Strategies for Tour Operators to Overcome Seasonality in Tourism | Orioly

6 Strategies for Tour Operators to Overcome Seasonality in Tourism

If you work in the travel industry you probably have noticed a period during the year when fewer visitors come to your destination and sales are slow. But don’t worry, you are not alone. Seasonality in tourism is something that affects every business in every destination and should be faced as an opportunity rather than a threat.

In this article, you will learn strategies to attract customers to overcome seasonality and keep your cash flowing even during the off-season.

Why is there seasonality in tourism?

empty airport seasonality in tourism

The low season also called “shoulder season”, is the time of the year between peak seasons. During this period tourist numbers plummet and tour operators fight to attract the few travelers visiting the destination.

The drop in the number of arrivals has many explanations, such as:

  • Change in climate conditions at the destination
  • Change in the number of sunshine hours
  • Public or school holidays
  • Special events, such as festivals
  • Pilgrimages

The more specialized a destination is, the more affected by seasonality it will be. For example, a destination focused on bathing tourism will have a peak during summer and a low season during winter.

What tour operators should understand is that seasonality in tourism is cyclic. It’s fundamental that tour operators learn the visitors’ patterns to better plan their business and put strategies in place to fight back the off-season.

How to overcome seasonality in tourism?

tour guide leading a group of tourist empty airport seasonality in tourism

Seasonality cannot be eliminated, but it can be eased. With the right strategies, tour operators can generate demand even when tourist flow is at its lowest.

Here you go six strategies that you can implement during the off-season to attract more guests.

1. Target slow travelers

There is one type of traveler that prefers visiting destinations during the off-season. They are called slow travelers, and there is a reason for that.

A slow traveler is someone who is seeking a deep connection to local people, culture, food, music, history and nature when traveling. In order to create this connection they usually stay longer periods at a destination while avoiding crowds of tourists and visiting off the beaten track attractions.

This group of travelers includes digital nomads, retired people and young people who are enjoying a sabbatical year.

Creating a slow travel product is a great way to generate demand during the off-season. That could be an experience that involves the local community and nature, and also adds a layer of culture to connect the traveler with the destination.

For example, if you work with food tours you can create an experience that brings travelers to meet the local producers and learn traditional recipes directly from locals.

2. Attract locals

What is a better solution to overcome seasonality in tourism than targeting your local community?

Domestic tourism has grown since the pandemic. During travel restrictions, people have re-discovered their destination and local attractions. Furthermore, this is a niche that is less affected by fluctuations on demand. The reason is simple, the group you are targeting lives in the same place as you work.

Selling to locals is relatively simple. They have the same desires and needs as the travelers you usually target. They also want to live an unforgettable experience, even though it’s one block away from their homes.

In order to attract locals’ attention you should create experiences that have something more than your regular tours. That could be:

  • A birthday experience
  • A bachelor party experience
  • Team-building activities
  • A tour focused on families
  • A pet-friendly tour

Celebrations don’t have to be labeled with food and drinks, spice things up with adrenaline!

3. Offer discounts and promotions

Be innovative! Nobody wants to see identical promotions year after year. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use other companies’ ideas, but upgrade them! Make them better.

Reward every purchase made during the peak season with a free voucher that buyers can redeem during the low season. Send it to your client’s email and make sure to remind them about their voucher a few weeks before the tour.

When bookings slow down, you can provide coupons and gift vouchers for your tours and activities. Make sure to offer limited-time promotions (e.g. available only for a week). Promotions with an expiration date will create a sense of urgency which yields better results!

Aside from discounts, you can also offer referral rewards. Refer-A-Friend Program is a great way to retain travelers and reach out to more clients. For a limited time, you can even double the referral program for your tour and activity business. For example, the first 10 customers get a free tour (up to $8 each) for 2 persons.

4. Redesign your tours

When was the last time you added a new activity to your portfolio?

To attract guests during the off-season you can adapt your tours depending on the time of the year. For example, during February you can create Valentine’s Day experience to attract couples and during October you can offer a Halloween tour aimed at horror enthusiasts.

An interesting fact is that senior travelers love to travel during the off-season. So, you can design or modify some of your tours to create an experience that suits this audience.

