Travel and tourism is one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing industries in the world. As such, much like any sector, it is faced with its own challenges. One of these challenges is the changing levels of tourists which fluctuate depending on the time of year – this is known as seasonality in tourism.
Not only is seasonality directly linked to the number of tourists who visit a destination, but it is also associated with their wants whilst travelling, their budgets and spending habits, and even their preferences for particular destinations. That’s why it’s crucial for businesses to adapt their marketing strategies in order to roll with the ebbs and flows that each tourist season brings to help make the most of their individual characteristics. Otherwise, your business could suffer at the hands of the seasons.
Thankfully, there are a number of distinct strategies that travel brands can adopt to combat seasonality, implementing a tailored marketing approach whether it’s the off-season, peak season, or shoulder season. In this article, our partner SEO Travel explains what seasonality in tourism is, what its impact is, and the specific marketing tactics you can put in place to support the continued success of your travel brand during different tourist seasons.
What is Seasonality in Tourism?
So what is seasonality in travel and tourism? Simply put, this refers to the fluctuation of tourism throughout specific ‘seasons’ or periods of time.
Seasonality in tourism affects every tourism destination around the globe. This phenomenon is often perceived as a problem for many destinations when it comes to sustainability, and is also a challenge for many businesses who must consider how foot traffic is going to ebb and flow over the year, impacting earnings.
Your travel business must consider the specific impacts that seasonality can have on you. Whether you represent a particular destination, you’re a holiday provider, or you’re an accommodation company operating in locations across the world, seasonality will play a role in how your business operates in one way or another.
What are the Types of Seasonality in Tourism?
Seasonality in tourism can be divided into three main categories: off-season, peak season, and shoulder season. Each of these seasons has its own distinct qualities that influence the level of tourism that they experience.
We’ve outlined further information about each tourism season below.
Generally, the peak season for tourism is in the summer months, extending from June to August for the northern hemisphere and from November to February for the southern hemisphere. This is when destinations experience their best weather, which is more favourable to tourists.
Equally, this is a period in which many students will have broken up for the school holidays, offering an opportunity for families to travel together, which in turn contributes to this season’s popularity. Holidays such as Christmas and New Year are very popular times for travel too, and so these are also considered to be peak seasons.
Off-season, also known as the low season, is categorised as a time of year that sees fewer people travelling to a destination. This is partially due to the weather not being as favourable to tourists.
The off-season for destinations in the northern hemisphere typically takes place from November to February (excluding the Christmas and New Year periods) and in the southern hemisphere from June to August. Many students are also still at school, limiting families from travelling. As a result, prices to travel in the off-season are less expensive compared to the peak season.
The shoulder season can be defined as a period taking place between a destination’s off-season and peak season. This will vary depending on the destination and can last anywhere from a few weeks to multiple months. Typically, this period falls in the spring and autumn seasons.
In recent years, shoulder seasons have been gaining popularity amongst tourists as they offer a middle ground between both off-season and peak season, combining both of their most favourable qualities, so to speak.
What Causes Seasonality in Tourism?
There are two main causes for seasonality in tourism.
This refers to changes in our natural environment which prompt shifts in tourism throughout the year. These changes include the climate, seasons, and weather throughout the year. For example, summer sees more sunlight, warmer temperatures, and less precipitation, which is more favourable to travellers and thus causing a spike in tourist numbers.
Institutional causes refer to seasonality in tourism being influenced by certain societal factors which lead to tourist levels being higher or lower at certain times of the year. For example, one institutional cause is school holidays, when students break from their studies.
Another institutional cause is sporting seasons when major sporting events like Golfing tournaments or the World Cup take place. All of these events attract a significant number of tourists to destinations, therefore being a cause for seasonal tourism.
Seasonality in Tourism: Issues and Implications
There are several negative impacts of seasonality in tourism that companies need to be conscious of, alongside their implications on your operations.
The first is that seasonality is out of your control. Whilst there are efforts that you can implement to help buffer the fluctuation of tourists throughout the year (more on that to come!) It’s a fixed phenomenon that takes its course in the same way year after year.
With this, your business will be attracting more interest and experiencing more sales during certain seasons, which you’ll have to consider when implementing your marketing strategy and thinking about your annual finances.
In line with this, whilst seasonality can bring more tourists at one time of the year, which is favourable as it leads to an increase in sales, it can have the opposite effect too. During off-peak times of the year, there can be decreased business, leading to fewer customers and lower profits, which can be detrimental if you have fixed costs and overheads to settle.
Finally, seasonality in tourism also brings with it direct issues for destinations such as high prices caused by increased popularity, infrastructure problems caused by the influx of tourists, and overcrowding during the peak season. These can all have a knock-on effect on your travel business.
