An estimated 2 million holidaymakers were expected to travel to the county for 11 August to witness the first total eclipse of the Sun on the UK mainland since 1927. Predictions of gridlock and of vastly inflated accommodation prices, however, have led people to stay away.
Paul Wright, head of tourism at Restormel Borough Council, said accommodation bookings for August were down 30 per cent in parts of east Cornwall. People were even cancelling the holidays they had booked, he said.
Farmers who have set up campsites to cope with hundreds of thousands of visitors said last night they had no bookings, and hotel rooms remain empty on the eclipse date.
Patrick Lobb, a beef farmer from Cardinham, north Cornwall, intended to invest pounds 50,000 in infrastructure for his 1,500 capacity camp site but, less than three months before the eclipse date, he has only four bookings. He said: "There are dozens of farmers in the same position as me. I know one in Penzance who has a 2,500-pitch site and only 23 bookings."
Cornwall is one of the poorest counties in England and depends on income from holidaymakers. The tourist industry was worried about repeat business, Mr Wright said. "If people go somewhere else this summer they may keep going there and not come back to Cornwall in 2000 or 2001. The knock-on effect for Cornwall could be quite catastrophic."
The eclipse will be visible across Cornwall and part of Devon on the morning of 11 August for just over 2 minutes.