So Ends Summer, So Starts Shoulder Season

The summer months will always be primetime for leisure vacations. But as we continue to break down the rules of traditional travel behaviors, the months straddling the summer on either end are rapidly becoming highly sought-after getaway blocks and not just stretches where only the businessperson ventures worth.

Heightened shoulder season travel makes sense, after all. Summer is peak season which often means peak prices. As well, many of us in northern climates choose to stay home during the hotter months and enjoy the fruits of our backyards – gardening, barbecues, pool parties and so on. Specifically for Canadians, many of us prefer the weekend cottage commute over top of an outright destination vacation.

But there’s a key demographic shift that is helping this trend proliferate – the maturation of the baby boomers, myself included. As we age, we are accruing more disposable wealth via more senior job titles or pension dispersals in addition to more free time as we retire, downsize our workloads or ‘empty the nests’. All this amounts to more time and money to devote to experiential travel as well as getaways that are far away from the kids.

So, right off the bat, when it comes to shoulder season, you have to know your audience. If summer, spring break and the holiday season are for families, the shoulder seasons are for couples, be they seniors, retirees or even younger, childless pairs. As such, tailor your message to be more adult-oriented, which a sharp focus on mature attractions (museums, historical sites), shopping, sports, wellness and high-end dining.

Particularly as it concerns baby boomers, appeal to their desire for ‘badge travel’ instead of dedicated relaxation and restoration. That is to say, boomers have already been around the world and spent their fair share on material goods. What they seek now are unique experiences to check off their bucket lists. This is, of course, building on the de rigueur theme of ‘authentically local’.

Ask yourself what badge your property offers? Is it an unsurpassed golf course or an utterly gorgeous ocean-facing vista? Perhaps your restaurants are out-of-this-world and you complement this with truly outstanding staff. Or maybe you neighbor a prime destination for ecotourism and you offer packages for consumers to fully take advantage of this proximity.

Whatever it may be, distill what is most exceptional about your property, and then advertise it as a prestigious ‘badge’ that guests must attain rather than yet another property feature buried within a long list. Tell your narrative in such a way that you help the mature consumer picture himself or herself having a fully immersive ‘event’ at your hotel. Make your property stand out with a remarkable guest experience and watch the shoulder season months become some of your most successful times of year!

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HOTELS Magazine on August 28, 2015)


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