Mark Brown, the public works director for the city of Perryville, Mo., has no desire to leave his house. But with the city directly in the path of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, he admits he’s open to the possibility.
Brown decided to list his house on the popular vacation rental website Airbnb after hearing that potentially 30,000 to 40,000 people could be coming to Perryville for the eclipse. “We don’t normally rent out our house because this is not normally a tourist destination,” Brown says, but Perryville will experience total eclipse longer than nearly anywhere else in the nation with a 2-minute and 34-second duration, according to the St. Louis Eclipse Task Force’s website.
Positioned next to the square where Perryville Solarfest will be held in the days before the eclipse, Brown’s house is listed as “Perryville Eclipse Perfection,” going for $2,500 a night with a three-night minimum. “We don’t want to give up our house,” Brown says, “but everybody’s got a number.”
Brown isn’t the only one trying to cash in on the international interest. The Fort Hill Ramrods, a Frontiersman re-enactment club of Hillsboro, are offering various camping options for eclipse viewing.
Brent Myers, treasurer of the group, says the idea for the promotion came a couple of years ago when he was talking to the mayor of Herculaneum. He didn’t know much about the science behind the eclipse, but the group was looking for something new to generate interest.
Now, the group has listed three options — a tent camping area, a camper area or a camper area with electricity — for $45, $75 or $100 respectively. “There wasn’t any scientific method behind it or anything,” Myers says in regard to the pricing, explaining that the benefit of camping when compared to hotels or Airbnbs like Brown’s is the absence of light pollution.
Plenty of eclipse-goers seem to have followed Myers’ thinking as campsites at Missouri State Parks in the path of the eclipse are almost fully booked. Across the state, 88 percent of all state park campsites have been filled, with some such as Van Meter State Park and Arrow Rock State Historic Site boasting full capacity. St. Joe State Park, just over an hour south of downtown St. Louis, has the most availability, but even it is 63 percent booked.
There hasn’t been much buzz around Myers’ particular camping opportunity, but with the state park occupancy rates and Bill Haggard, the mayor of Herculaneum, saying that nearly every hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast around the area is fully booked, the Fort Hill Ramrods could see interest begin to pick up.
According to Stephen Foutes, public relations specialist with the Missouri Division of Tourism, hotels in the path of the eclipse are reporting the majority of their rooms have been booked for the weekend.
From Chillicothe in the north to St. Joseph out west, rooms are going fast. Some hotels are charging special “eclipse weekend rates” or requiring minimum two- or three-day stays, but many are keeping rates at their normal level. Foutes’ advice: Check with the actual hotel as opposed to third-party bookers; there may be some rooms left even if the website says sold out.
The eclipse hasn’t just been about opportunism though. Amanda Sammet, who has listed her “Farmhouse Getaway” in Beaufort on Airbnb for about three years now, kept the $185 a night price constant for the eclipse weekend. “We knew it was going to get booked, so we didn’t feel the need to do any special advertising or to set a special rate,” Sammet says.
Sammet and her family wanted to be on the property during the eclipse, so she didn’t want to discourage any potential renters from accommodating that request by charging exorbitant fees. Luckily for her, the Chicago professor who ended up booking the place was excited to “share with other junior astronomers” the experience of the eclipse, Sammet says.
Aricka Brazer, another Airbnb renter, says that it didn’t even register with her that the eclipse would be happening when she decided to list her “Gobbler Hollow” house outside of Herculaneum starting Aug. 1. “They tell you all the time that you’re to see a meteor shower, but you never actually see a meteor shower,” Brazer says. A friend from Wisconsin already scooped up that listing, but now that Brazer knows the significance of the event, she is considering listing another property in the same area.
As for Brown, he’s not particularly worried about no one taking the bait on his listing just yet. “As it gets closer to the event, somebody might realize (they) want to experience the event and have got nowhere to stay,” Brown says.
If that does happen, Brown knows he won’t have to worry about a bed for himself. “I heard there’s room in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house,” he says, “but I also heard they may be charging exorbitant prices.”