The Full Eclipse Picture: Speculation versus Facts
FREMONT COUNTY, WY—Following the 2017 total solar eclipse, Fremont County/Wind River Country shared a sigh of relief, followed by reflection and speculation, alternately. As figures and anecdotes started to trickle in, the ever-important question of “was it an economic boon” remained speculative until now.
Yesterday, the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) released the answers in its “2017 Economic Impact Study: Summary of Findings.”
The Wind River Visitors Council believed before the actual numbers came in that the Wind River Eclipse, its preparation, and the tens of thousands of guests would have both immediate and long-term positive economic impacts on Wind River Country businesses and our Fremont County municipalities.
“It seems every town in Wind River Country, no matter how small, saw traffic and business from the eclipse chasers,” said Wind River Visitors Council Marketing Director Paula McCormick. “The positive feedback flooded in for weeks after the eclipse from travelers vowing to return to Wind River Country, and that is where the real value lies.”
Nonetheless, the communities within the path of totality have collectively held their breaths as WOT compiled economic impact data for the five-day period surrounding the eclipse.
The findings: WOT, Dean Runyan Associates, and Destination Analysts, Inc. conclude 261,100 people visited the Cowboy State for the eclipse and spent $63.5 million in travel expenditures in five days.
Fremont County received its fair share during that window of time. A total of 41,700 visitor days resulted from the guests who landed in Wind River Country. Fremont County’s eclipse visitors spent a total of $3.7 million here between Aug. 19 and Aug. 23.
“The increased traffic and sales for small local businesses in this economic climate can be a huge boost,” said McCormick.
The report also revealed the benefit to local municipalities and Fremont County government in tax receipts. Fremont County collected $60,000 in local tax receipts and earnings and another $160,000 in state tax receipts during the five days surrounding the eclipse. In the months that followed the eclipse week, the State has seen that swell continue to roll in: Sales tax collected in Fremont County jumped from $1.4 million in September of 2016 to $1.5 million in September of 2017. October, year over year, increased from $1.2 million to $1.5 million. Lodging tax collections are also dramatically up—by $67,758 over that same two-month period comparing 2016 to 2017. September and October numbers are indicative of August increases, as tax reporting came in over several months following the late August event. November’s numbers may also be elevated for these taxes because some entities only report quarterly.
“These numbers are really exciting and confirmed what the Wind River Visitors Council suspected: eclipse preparation and excitement paid off,” said McCormick.
Thanks to this WOT report, we can all stop speculating: The 2017 total solar eclipse had a positive impact on Fremont County in the form of an impressive $3.7 million in expenditures and $210,000 in tax collections in just five days, and that bump will only continue to ripple its effects on the county.
“The eclipse provided a beautiful way for us to introduce Wyoming to a national and international audience,” said Diane Shober, executive director for WOT. “Nearly 44 percent of survey respondents indicated that they would come back to the Cowboy State because of this first initial trip. For a state where tourism is one of the major economic engines and as we are actively trying to encourage return visitation, this is fantastic news.”