Planning

Community preparations in the weeks leading up to the total eclipse in the Faroe Islands. (c) 2015

Community preparations in the weeks leading up to the total eclipse in the Faroe Islands. (c) 2015

THE PROBLEM

Imagine you are tasked with having to prepare your community for the event of a lifetime – except you have no personal experience of this event, no idea what to expect or even how many will be coming. This is the reality for every community that finds themselves along the path of totality.

All communities along the path can expect a staggering number of local, national and international visitors to their region.  There will also be huge media interest in the months leading up to the eclipse, peaking on eclipse day when the eyes of the world will be watching.   The economic benefits for these regions are considerable, and the tourism potential is often unprecedented.

In every community along the path, someone will be charged with the role of Eclipse Coordinator, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders from across the region. The Eclipse Coordinator is usually someone already working in a tourism or council role, who is tasked with taking on this additional role.  In rural communities, this role is often left to volunteers.  For the 2017 eclipse, some of the most remote areas are expecting the largest numbers, and resources are limited.

Being an Eclipse Coordinator is a daunting task – there are many unknowns, and also unique challenges for eclipse planning that differ from planning other major community events.  Some key issues:

Lack of knowledge – Eclipse planning is difficult when you have not seen one before. If you are an eclipse coordinator, then this also means leading a team of other stakeholders in a process that you have little knowledge about. You also have to convince your community to get behind you, and to tell everyone all about it.

Lack of experience – in any one location a total eclipse occurs once in every 375 years.  So there is never anyone with personal experience on how to prepare, and it is very rare for anyone in one community to have actually seen a total solar eclipse.

Lack of confidence – the eclipse coordinator role is one that requires strong direction and leadership, negotiation skills, determination, and putting your faith in something that you have not before experienced. It can be a daunting role.

Too many unknowns  – it is difficult to predict exact numbers, and many will decide at the last minute where they will go. How do you plan for something when you have no idea whether visitor numbers will be 1,000, 10,000 or 50,000?

Me addressing the community of Eidi in the Faroe Islands on eclipse morning. (c) 2015, The Independent Traveller

Me addressing the community of Eidi in the Faroe Islands on eclipse morning. (c) 2015, The Independent Traveller

SOLUTIONS

I am not just an experienced eclipse chaser.  I do research on the eclipse experience, the planning process, I use the media proactively to share information about the eclipse experience, and I now relocate to the path of totality BEFORE eclipses to help with this process.   

I have had direct experience of seeing a total solar eclipse from within my own community, and was aware of the issues involved first hand – see 2012 Eclipse Planning for more detailed information.  I have also been the Eclipse Planning Consultant for the Faroe Islands in 2015, and have undertaken further research on this process.  Other eclipse chasers are providing excellent resources, but these resources stress mobility and may not provide the specific guidance for what to do for your community.  I cannot give certainty to the unknowns, but I can share the experiences of the 2012 and 2015 eclipses, and give concrete examples and share how others have addressed common issues.  

Working with tour leaders in the Faroe Islands, one year before the eclipse. (c) 2015, Kate Russo

Working with tour leaders in the Faroe Islands, one year before the eclipse. (c) 2015, Kate Russo

 

Here is how I am helping Eclipse Coordinators across the US currently:

  • I have produced a White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning.  This is the only guidance available that provides help to eclipse coordinators across the path of totality.  I am making this guidance available FREE to everyone.
  • I am offering a free skype consultation to Eclipse Coordinators across the path to provide specific planning advice that is unique to your community
  • I am available for more detailed planning support and specialist knowledge for a small number of communities – of the total eclipse, the eclipse experience, as well as other areas that are highly relevant – planning, communication, patterns in media, needs of the community, eclipse tourist requirements, the media’s typical way of reporting, issues to problem solve, etc.
  • I am about to launch a Survey of Eclipse Coordinators across the path to explore needs so I can develop additional resources, coordinate and mobilise the services of others who can help; 
  • I am in the process of relocating to the US so I can be more available as a resource
  • I am planning a six month tour of the path of totality so I am able to provide on-the-ground support to as many communities as possible in the lead up to the eclipse
  • I am available as a specialist speaker on the eclipse experience, eclipse planning, and life as an eclipse chaser
  • I am planning to do media to share the eclipse experience with as many people as possible

If you are an eclipse coordinator for your region, get in touch via the form on the PLANNING SUPPORT page.