Tourism Marketing in the Off-Season

If you're in the tourism business, the year isn't defined by Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.  We tend to segment the calendar using terms like "off", "high" and "shoulder."  Depending on where you are in the world, when these seasons occur during the year will vary — one destination's "high" season is another destination's "off" season.

Managing revenues, staffing levels and marketing programs through this cycle is one of the greatest challenges facing any tourism operator.  Everyone talks about creating a "four-season" tourism industry, but the real goal is to turn a 3-season business (off, high and shoulder) into a 1-season business (high).  And some innovative operators are making real progress toward doing just that.

At Camping Orleans, a five-star campground on Ile D'Orleans in the St. Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada, the fall was always a very soft shoulder season.  After Labour Day in September, the operator would more or less "fold up his tent" and take some time to enjoy the Fall colours and the ships passing by the the St. Lawrence River.  Ship-watching became a bit of a local obsession and what few visitors were left in the campground joined in the fun.  Fast forward a few seasons and the social sport of ship-watching has put Camping Orleans' Fall business almost on par with its summer occupancy. 

Camping Orleans now publishes its own version of "The Shipping News" alerting campers to the timing and details of ships scheduled to pass through the busy and beautiful St. Lawrence.  Fall is the busiest time for shipping in the Saint Lawrence as many large "Lakers" head to warmer climates for the Winter, and the annual passing of the Queen Elizabeth II is a highlight of the campground's Fall season.  It's a great example of creating a unique tourism experience through clever packaging and a fresh look at one's surroundings.

In Kerala, India, the Monsoon season puts a real damper on tourism industry revenues.  But a newly announced marketing program is aimed at converting the "rainy season" into the "dream season." 

The idea is to lure domestic visitors to the region using a combination of savvy advertising and discounted rates.  For the potential traveler, it's a great opportunity to experience product that may be out of their price range or sold out during the high season.  To the individual operator, it's a chance to reach new customers and create buzz using what some have called "sampvertising" — giving consumers easy access to your product in exchange for the resulting positive word of mouth.

On Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, the Wickaninnish Inn has become world-famous as a winter destination for storm-watching.

Each year, a growing cult of storm enthusiasts flock to the luxurious inn on Canada's Pacific coast to watch massive winter storms roll in off the ocean from the comfort of their beachfront jacuzzis.  It's now almost as difficult (and as expensive) to get a room at the Wick in winter as it is during their traditional "high" summer season.  The product hasn't changed at all — the operators simply made the decision to stop moaning about how the bad weather was hurting their business and apply a little creativity to marketing what was right in front of them.

Are there untapped gems in your own backyard that you could turn into a new tourism product?  Why are your shoulder and off seasons soft?  Maybe, with a bit of clever thinking and creative packaging,  the very thing that makes those seasons soft can turn them into a new revenue opportunity for you.  Can you shift the consumer's focus from "bad weather" to "storm-watching"?  Can you turn "rain" into "romance"? 

Note: We’ve re-published article as part of a series of the most popular pieces from our former blog (BrandCanadaBlog). We can’t promise all the links will work, and some of the references may be a bit dated, but we think the examples and insights are still valid.


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