Locals hope to benefit from anticipated crowds on solar eclipse weekend

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COLUMBIA - With the rare solar eclipse fast approaching, locals are promoting their roles in businesses to keep money in Columbia.

Businesses like Uber and Airbnb allow local people to keep the money they earn by providing ride services and homes for those visiting.

As of June 14, about 75 percent of hotels in Columbia have been reserved for the weekend before the solar eclipse according to Megan McConachie from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

This gives Airbnb owners like John Lohmann an incentive to bring visitors to his home.

“I didn’t really realize how big of a deal this eclipse was until the last few weeks. I definitely jacked up my rates a little bit for that weekend,” Lohmann said.

For that weekend, Lohmann bumped the prices up to $400 per day as opposed to the usual $150 per day. The money isn’t the only thing that keeps Lohmann continuing his Airbnb though.

“It’s like running your own little hotel. It’s definitely a lot of work, more so than a normal rental, but if you have a flexible schedule like I do with real estate then it’s not bad. It’s amazing how many different types of people are coming to Columbia for all sorts of random stuff.”

“The great thing about Airbnb is everyone is accountable. Because of the rating system, hosts are constantly trying to make their place nicer and guests are on their best behavior to avoid negative reviews,” Lohmann said.

And for those looking to use their home for an Airbnb, Lohmann leaves these tips:

  1. Make sure you have the time to turn it over. “Like I said, it’s like a hotel. You have to switch the bedding, clean the place, wipe everything down,” Lohmann said.
  2. Make sure it’s a new, updated place.
  3. Make sure you have a little bit of patience.
  4. Be ready to adapt on the fly.

For busy weekends like this, transportation is at a premium, as well as safety. The city of Columbia has issued 400+ licenses to be Uber drivers in the past year.

Uber driver Nikki McClure spends many of her weekends coming from Centralia to drive people around in Columbia.

McClure utilizes a Facebook page to continue her business with Uber to connect with passengers she has had.

She made the page because she says she enjoys the connection with her passengers.

“I’ve had quite a few different experiences. Many good. I have gained friendships through Uber with my passengers because I have my 'normals' where I pick them up every day. It’s like we’ve known each other for 10 years,” McClure said.  

For her, being an Uber driver is as much about safety and accessibility as making connections for those who are coming to visit from various locations.  

“If you fly in, you’re going to need to get to your hotel or wherever you’re staying. If you call an Uber, then we’re right there in 3-5 minutes,” McClure said.

“If you want to go out to the bars and have a good time while you’re here, you can always call an Uber so you don’t have that DUI or end up killing somebody.”

The Columbia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is anticipating more than 100,000 people in the city the day of the solar eclipse and urges everyone to be patient and safe around Columbia.

See complete Show Me Eclipse coverage all summer at komu.com/eclipse and every Wednesday on KOMU 8 News at Six.