Lessons We Learned From This Week’s Eclipse

It will be decades before Chautauqua County is in the path of totality for a solar eclipse again.

But the lessons we learned from the county’s handling of the influx of visitors from this week’s event can provide some lessons the county, its residents and its businesses can learn from for other big events that happen more frequently.

The county did well in over-preparing for Monday’s eclipse. While the 100,000 to 125,000 people the county prepared for didn’t materialize, the county was largely ready for such an influx. The situation was well monitored throughout the day Monday, public safety infrastructure was coordinated and ready to respond if issues arose and those who did come to visit the county had no major issues coming, going or visiting the other attractions they wanted to visit.

So what can we do better?

We can be more realistic. Overestimating crowds for months only to see far fewer people than initially expected leads to people doubting such numbers in the future. For example, did we really need to close schools or other services that people count on due to the eclipse? No, we really didn’t. We should be ready to change such things quickly if really necessary, but if we’re truly a county that wants to bring in large amounts of tourists, we should have been able to handle this influx of people without closing essential services.

More importantly, creating huge expectations means one can only be disappointed if those expectations aren’t reached. If you were expecting to see people crammed into every open space in the county, then you were probably disappointed by the number of people here Monday.

But if you were hoping to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime moment with a few family and friends, you probably left Monday with nice memories despite the uncooperative weather.

The power of expectations is a real thing. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than to overpromise and underdeliver. And that is the best lesson to take away from the year of buildup over Monday’s eclipse.


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