“Hotels are basically sold out.,” says Wayne Smith, chair of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at College of Charleston. He’s talking about the weekend before the historic solar eclipse passes over South Carolina on Aug. 21, 2017.
With College of Charleston students moving in a few days earlier and NASA officials estimating that as many as one million visitors possibly descending on the Palmetto State to witness the eclipse, downtown Charleston promises to be packed. Usually August is a slow month for tourism in the Lowcountry as families prepare to go back to school and the heat keeps casual vacationers away.
Smith says if you want to get to Charleston between Aug. 18 to Aug. 21, you may need to book a room in North Charleston or Mount Pleasant.
“Traditionally, this is a weekend that also supports CofC’s move-in weekend, so it will be quite busy downtown,” says Smith. “Charleston has very little seasonality anymore.” He explains that the Holy City used to see tourism spikes in the spring and fall, but that bimodal graph of visitors has flattened out over the past few years.
In terms of economic impact to the area, Smith thinks the weekend will be comparable to the Charleston Wine + Food, which typically brings in between $10 million and $12 million. Much of that is spending in local restaurants, so Smith also recommends getting reservations early if you plan on eating out during eclipse weekend.
The weekend of Aug. 19-20 will be incredibly busy, and Smith predicts that the eclipse will further the upward trend of tourism.
“Having NASA broadcast live here is going to be a net benefit for tourism,” says Smith, “because the whole world will be seeing us. They’re not just going to show the sky — they’ll show the sites and the beauty of Charleston. That media coverage is worth millions of dollars to this city.”
The NASA broadcast will be part of the College’s eclipse viewing celebration on Rivers Green behind Addlestone Library from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the day of the eclipse. The event and the live recording of the broadcast are not open to the public. But anyone can watch the broadcast stream on NASA TV, the NASA website, on the Stream video platform and on various public broadcasting stations across the United States beginning at 1 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2017.
Think of the broadcast as a big commercial for our region – and for the College!
If you’re visiting the Lowcountry for the eclipse, Smith’s advice is to allow enough time to get to your destination on the day of the eclipse, as traffic could be snarled across the region. If you’re coming from the airport, take CARTA’s North Area Shuttle, or if you’re downtown, park and hop on a trolley bus. He also recommends dressing for the warm weather, but to also bring an umbrella for the unpredictable Lowcountry weather.
Smith’s last piece of advice? “Make sure you visit the campus,” he says. We agree.