The Most Successful Destination Marketers Have Very Big Shoulders

Up at my cabin in the Northwoods we had our first frost this morning and it is safe to say that the area is now in the middle of the fall shoulder season. For this region, the draws are the stunning fall foliage and also deer hunting (bow and arrow) and musky fishing. However, every destination and region has its own unique natural and man-made shoulder season draws. Maximizing visitation during the shoulder seasons is key to maximizing the success of your destination’s marketing budget.

In peak season, most destinations are running very strong visitor counts and REVPARs. Your strategy during this season should be focused on yield management and building brand loyalty – maximizing the revenue from lodging, F&B, activities and ancillary services while building long-term brand loyalty. The loyalty factor cannot be underestimated as it is key to ensuring continued growth during both peak and shoulder seasons. Provide great service, deliver incredible experiences and also gather as much personal information and data on your consumers as possible. What do they like to do? What are the things about your destination that draw them to you?

While a majority of peak season visitors could simply be called “tourists,” during the shoulder season it is time to focus your attention on “enthusiasts.” Is it the bird-watchers, mountain bikers, yogis, shell collectors that come to take advantage of the natural features of your destination? Or, does it make sense to create a music festival, a triathlon, or maybe a wine and chocolate festival that will appeal to a large number of potential visitors? The key to success is to provide a reason for your chosen enthusiast groups to select your destination over the myriad of other options available.

OK, you’ve done your research and have one or more draws by which to attract enthusiast groups, now how do you get the word out to these target groups? This is where all that data you’ve been collecting comes into play. Hopefully, you know enough about your past visitors to segment out those consumers who are interested in your chosen attraction. In addition to past visitors, we recommend the use of replication to communicate with consumers who match up with your own data base in addition to the use of re-targeting technology and list purchases to reach enthusiast groups.

Many destinations and properties offer steep discounts to lure visitors during the shoulder seasons. While it may not be possible to get the same high rates you receive during peak season, we recommend adding value to consumers rather than dropping rates. This can be done in number of ways and possibly the most valuable to enthusiasts is a unique and personal experiential offer. For me that might be a “personal guitar lesson with legendary guitarist Richard Thompson” for others it could be a “special dinner with Anthony Bourdain.” Not only do these offers pull in enthusiasts, they also provide valuable PR content for placement in enthusiast publications.

Pumping up your shoulder seasons provides destinations and properties the best opportunities to both grow business and build your brand. Next week we will provide some real-life examples of how we’ve grown some big shoulders for our clients.