If you’re a tour operator or attraction with seasonal highs and lows, you may have realized that the marketing tactics used during your high season don’t necessarily have the same effect during the low season. This may be because your low-season guests are motivated by different factors, such as pricing and work schedules.
Who are the customers that book during your low season?
You can find out by pulling customer data from prior years. Once you build a customer persona for these guests, you can create marketing campaigns that specifically target this group of visitors.
In this post, we’ll explore how to get more bookings in low season — ensuring that your business remains profitable all year long.
1. Be strategic in your pricing
Pricing is a strong motivator when it comes to booking tours and activities. While increasing your prices when demand is high may make sense, a strategic discount could be used to drive bookings during your slower months.
For example, you might implement a last-minute pricing strategy where you offer same-day discounts to encourage price-sensitive customers to book. With Xola, you can automate this with Lightning Deals, which will offer a discounted price based on specific triggers.
Let’s say you run a sailing tour company, and you want to drive more bookings during the winter months. You might offer a 25% discount to every customer that lands on your website on a Friday, hoping to encourage them to book a tour on Saturday or Sunday.
You might also consider adopting a dynamic pricing strategy, where you mark up your tours when demand is high — like during the high season — and do the opposite when it’s low. For example, you might charge $50 during shoulder season but bump your price up to $65 during peak season or holidays when demand is unusually high.
Before adopting this, make sure to calculate your operating costs, including fixed costs like rent and business software, equipment storage variable costs like employee wages. This will help you determine the absolute minimum that you can price your tours without hurting your bottom line.
2. Create an offer that targets workation visitors
Workations are trips in which travelers are working and vacationing simultaneously. Trips that mix business with leisure time are becoming increasingly popular, especially for remote workers.
This is a great segment of customers to target because these travelers are looking for local things to do during their off time. They’re also not necessarily traveling during peak season, since their trips are planned around business meetings and work schedules.
You can most likely find these types of travelers in your local coffee shops, coworking spaces, or nearby hotels. You could, for instance, create a voucher with a 10% discount code and distribute them at each of these venues.
3. Piggyback on local events and festivals to attract more locals
If your company is dependent on tourists that come from out of town, it’s more susceptible to seasonal fluctuations in demand. Focusing on locals can help offset the drop in revenue during your low season.
Does your city host any kind of festival? If there’s not much going on during the low season, local events like the neighborhood farmers market can also do the trick. Either scenario offers an excellent opportunity to introduce your company to a local audience.
If your city hosts a food festival, for example, you could develop an experience that aligns with the event’s marketing. Perhaps you’ll partner with a local vendor and offer a food and beverage package for your most popular tour. Alternatively, you could offer a special discount on all of your tours in honor of the festival.
Meanwhile, a weekly farmers market is a great place to do in-person marketing. You could set up a booth — or join an existing one — to promote your tours to local residents.
Consider that the cafes, restaurants, and stores around you welcome also visitors in every season. When you partner with these local establishments, you can introduce your brand to their customers. Partnering with a local business is mutually beneficial. The local cafe or restaurant recommends your tour or attraction to their customers, and you do the same for the local business.
Here are five additional ways to attract more local visitors:
- Get to know local customers and identify what they’re looking for in a tour or activity
- Offer a locals-only discount, as Disney does for Florida residents
- Market your tours in local media, such as local newspapers, magazines, and tv stations
- Use Facebook ads to target a local audience
- Partner with a social media influencer that highlights things to do in your city
4. Connect with your local tourism board
Your local tourism board or destination marketing organization (DMO) is focused on generating buzz about your town year-round, not just during the high season. Consider partnering with them on a campaign during your slower months.
For example, you could advertise your tours on the tourism board’s website on a page that lists local activities. Or you might piggyback on an email campaign and promote your tours to their email list subscribers. These are just a few of the ways that you can work with your local tourism office to introduce your brand to locals and visitors alike.
5. Retarget past visitors
Past visitors are a great audience to target during your slow months. These customers are already familiar with your brand. When they receive a special offer in their inboxes, it’ll remind them of what a great time they had during their visit. The offer may be enough to convince them to re-book with you.
Apple and Google recently announced new privacy laws that make it harder for brands to track customer behavior online. However, tour and attract operators can still retarget potential customers using the data they already own.
For example, you can upload your email list onto Facebook to have your ads shown to your subscribers. These are past or potential customers who are already familiar with your brand — and therefore likelier to make a booking.
6. Run a social media giveaway
A social media giveaway is effective in reaching new audiences online. Instagram is a great platform for this. When you run a giveaway, you ask your followers to complete a series of steps to enter a raffle to win a prize. The prize could range from a gift card to a free tour.
To enter, you’ll ask your followers to like, comment and tag a friend they’d like to bring with them. When each follower tags a friend, they’re introducing your brand to someone new. This generates a lot of engagement on your giveaway post, which will make it visible to more people.
The downside to a social media giveaway is that you might gain a lot of short-term followers who unfollow you as soon as the contest is over. To avoid this, try to create a giveaway that attracts your target audience. That way, they’re interested enough in your content to stick around when the giveaway is done.
You may also face frustrated customers who didn’t win a prize. Ensure that your instructions on how to enter is clear to avoid any confusion. Also, be transparent about how you plan to choose the winner. It helps to choose the winner through a random number generator and show the selection process live, such as on your Instagram Stories.
7. Leverage holidays
If there are any holidays occurring during your low season, you can create a marketing campaign around them. Let’s say February isn’t your busiest month. But on Valentine’s Day, you offer a special experience for couples. This can generate a slew of new bookings during a time when you wouldn’t otherwise be selling that many tours.
Make a list of all the possible holidays or events happening throughout the year. Then, brainstorm ways in which you can leverage these holidays to attract your target audience. Start by thinking of the social media posts you can create for each and scheduling those into your content calendar.
8. Welcome group bookings
Corporate events, sports team celebrations, and school trips can help you fill your tour capacity quicker than individual bookings. Plus, you’re now marketing your brand to a wider audience. You can also focus on attracting groups that are celebrating special events like a bachelorette or birthday party, expanding your reach even further.
Group bookings give you the opportunity to introduce your services to a large group of people who might eventually return for a second visit or recommend your company to their friends and family.
To attract more group bookings, consider offering special group rates. You can also use paid search ads to target specific groups of people, like those who have an upcoming birthday or a bachelor party. Make sure to include photos of groups in your ads, directly appealing to the groups you hope to welcome on your tour or at attraction.
You might have noticed that many of these strategies — like partnering with your city’s tourism board and welcoming group bookings — involve promoting your tours to a local audience. Creating an offer that’s attractive for local visitors can help you maintain a stable level of bookings throughout the year.