At least once a year, hotels face a demand slump they can’t do anything about.
But just because overall demand is lower, that doesn’t mean your revenue has to tank. You can make your low season a success if you approach it right.
Start by understanding seasonality in hotels. Here are seven proven methods to overcome recurring demand dips and increase hotel sales while the rest of your market struggles.
What Is Seasonality in Hotels?
Seasonality describes the cyclical demand shifts hotels go through. It means that properties will see different levels of business at different times of year. Usually these demand changes are predictable, because they follow similar patterns yearly.
As the name implies, high season is a time of soaring demand. Here, your hotel may be running at or close to capacity. This gives you the chance to charge high rates because demand outpaces supply.
Low season on the other hand is much quieter. During these phases, there’s increased competition between hotels to win over the few guests looking to book. Often this makes it necessary to lower your rates.
6 Factors that Impact Hotel Seasonality
While many factors can shape high and low seasons at your hotel, the following six are the most common.
1. Seasonal Weather Patterns
The weather’s impact on your business depends on where your hotel is. For example, a coastal resort’s high season will likely be in summer when travelers flock to the beach. If the climate is warm year-round, there might be a second high season when potential guests from certain source markets want to escape winter at home.
Logically, ski resorts will do most of their business in winter when the ski lifts are in operation. There may also be a boost from hikers who visit in summer.
In extreme cases, properties shut down for several months due to a lack of demand. This cuts costs and creates time for maintenance projects and pre-season staff training.
City hotels usually aren’t impacted by weather patterns to the same extent. Still, the warmer months often bring more leisure travelers who want to go out and explore the sights. At the same time, business travelers may stay away as they’re also taking a holiday.
2. School Holidays
Depending on how long they’ll be off, people are willing to travel longer or shorter distances. That means brief school breaks can boost demand for drive-to or short-haul flight destinations. Longer school holidays, e.g. winter and summer breaks can lead guests to book hotels further away. In general, places that are popular with families will likely see a demand drop immediately after major school breaks.
3. Local Public Holidays
Similarly to short school breaks, public holidays are also great for demand. Here, your main target audience will be local guests or travelers who can reach you via a short drive or flight.
Some public holidays may bring more demand than others. For example, many people stay home or with family to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. But on Labor Day weekend, they may be more inclined to take a trip. Consider common customs for public holidays in your state or country to gauge how much demand they may bring.
4. Local Events
Concerts by major bands or singers, sports games and tournaments, trade shows, award ceremonies and festivals can increase demand for hotel rooms. Just think of what happens every time Taylor Swift, Beyoncé or Coldplay announce tour dates!
The closer a property is to the venue, and the easier it is for guests to reach, the more likely a hotel can expect higher pick-up rates, even at above-average rates. And if the event attracts a high-paying clientele, it’s an even better opportunity to increase ADR.
5. International Holidays
Even though they don’t impact local demand, public and school holidays in your key international source markets can significantly boost your pick-up. Research these dates well in advance, so you can adapt your pricing strategy accordingly.
6. Economic Trends
Economic trends aren’t a season since they don’t ebb and flow predictably over a single year. But inflation, high interest rates and large-scale layoffs can still put a damper on travel demand. That goes for both the leisure and business sectors.
How to Identify High and Low Seasons at Your Hotel
Now that you know what impacts seasonality in hotels, it’s time to determine your property’s high- and low-demand phases.
Step 1: Check Your Historical Data
First, look at what happened in the past. When did you see recurring high and low demand periods?
What did those times have in common? Were they related to public or school holidays, events or weather patterns?
Next, explore irregular demand spikes. What caused them? Could they happen again? Or are similar events already on the horizon? Things to look out for include high-profile artists coming to town, political events, fairs that only happen every two or three years and more.
Step 2: Look at This Year’s Dates
Based on your historical data, you know when to expect key demand periods for the current and following year. To get more precise dates, do some research to answer the following questions:
When are summer, winter and other school breaks in your state?
What dates will public holidays fall on?
Which major events (e.g. concerts, fairs, trade shows…) are scheduled?
When will your key source markets have public holidays and school vacations?
Step 3: Draw Up a Demand Calendar
Use your past data and this year’s holiday and event calendar to draw up a rough demand calendar. This gives you an idea of when to expect demand to pick up and drop off well in advance.
