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Eclipse: prices soar as demand intensifies for cosmic experience

On the ‘line of totality’ rooms are going for 15 times the normal rates

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 17 August 2017 21:46 BST
When it's gone... online ad for a long-sold-out tour to the solar spectacle
When it's gone... online ad for a long-sold-out tour to the solar spectacle (Intrepid)

Ahead of Monday’s “Great American Eclipse”, demand to see the biggest cosmic event in the US for almost a century is soaring – along with prices.

A total solar eclipse that begins in the north Pacific will blot out the sun as it races across the United States between 6.18pm and 7.48pm British time. It is the first total solar eclipse visible from anywhere in the continental US since 1979.

Several state capitals, including Salem in Oregon, St Louis in Missouri and Nashville in Tennessee are on the “line of totality” – the narrow band of territory from which the eclipse is total.

Because of concerns about traffic chaos on Monday, any hotel or motel on the line of totality is able to charge astronomical sums for the night before the eclipse. Every room in Jackson, Wyoming is sold out, with a ranch 30 miles out of town advertising three rooms at $1,500 (£1,165) each. A week later the same room at the Heart Six Ranch falls to $100 (£77).

Dozens of British eclipse-chasers on organised and DIY tours have flown from Heathrow to Salt Lake City, the nearest gateway to popular viewing sites in Idaho and Wyoming. Air fares have been steadily increasing, with the non-stop Delta flight rising from around £1,000 to over £1,500. Fares to other eclipse destinations are even higher, as demand from eclipse-chasers coincides with peak season on transatlantic flights.

From the London area flights to Charleston, South Carolina, which is both the final and the most historic city on the line of totality, have risen to over £1,600 return. Similar fares are being charged to and from Nashville.

On the ground, enterprising locals are seeking to cash in on interest from Americans living in other cities. Central Oregon, where the eclipse first meets land, is attracting visitors from San Francisco and Seattle as well as the state’s biggest city, Portland. Some parking lots have raised their rates to $100 a day, with higher charges for RVs (camper vans).

The Oregon authorities are warning that around a million visitors may arrive and want to stay on either side of the eclipse. “Since August is already prime vacation season in many areas of the state, expect nearly everything to be above capacity for nearly a week total,” said officials in Salem.

Malheur County, in the south-east of the state, claims the best prospects of clear skies at 93 per cent. Les Zaitz, who runs the local newspaper, Malheur Enterprise, said: “We’re expecting the population to quadruple.”

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