Eclipse traffic gives smaller Kentucky cities a major tourism boost
“This was a gigantic deal for us,” said Jessica Gowen of the Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau.
The city was miles from totality but still cashed in on the solar eclipse.
“Most of our hotels were sold out,” Gowen said.
Elizabethtown tourism officials said hotels, restaurants and local shops saw a big boost over the weekend. But Gowen said the biggest surprise was those who chose to watch the eclipse 125 miles from Hopkinsville.
“We thought (eclipse tourists) would stay in E’town for a little bit and then go on to Hopkinsville where it was a total eclipse,” Gowen said. “But we had a ton of people staying here.”
Gowen said people from across the country, and as far as Russia and Canada, watched from Elizabethtown’s welcome sign under 97.6 percent totality.
“It was almost a total eclipse here, and it was kind of an eerie feeling,” she said. “It almost felt like a calm before a storm.”
Others chose to make the drive to the path of totality.
“We started this morning early in Cincinnati and drove down,” said Robert Bradford, who was ending the day at Elizabethtown’s Baymont Inn & Suites. “We made the reservation here about two weeks ago,” he said. “We were lucky to get a room.”
Bradford drove with a group to the Kentucky/Tennessee state line and watched the total eclipse from a truck stop.
“It got very dark,” he said. “It would be like twilight.”
Just off the interstate in Elizabethtown, restaurants were crowded with eclipse traffic Monday night.
“We love to see all of the positive benefits from people from outside of the area coming here,” added Gowen.
While tourism officials don’t have an official dollar amount, the hotel industry compared the weekend to the Kentucky Derby.