On August 21st, America’s eyes were pointed at the sky (with protective goggles of course) to watch the total solar eclipse. However, ours were pointed at our screens. While most scientists were analyzing the environmental effect of the total solar eclipse, our data scientists were analyzing the movement patterns of those who traveled to see the eclipse in action.
Best Views In the U.S.A
While eclipses happen regularly (most calendar years have 2 solar eclipses), this one was particularly special because the Path of Totality (i.e. the best viewing spots) crossed the entire country, from coast-to-coast. This means the entire continent in theory had the opportunity to view the eclipse.
So — did people make the trip to view this rare eclipse?
After analyzing location and movement data, we found a +23.6% increase in visitation to the Path of Totality by out-of-towners. This path spanned across 14 states, and included towns across the country – including Charleston, SC, Knoxville, TN, and Redmond, OR.
Eclipsing the Competition
With a +23.6% increase in visitation to these specific areas, certain towns saw a major influx in visitation to hotels, gas stations, restaurants and more — a marketer’s dream! In order to take advantage of a movement like this, it’s important to understand where people are going, and where they are coming from.
We looked at the top DMAs who received an increase in visitation due to the solar eclipse:
‘Eclipsers’ on a Budget
So, where did out-of-towners go during their eclipse excursion? For starters, they preferred quick and easy meals. QSR restaurants saw a substantial bump in visitation — McDonald’s alone garnered a whopping +178% increase; Wendy’s (+158% visitation increase) and Burger King (+158% visitation increase) were also top dining choices for travellers. And when their sweet tooth started kicking in, travellers headed to Dairy Queen (+204% visitation increase).
As for accommodations, cost-friendly hotels were the way to go (Choice Hotels saw +179% visitation increase and Wyndham wasn’t far behind with +177% visitation increase). We also found that hotel choices differed based on which DMA’s visitors were coming from — Best Western’s eclipse clientele primarily came from Chicago, while Hilton’s top visitors were from DC.
It’s clear that eclipse-goers approached their trip as an adventure-on-a-budget, but don’t let the word ‘budget’ fool you. Many made pit-stops along the way. For example, visitors from Chicago stopped at college stadiums (+887% visitation increase) and movie theaters (+247% visitation increase). In addition, liquor stores along the eclipse belt saw a +163% spike in visitation — cheers to the total solar eclipse!
For more information about how location analytics can be used to fuel your marketing campaigns, please reach out! We’d love to brainstorm unique ways to power up your next campaign — even for a unique event like this one!