For Destination Marketers, August is the new July

The past decade has brought a host of paradigm shifts to the business of destination marketing.  Whereas we once assiduously tracked call volumes to toll-free numbers, we are now preoccupied with website visitors, unique visitors, click-through rates and other digital statistics.  Likewise, the primacy of newspaper advertising has been replaced by website media and other online advertising, and now traditional online (website) advertising‘s hegemony is in danger of being supplanted by search marketing, mobile platforms and social media.

The seasonal nature of the tourism business has also changed.  Spring and summer shoulder seasons get more attention and promotion than ever before.  Counter-seasonal niche markets are constantly explored.  Even summer vacation season has gotten a makeover.  While summer remains the most important season for the majority of destination marketers, the peak of that season has shifted significantly. Whereas the weeks around the 4th of July were once viewed as the high-water mark for family travel, the true make-or-break time is now the first half of August.

There are a number of reasons for this shift, most notably the explosive growth of amateur sports leagues.  From AAU basketball to select or club soccer to traveling baseball teams, parents nationwide find themselves locked in to mandatory daily practices and weekend games and tournaments from before school’s end until late July or even early August.  School sponsored sports are also increasingly crowding family vacation plans, with pre-season camps starting earlier each year.

Statistics from our tourism industry clients, national trade organizations and the media bear this out.  The U.S. Sports Academy estimates that there will be more than 400 indoor and nearly 300 outdoor recreational athletic facilities built or renovated in the United States in the near future.  According to the documentary “Trophy Kids,” nearly 35% of all hotel stays are now related to youth athletics.

Smart destination marketers have recognized this shift and have modified their plans accordingly.  Our clients are addressing it in a number of ways, including creating promotional incentives for the earlier summer and mid-week; actively marketing to youth sports organizations; and building or expanding recreational sports facilities.

So, has this athletics-driven shift in the tourism landscape a good thing or a bad one?  From our perspective, the question is moot.  What matters for destination marketers is recognizing the new reality, and reacting accordingly. In business, as in sports, the game is constantly changing. The key is to change with it.  Let’s play ball!