Eclipse may not provide economic boost, expert warns - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Eclipse may not provide economic boost, expert warns

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WSIL -- An expert says the eclipse on Aug. 21 may not provide the economic boost communities across Southern Illinois expect.

With tens of thousand of people expected to visit the region, communities have rolled out the welcome mat.

But Professor Mary Eschelbach Hansen, a St. Louis native and economist at American University, worries communities may pin too much hope on the eclipse.

"The biggest contribution to a local economy from an event like this comes from people (staying) overnight," said Hansen. 

Though hotel rooms across the area have been booked for months, Hansen said many eclipse travelers, especially those visiting from two to three hours away, won't stay long enough to need a hotel.

She says that means they won't go out and spend the way some may think.

"If folks are only coming for a couple of hours arriving to get a better view than what they could get at home, then I worry the costs may exceed the benefits," said Hansen.

She says costs for extra staff like first responders and cooling stations may make it harder for communities to break even.

"It might actually cost communities at least as much as they're bringing in through tourists," said Hansen.

Hansen bases her assessment on years of tourism and sporting event research.

Despite her concerns, people in communities in the path of the eclipse, like Makanda, believe it will still bring a benefit.

"We don't have a lot of big stores and things like that," said Makanda Mayor Tina Shingleton. "Our boardwalk, I'm hoping they'll do well."

And they hope all those eclipse visitors will return, for a longer visit.

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