Friday, 13 January 2017

Price Gouging for the August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

There will be a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. The thin path of the lunar shadow will cross the entire USA from Oregon to South Carolina. Lasting just over 2 minutes [maximum of 2m 41s], people are expressing interest in seeing this amazing celestial show. The American Astronomical Society, local Astronomy Clubs, and NASA have all gotten into the act of providing information and in some cases logistical support. City and small governments are preparing to host the influx of people by planning festivals and events surrounding the eclipse. There will be carnivals, concerts, fairs, and block parties at a variety of venues. Really, there are so many choices it is difficult to try and list them all. [of course, some are trying to do it -

Eclipse Opportunists
Now then, there have been claims of price gouging by some on the web. I did some research and was unable to spot anything significant except in places where demand is high and supply is very low. Most eclipses do not fall across such a well populated and modern area. In fact, most of the time we end up camping in some farm field (at a very high rate) or staying in a hotel that was built just for the purpose of eclipse chasers (again, quite pricey). So eclipse opportunism isn't new.

Why is the demand higher in some areas? 
Three reasons, weather prospects, duration, and population density. The weather prospects are best out west in Oregon through Wyoming. August weather tends to be clear and dry there, perfect for those with cameras and long focal length lenses. As the path progresses east the weather prospects get worse. Climate study shows clouds and some rain potentials for that section of the path. The duration is best around Kentucky so that is attracting a lot of interest. And then population density comes into play. There are many large cities within an easy drive to the central path. How may of these people will want to be staying somewhere in the path (recommended practice)?

So listen to this....
Claims have been made that entire hotel chains are coordinating to raise prices around the date. I did find places where the inventory of guest rooms is exhausted. Those places have very few rooms left and they are going at premium rates or with extra day requirements. Locals with an extra room are cashing in on the opportunity as well. They are trying to get as much as possible out of the deal. Perhaps these are the sources of the price gouging? If one was not very quick in securing a location it is unlikely a good deal can be found in the premium locations.

Several eclipse opportunists have contacted me asking if anyone is interested in their offerings. These are ranch owners who have an extra room or two along with some making pasture land available for camping. Rates vary quite a bit and are excessive. But again, that is in the premium locations.

I checked major cities that fall under the path (Nashville, St Louis, Greenville) using search tools like Trivago. Typing in the dates of the eclipse I did not see any higher pricing nor restrictions as I had heard from other sources. In fact, there are some pretty good deals on that web site, I may use it again in the future.

At this time, rooms are still available along the central path. That situation will change as the eclipse fever spreads. I strongly recommend looking and booking now. Pick a place, search the options, and if possible do not pick a room just outside the path of totality. There may be travel difficulties the morning of the eclipse, especially from high population centers and if the weather is looking poor.

What have you found?
I would appreciate knowing about any cases of price gouging. Add a note below if you find it to be the case. Alternatives still exist in most locations, you might have to compromise standards or spend more than you want, but they are still available.

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