Local hotels booked solid for eclipse

LIMA — Hotels and vacation rentals in the path of the April 8 total solar eclipse are set to be completely booked over the weekend and Monday.

And Lima is no exception.

“We are at full capacity,” said Jessica Logan, general manager of Howard Johnson in Lima. “We’ve been sold out for several weeks now, and we started seeing reservations come through for this special event since the beginning of March 2023. People have been booking very much in advance for this event.”

John Yohe, who works the front desk at Fairfield Inn and Suites, said the weekend will be even busier due to UNOH spring preview days Friday and Saturday.

“We have a lot of families coming in for that and a lot of people on top of that coming in for the eclipse, so we are sold out,” he said. “But we’ve been preparing by just making sure that our staff has been taken care of, and we’re doing the most we can do to keep the rooms nice and clear. We’re also preparing galaxy welcome bags for the eclipse observers with small gifts like pins, cookies and glasses for the event.”

Hotels.com reported most area hotels were sold out in the region for a Saturday through Monday stay, with only a handful of rooms available within a half-hour drive. Expedia.com showed similar results.

Hotels are not the only avenue for travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime celestial phenomenon.

Along the expected path of totality, Airbnb said searches for rental listings for Monday have surged.

“Airbnb data reveals a 1,000% increase in searches for stays along the solar eclipse path of totality in the U.S., and the unique opportunity to experience up to 268 seconds of darkness along the eclipse’s path,” according to the site.

Keeping a hotel running through an event like this will be an intense effort, though.

“We’re expecting there to be more messes than usual,” Yohe said. “In hospitality, you clean up after people and make things nice as you prepare for them. That’s why we’re always going into it expecting the worst and hoping for the best, and that’s what’s happening.”

Logan said she knows parking will be a major concern, but Howard Johnson will be issuing permits to make sure only customers are using the lot and she is confident in the hotel’s ability to handle the weekend.

“I think we’re fully ready for all these visitors to come to town,” she said. “We’ve been staying up to date with the news, informing staff when to leave for work. As far as our supplies go, we’ve been putting in orders several weeks in advance to stock up on supplies and things that are going to be needed to operate the hotel during this busy time.”

General manager of Wingate by Wyndham Jason Gillespie said the downtown Lima hotel was sold out, but due to cancelations, it was only at 85 percent for Sunday and Monday.

Gillespie said Wingate has been preparing for the event for two years now in the same ways, but he expects staff to operate normally if at an increased capacity.

“We have sold out before, but we are not sure what to expect with extra people in town, and events going on so we have increased our front desk staff slightly,” he said. “The biggest difference will probably be having extra information available for the special events going on in town.”

It helps that, as Logan said, some hotels in the area are communicating with each other to share ideas and direct travelers to open rooms if they are fully booked.

“We have been bouncing back and forth with ideas,” she said. “We’re all collaborating to make sure things are running as smoothly as possible and staying in touch. If we’re sold out, we’ve been calling our neighbors and asking them if they have any rooms left and sending people in their direction. We’ve been trying to work together the best we can with those kinds of things.”

“We’ve been in contact with the other hotels and with the (Lima/Allen County) Chamber of Commerce,” Yohe said. “We’ve all been working together to make sure everyone has a place and is prepared for it.”

For more information on the eclipse, which is set to be viewable in the Lima region just after 3 p.m. Monday, visit the Ohio Emergency Management Agency bit.ly/3vCbVNr.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.