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As Wyoming struggles to recover from a downturn in its mainstay energy industry, tourism officials believe the solar eclipse that will be visible across the state in August should give the state’s economy a much needed boost.
“This is new money that will be pumped into our economy — all these people from out of state coming here to spend money,” state tourism director Diane Shober said last week. “This is a gift that we really need.”
Places where the Aug. 21 eclipse will last the longest — about 2 minutes and 20 seconds — include the cities of Casper and Riverton and the town of Jackson. The state should have ideal viewing conditions, attracting astronomers and global visitors, unless the day turns out to be cloudy or the sky is hazy because of smoke from forest fires.
State Homeland Security Director Guy Cameron has estimated about 350,000 people could visit Wyoming just to watch the first total solar eclipse to be seen from the mainland U.S. in almost four decades.
“It’s a really great opportunity for Wyoming and for all of our communities all along the path of trajectory and really for the entire state and the region,” Shober said. “People are coming here for the eclipse but they’re coming to Wyoming for a vacation around the eclipse.”
While the eclipse will only last a couple of minutes, Shober and others in the tourism industry hope first time visitors will like Wyoming so much that they’ll return and encourage others to visit.
“It’s really important that we turn this brief, one-time event into a long-term benefit to the community,” Casey Adams, spokeswoman for the Wind River Visitors Council in Lander, said.
Adams said the Wind River Visitors Council has established a website dedicated to the eclipse tourism, providing a list of local events, places to stay, where to view the eclipse and other resources designed to help visitors get the best possible experience.
The eclipse offers free publicity to Wyoming because of increased media coverage, but Shober said it’s important not to take it for granted.
“We can’t just sit on that and just assume that everyone will come to Wyoming,” she said. “There are many other places that are promoting the heck out of this eclipse.”
Despite budget cuts to the state tourism office over the last several years because of declining tax revenue from the energy industry, Shober said her office is still engaged in promotion campaigns for the state through advertising and social media that promote the state and highlight “all the things that you can see and do all summer long in Wyoming whether you’re here Aug. 21 or you’re here May 21.”
Wyoming is home to scenic attractions Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks as well as Devils Tower National Monument and expansive national forests and wilderness areas. The eclipse path passes over Grand Teton National Park.
“It’s a way to create awareness and we’re using it certainly as something that just can cause a conversation about Wyoming in markets near and far all around the world,” Shober said.