You should think out of the box if you want to stand out and beat seasonality in tourism. Innovative experiences draw attention and can generate demand all year long.

5. Invest in a digital product

A new modality of travel product that has risen during the pandemic is virtual tours.

They were so popular during this period that OTA’s such as Get your Guide, Airbnb and Viator have launched a section on their websites dedicated to them.

There are four main categories of virtual tours:

Pre-recorded tours

You can create this product by recording your tours and selling them online. Make sure that the guide who will present the tour is charismatic and has great storytelling.

Live stream tours

Have you ever watched a live stream on Instagram or another platform? So, this is the same experience. The difference from pre-recorded tours is that this category is interactive. To create a live tour all you need is internet connection and a platform, such as Google Hangouts or Zoom.

Semi-immersive tours

This is a mix between a virtual tour and a real experience. Products in this category usually have a virtual component (e.g. pre-recorded tour) linked to a physical element. This element can be something delivered to the customers’ homes or something they can purchase themselves to prepare for the tour.

360 tours

This is an experience similar to Google Street View. This type of tour is great for museums and other immersive attractions. Just remember that you need a special camera to record videos in a 360 format.

The great advantage of creating a virtual product is that you can sell it all year round. Yes, they are immune to seasonality in tourism. Virtual tours are also easy to distribute and they work as a great marketing tool.

6. Partner with local businesses

Boost sales during the low season by forming partnerships with local businesses that are not in the travel industry. This way you can cross-promote each other during a period where you are not selling much but your partner is, and vice versa.

For example, if you offer trekking tours, you can give a coupon to your guests to buy at the local sports store. On the other hand, clients that buy in this store can get a coupon to enjoy your tour. You can do something similar with a restaurant or delicatessen if you offer food tours.

What to do with your extra time?

overtime work concept seasonality in tourism

The strategies listed above can help you raise your booking numbers and fight back against seasonality in tourism. But regardless of your efforts, the tourist flow will not be the same as in the peak season.

Anyway, don’t stand idly by. Use the extra time you have during the low season to put your business in order and to prepare for the peak season that will approach.

Start blogging

One of the proven ways to maintain relevance as a tour operator is by having a blog. On it, you can publish content that:

  • Has year-round usefulness for travelers. 
  • Brings traffic to your website.

Don’t stop publishing your great articles in the low season, assuming no one is reading!

Just because travelers can’t go for a trip, doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in the information you have to give. Maybe they will look for inspiration for the next season or travel on your blog.

Post on social media

It’s important to stay in contact with your followers and past customers throughout the entire year.

Use your social media accounts to inform your audience about important changes in your business, the release of new products and to give updates and fun facts about your destination.

An engaged audience helps your business stay top of mind during the high season. Don’t stop communicating during the low season, because your competitors aren’t.

Grow your email list

If you don’t have an email list of your past and potential guests, the low season is the best time to start one.

Email marketing is one of the cheapest and most effective marketing strategies. Spending your free time building an email list will save you a couple of bucks when the peak season arrives.

Gather and publish reviews from past guests

There’s no better way to get to know your travelers than by asking them a few questions. So, use the low season to perform a customer satisfaction survey and collect feedback from them.

You can include questions about what they would like to experience at your destination and create new offers based on their feedback.

Finally, ask your past guests to leave you a review on Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook and any other relevant review platform to your business.

Update your website

I know… dealing with a website can be overwhelming, but it’s necessary, unless you want to continue paying abusive commissions to OTA’s.

A well-built website with a Book Now Button not only helps your sales during the peak season but also gives you extra bookings during the low season.

If you are interested in direct online sales we can help you with that.

Conclusion

Seasonality in tourism is an issue, but not the end of the world. The best way to deal with it is to learn when your destination receives fewer visitors and adapt your business to this period.

In this article, we listed a few strategies you can use to generate demand during the low season:

  1. Target slow travelers
  2. Attract locals
  3. Offer discounts and promotions
  4. Redesign your tours
  5. Invest in a digital product
  6. Partner with local businesses

Also, use the low season to:

  • Start blogging
  • Post on social media
  • Gather and publish reviews from past guests
  • Update your website

If you want to learn more about advertising your tour business, download now our ebook “Low Budget Digital Marketing Strategies for Tour Operators.”

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