On April 8 this year a total solar eclipse 115 miles across will pass over Mexico, the United States and Canada, and the sky will temporarily darken as if it were night-time. Given there’s no further total eclipses in the US until 2033, this is a rare and spectacular event likely to create an influx of travel to the region in the days beforehand.
This will be even more unique considering its location, spanning across many of the world’s major tourism destinations.
Some reports suggest this could be the most watched celestial event ever – “like 50 Super Bowls happening all at once” comments on solar eclipse expert – with around 40 million people living in ‘path of totality’, crossing 15 states in the US alone. As a result, many eclipse-related excursions are already booked up and hotels in the viewing zone are in high demand. With this expected to be amongst one of the biggest ever drivers of travel, how can the industry – B2B and B2C specialists, as well as their tech partners – get involved?
We spoke with a range of online travel experts to gain their view on what is likely to happen and how to prepare.
Civitatis, an online platform for Spanish-speaking booking activities, day trips and guided tours, warns that competition for eclipse-related excursions will be high from both domestic and international travellers. “Whilst late in 2023 US outbound international travel grew over domestic, as people returned to travelling aboard after Covid, this event clearly is likely to turn the tide. When it comes the domestic market don’t forget that one in five Americans is a Spanish speaker, so make sure that you’ve Spanish language content – and are marketing in Spanish sales channels – to stand out to them. Consider too what kind of special deals you can put on or how you can collaborate with tour operators or OTAs promoting eclipse focused packages. Many of the locations falling in the path of the eclipse are not your typical places for tours & activities, but everyone arriving is going to expect for such things to laid on for them so partnerships are going to be key.”
One of Latin America’s biggest global distribution companies, PriceTravel Holding, has also noticed an uptick in demand for the major tourism destinations that fall within the path of the eclipse. A spokesperson for the company states that “given our strength in Mexico we’ve really noticed that, but also for hotel sales in the US and Canada too as there are lots of enthusiasts Latin Americans who would like to experience this one-off event in somewhere they’ve not visited before, and enjoy the experiences that a country like Mexico offers. Travel sellers everywhere should note that the total eclipse happens over the Easter holidays for many parts of the world, which is a typical time for families to take longer holidays – so, it’s a good time to aim your products at families more than you might have otherwise done so, whether marketing in the Americas or in Europe too.”
Such a big influx of visitors who might never have come otherwise nor ever return again could have an unusual and potentially negative impact when it comes to online reviews, warns Jose Arozarena from TourReview, a platform for tours & activities providers to manage their online reviews. “Destinations and travel service providers in general need to think about what experience visitors might have during this highly unusual event and what reviews they might subsequently post online. No matter if they are being unfair, a traveller who sees overcrowding or is forced to pay higher than normal prices is likely to leave a critical review or lower satisfaction scores on online review pages like Tripadvisor and so on. Is there anything they can do to combat this? Certainly think about those pain points and how you can communicate about those in advance to prepare people or even reduce the negative impacts.”
Janis Dzenis from US focused travel comparison website WayAway, which helps travellers to find the best discounts online, offers some advice for travel companies considering how to respond: “It might seem counter-intuitive to incentivize bookings and offer group discounts at eclipse locations, as they are already in high demand it would seem. However, attractively-packaged offers can encourage travelers to secure their spots early and even bring along extra family and friends. Such discounts can also create a sense of urgency and exclusivity, driving more bookings. On the flipside, the eclipse might present the opportunity for travel business to promote bargains elsewhere in the world; those who are not bothered about seeing the eclipse, or simply don’t have the cash, might be susceptible cheaper travel to other destinations struggling to gain their slice of Easter holiday tourists.”
Finally, more on the topic of business travel, Traxo, which specialises in aggregating traveller booking data from all booking channels, warns the event may lead to duty of care issues for corporations. “One-off events like the solar eclipse are likely to lead to more ‘bleisure’ bookings, where people making business trips to North America may well try to incorporate this into their trip – or may even arrange their business trips around it. Corporates should make sure they have a way to see bookings across all sources to provide proper duty of care and address non-compliant bookings. Already 40% of travel bookings are made outside of company tools, making it difficult for companies to know where their employees are and that figure is likely to be temporarily ‘eclipsed’, excuse the pun, by this upcoming event.”