KILLEEN, Texas — Central Texas is already getting ready for the April 8. 2024 total solar eclipse.
"We really need to get the word out to businesses and citizens that it's coming, there's nothing we can do about it and we got to prepare," Copperas Cove Parks & Recreation Director Jeff Stoddard told 25 News.
"It's not an exaggeration. The hotels will be fully booked," Visit Killeen Director Matt Irvine said. "People travel from all over the world for these eclipse events. We've already seen inquiries from Japan and Australia."
Central Texas is in the direct line of sight to best watch the eclipse and these cities have been preparing for years.
"The city of Killeen started preparing for the 2024 total eclipse back in 2018," Irvine said. "They've been planning from the emergency management and communications standpoint for the last couple of years, but we're really ramping up now that we're about a year from the eclipse happening."
The last solar eclipse took place in 2017. Grand Island, Nebraska, was a prime location that year. The city of 50,000 doubled in population with all of the eclipse tourism.
"We knew that our community would sell out and it did," Grand Island Tourism Director Brad Mellema said. "Almost a year ahead all the hotels began to fill up so we knew it was headed our direction you could say."
Mellema said the event was a huge boost to their economy.
"It's a chance for your communities to sell themselves and invite them back," he said. "We saw that and used that strategy. We've had people that came here who had never been to Nebraska and you're going to have people who've never been to Texas and this will draw them there."
Businesses are urged to start prepping now for the large influx of tourism Central Texas will see.
"If we can get them informed and energized it could be a great economic impact," Stoddard said.
Hotels, Air BNBs, and RV parks are all expected to reach capacity, but restaurants and even shops are recommended to stock up on items. Places in Grand Island said they blew through their inventory back in 2017.
"Particularly the businesses that are business to consumer will have the greatest impact," Irvine said. "Whether it's a restaurant, an entertainment venue, places who provide things to do and things to eat, they will have the greatest impact from the visitors."
The city of Killeen will host two town halls to help businesses start preparing for next year's event. Those will be at 2 pm on both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.