How to Overcome Seasonality in Tourism: Adapting Your Marketing Strategy
Seasonality problems in tourism can have negative implications on travel businesses. However, there are marketing methods that can be implemented to help ease the impacts of seasonality depending on the specific travel season:
During the Peak Season
Set Aside Profits Ready for the Off-Season
During the peak season, your travel business will likely be making more profit compared to the off-season. Thus, it’s important to prepare for your off-season accordingly during the peak season by budgeting and setting aside profits that will cover any costs that you incur within the off-season if business is slow.
Source More Online Reviews and Feedback
With the peak season attracting more customer interest and bookings for your business, this opens up a big opportunity for you to gain more feedback and reviews from your customers. Positive reviews are a valuable way of securing purchases from future customers, so you should ensure that you’re encouraging any of your customers during the busy peak season to leave a review if they feel that they’ve had a great experience with you.
You can aim to increase the number of individuals leaving you online reviews and feedback through email marketing campaigns linking to your Google Reviews or other sites including TripAdvisor. We’d also encourage you to respond to these reviews promptly, whether positive or negative, as this further enhances your appearance to future customers given that you’re engaging with clients and helping to resolve their complaints swiftly.
During the Off-Season
Run Promotions to Incentivise Travellers
Given that the off-season is known to be less popular amongst travellers, this is a great opportunity to run promotions and deals to try and incentivise them to book with you or travel to your destination.
Travel is in high demand, meaning consumers are always on the lookout for the best ways to save their money so that they can bag the best deal on their next travel adventure. Should they be able to travel during this season, a deal might just be the thing to pique their interest.
One of the most strategic ways to gain more customers during the off-season is to adjust your scope to a local level. During peak season, you’ll often find many travellers have ventured from further afield to experience your travel offerings. But, in the off-season, when these types of travellers are in lower numbers, it offers you the opportunity to target more local customers.
There are multiple methods that you can use to try and attract a local demographic during the off-season. For example, you may be able to offer discounts to locals to try and convince them to have a local travel experience. Or, you may want to target your advertising or social media campaigns to the areas that you operate in to get in front of locals’ eyes. Partnering with other local businesses is a great strategy to get yourselves in front of a wider local audience too.
Implement a Content Strategy
With fewer people heading to destinations during the low season, you ideally want to increase these numbers so that you have a steadier stream of customers throughout the year. You can do this by implementing a good content strategy in the lead-up to, and during, the off-season.
By creating a content strategy ahead of the low season, you can think about what types of written pieces and imagery can communicate to your customers that the low season is a lovely time of year to travel and that there are many benefits to doing so.
Think of all of the channels you can utilise in your marketing strategy to communicate this to customers – such as email newsletters, social media content, and blog posts for your website so that you’re getting this message across to your customers in different ways. Equally, think about optimising your existing content in line with relevant search queries to make sure that you’re more likely to be viewed by customers organically on search engines.
During the Shoulder Season
Target Specific Demographics
During the shoulder season, you want to make sure that your marketing strategy targets certain demographics that can travel during this time of the year and who have the income to do so.
Tracking the types of customers you gain during the shoulder season will help you understand the audiences and demographics that you should be targeting during this time of the year. For example, if you’re finding more young couples or older couples are booking with you to travel during the shoulder season, think about how you can adjust your marketing to attract this type of clientele, whether in your social media posts, email marketing campaigns, or with tailored SEO content on your website.
Implement Loyalty or Rewards Schemes
Implementing loyalty or rewards programmes for travellers is a great method to try and increase repeat customers and incentivise travellers into booking with you during this less-busy period of the year, increasing your revenue stream. This would also work well as a strategy during the low season.
This will provide some of your most loyal customers with additional value, as you reward them for their loyalty and give them an enhanced customer experience as a result. This creates a sort of win-win situation between you, the supplier, and your customers.
Change Your Marketing Messaging
Much like evaluating what demographics are more likely to travel, and therefore purchase your product or service, during the shoulder season, you’ll want to review and tailor your marketing messaging to appeal to the needs of these travellers during this period too.
The types of travellers that you’ll find during the shoulder season will have particular needs and wants. For example, retired travellers may be looking to travel at a time of year when they can pay less and that is quieter. Therefore, the marketing that you are executing needs to speak to the wants that this demographic has, with this messaging communicated in your content and other marketing strategies to catch their eye.
Whilst seasonality in tourism is not something that can be avoided, it is certainly something that you can prepare for and react to by using multiple marketing strategies to your advantage, supporting your business to thrive regardless of the time of year. We hope that the above strategies have illustrated where you may currently be working to support your business during the travel seasons, and where you can make further efforts to maximise your business success whether in the low, high, or shoulder seasons.
If you’re in search of developing your marketing strategy for your travel brand, you can get in touch with our team at SEO Travel. We are an expert travel marketing agency that helps companies like yours to enhance their marketing to increase your conversion rate and improve the search engine optimisation of your website. Why not take a look at our marketing services to find out more about how we can help?
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