viewing spots, whether that be at a formal viewing party or in a dry, low-elevation field.
With ROOST coming off the planning of the 2023 FISU World University Games, which was years of preparation, Clement noted that it’s difficult to compare the two events, as the eclipse will see visitors spread out over a very large geographic area, as opposed to concentrated at just a few, ticketed venues, with a strict schedule of events.
However, she called the event an “opportunity” for regional businesses, many of which may normally close down or reduce hours during April.
“We want to make sure businesses are aware … and really start thinking about ways they can capitalize on being in a location that will attract people to visit and share this experience,” she said.
On May 10, ROOST hosted an informative public meeting via Zoom, to explain the organization’s plans, address community concerns and provide business support, with both Clement and McGowan presenting.
During the meeting, Clement reiterated that it is impossible to know the exact number of people that will visit the Adirondacks for the eclipse, but that business preparation and cooperation is key, as well as sharing information about bookings, visitor inquiries, website traffic and other data that can help better predict visitation numbers as the event grows closer.
Clement and ROOST anticipate that day-trippers will make up a large portion of eclipse visitation. To alleviate traffic concerns, overnight visitors are encouraged to arrive in the region in advance. Businesses can further promote longer stays by planning pre- and post-eclipse activities.
During the meeting, ROOST introduced the Eclipse ADK Task Force, which is currently made up of decision-makers and experts representing a range of organizations and industries, who will be dedicated to helping mitigate potential pressure points ahead of and during the event. Those interested in joining the task force can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Future informational public meetings will be announced as the eclipse nears.