Use these insights to plan your pricing strategy, promotions, marketing and sales activities. That way you can maximize results during high season and work on increasing sales during low season early on.
7 Proven Ways to Boost Sales During the Low Season
You probably don’t need much help to make the most of your high season. But slower periods are more challenging. Here are some ways to increase hotel sales during the low season.
Marketing Tips for The Low Season
Having a good marketing strategy is particularly important when there’s less demand. Everyone is fighting for the few guests there are, so make your hotel stand out to win over potential bookers.
1. Target the Right Guests
During high and low seasons, you're likely to see various types of travelers booking with you. They’ll have different interests, budgets and travel purposes. While that means you need to adjust your marketing, it also offers opportunities.
For example, during the off-season for leisure travelers (e.g. due to unpleasant weather), you can shift your focus to corporate guests. Or look at new source markets. When there are fewer international guests, target local travelers and vice versa. Now think about it: which source markets or guest segments could you go after alternatively?
That being said, maybe you have more time for social media during slower periods. Again, that’s an opportunity. Use the quiet times to prepare content, plan your posting calendar and tackle big projects like a hotel photo shoot.
3. Optimize Your Hotel Website and Booking Engine
Direct bookings are the best way to boost revenue during the low season. They boost hotel occupancy rate and avoid pesky commission costs.
Your hotel website and booking engine are the most important tools when driving direct business. Off season may be the perfect time to finally sit down and optimize them. This will help you convert more of your site visitors into paying guests. That’s especially valuable during low season because it lets you get the most out of existing demand.
For that to happen, update your copy, get new photos taken, improve your website structure and ensure your booking engine offers a quick user-friendly experience. Look at the payment options you offer as well. Digital authorization technology can speed things up and make transactions safer.
Build demand for your pricier rooms by touting their benefits. That could be a better view, the spacious bathroom with a jacuzzi or more space for their furry friend…
Test different offers and ways to promote them and soon you’ll see your ADR and topline increase even in times of low demand.
Andrei Ticau, Rooms Division Manager at the Copthorne Tara Hotel London has been blown away by the results he’s gotten from upselling: “It’s basically free money. Last month, we had £10,000 in upsell requests.”
5. Cross-Sell Services from Other Departments
Promote your bar, restaurant, spa, recreation activities, etc. to increase in-house spending. Make these services more attractive with special offers or discounts during the low season. Create loyalty program perks that give returning guests something new to explore during every stay. Play around with various bundles and offers to see what your guests enjoy (and book) the most and improve the guest experience.
If you’re successful, your average spend per guest will increase. That’s especially valuable during low season because it allows you to generate more revenue without selling extra rooms.
6. Tap Your Email List To Improve Sales Potential
Email marketing is one of the most effective promotional tactics today. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your audience and share your latest offers. But don’t just blast your entire subscriber list with generic newsletters.
Instead, leverage a modern email platform to segment your list deeply. That way you can send personalized, relevant messages to your guests and only offer them things they’re really interested in. As a result, you’ll see higher open and conversion rates. That can pay off handsomely when you promote your hotel to highly engaged subscribers during the off-season.
7. Design Creative Special Offers
To win over guests when everyone is fiercely competing for business, you need to get creative. Simple three-for-two deals won’t do the trick.
For example, offer experience-based packages that aren’t available the rest of the year. That makes your hotel a destination in and of itself. It also piques people’s interest and creates demand because they don’t want to miss out on this limited-time deal.
Depending on your property, this could be anything from live cooking classes with your head chef to a private tour and tasting in the hotel’s wine cellar.
Go a step further and bring in local businesses . Plan full-day activities like excursions, guided tours or classes teaching local crafts. You could also set up themed weeks featuring different local activities, food or drinks for guests to explore.
Apart from using these offers to attract new bookings, you can also pitch them to in-house guests. Automated messaging platforms are great for that. They get the right deal in front of the relevant guest segment without you having to do any extra work.
Don’t Let Low Season Get You Down
What you can offer and which guests you can attract during low season depends greatly on your hotel and its location.
Go through the tips above and pick the ones that make sense. Or just use them as inspiration and create unique ideas for special promotions your guests can’t resist.
Then it’s time to test and refine. And before you know it, you’ll be increasing hotel sales during the low season and attracting more than your share of the demand.
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