A guest blog by Dialpad

Any tourism-related business knows that the biggest problem that the industry faces is seasonal fluctuations. No matter where you operate in the world – whether a large agency or the owner of a small guesthouse – you’ll likely see clear patterns of high seasons and low seasons with a major drop in bookings.

Trying to boost off-peak travel bookings has always been a big problem in the industry, and operators are always looking for ways to increase booking during their traditionally quiet times. Just how can you increase bookings at times of the year when people tend to not want to go away? How do you change customers’ minds and make them want a break at times when the weather might be less inviting?

Let’s take a look at the top ten things you can do to increase your customer bookings during the slower parts of the year.

10 tips to help you increase bookings during the off-peak travel season

low-season travel period

1. Know your market

The first thing to do is to look at your market. Do you mainly book guests from your own country or does your business attract international tourists? To examine your market properly, you need good analytics to identify the following factors:

  • When do people visit? Look at month-to-month trends and see what your busiest and quietest months are
  • Where are they coming from? You may notice geographical patterns when you analyze your data. This can help plan marketing plans that are location-specific
  • What type of travelers are they? People travel for different reasons and that can include everything from business travelers to winter sports aficionados to people who enjoy city breaks (and of course, traditional holidaymakers)

How to increase bookings during off-peak travel season

Having a clear picture of who your customers are can help define how to market your business as well as where you market it. Good website design may be the foundation of your business and marketing, but widening your marketing approach can help reach more people. This data may also help suggest demographic groups you have not been targeting.

2. Existing customers, referrals, and recommendations

There are a lot of parallels between the tourism industry and e-commerce. Ideally, you want to see a high rate of customer retention, and that applies to both agencies and to single-location businesses. There are a number of advantages that come from customer retention:

  • If they normally visit in your high season, you can try and tempt them to book during the low season with special tour package promotions and offers.
  • You can lower customer acquisition costs by offering your existing customers the opportunity to refer you to their friends and family. Introducing a referral scheme where your loyal customers gain rewards of some type when one of their referrals books with you can also help make your customers feel extra valued
  • Use customer reviews in your marketing as much as possible. New customers like to read peer recommendations, so this can be a great way to increase bookings

Your existing customer base can be one of your greatest assets. These are people that intimately know the quality of the experience you provide. That means you need to be constantly thinking of how to improve customer experience, which involves everything from how an initial inquiry is handled to any on-site customer experience once their holiday starts.

Don't let the off-peak travel period slow you down

3. Segment your booking dates

Even within high and low season periods, there are trends you can identify. Some potential customers may be restricted by factors like school holidays and others might not, instead booking dates according to personal preferences and habits. Look at any patterns you find and consider segmenting your calendar to offer lower prices for off-peak periods.

For example, people who work Monday to Friday love a weekend away. They might decide on a short weekend away, or even a longer one if they take an extra Friday and/or Monday off work. Since weekdays are often a quieter time as a result, you can look at discounting those times significantly so that people have more incentive to consider midweek breaks instead. This strategy can be a great way to increase bookings as tour or charter business.

4. Devise off-peak travel policies

As well as bringing in different pricing policies for your quiet periods, it can also help to implement policies that are specific to your low season. Customers value flexibility at any time of year, but perhaps especially so during low seasons. They may want to book at very short notice, so if your business can accommodate these last-minute bookings, you might even bring in some additional discount offers. When people see a bargain for a holiday within the next few weeks, it may tempt them enough to take the leap.

As well as prices, look at changing your cancellation policies during the low seasons. If this is not a customer’s planned main holiday, unexpected events may force them to change their plans. Have a sliding scale of cancellation options that offer different ‘penalties’ depending on when they cancel. With that said, try not to make these penalties too restrictive, and try to offer free cancellation up to as close to the booked dates as possible if you can.

factors affecting travel decisions during off-peak travel periods

5. Create special offers to increase bookings

Creating a range of pricing policies for low season and for periods within that such as midweek breaks form a valuable part of your low season strategy. But going one step further, you can make them the highlight of your marketing strategy. You don’t want to make customers look for your offers – instead, put them out there with bells and whistles on so people notice them.

For example, if you are offering prices at 40% below normal rates, put together ads or posts that focus on that major discount. You can also include incentives in your offers. If you partner with local businesses that also experience low seasons, you can work together to really increase bookings. Look for local activities such as boat tours, wellness trends such as meditation or pottery lessons, for instance. You might partner with those businesses so that when a customer books with you, they also receive a discount for that activity.

6. Improve and highlight amenities

Customers often want different things at different times of the year. Look at the amenities you currently offer and think about how you can improve them to be more attractive for those low season periods. Some of those amenities, such as a log burner or open fire, maybe season-specific, while others may be suitable all year round.

A good starting point is to list all potential tourist activities across the year. Hill walking or hiking can be popular in rural or coastal areas, so providing equipment and/or clothing for such activities can help you increase bookings. Some other features may be attractive no matter the season: for example, adding a hot tub to your property is an extra amenity everyone will love.

7. Update your marketing

Many businesses tend to focus their visual marketing in the high season. After all, your property may look stunning with a backdrop of blues skies and sunshine. But it may also look just as inviting in autumn or winter, so update your galleries to show how it looks at different times of the year. Great photographs of your property and the surrounding area can be majorly effective selling tools.

You can also update your marketing to include other information about your property and the area. As mentioned already, highlight any amenities that are useful when the weather is less sunny such as heating systems or fires. Telling potential customers about average weather patterns such as rainfall or temperatures can help them make informed decisions.

8. Widen your reach

Your business may be operating independently with just a website or with listings on a tour operator marketplace. Are you reachable on social media, though? Some social media platforms such as Instagram are perfect for sharing visual images of the tourist experience you offer. As an added bonus, you can create a hashtag so that customers can share their holiday snaps, increasing your visibility online.

Establish a presence on several social media platforms; not only does this widen your reach but it makes it easier for previous and current customers to share content about you or to leave positive reviews for others to read. You could even consider setting up a dedicated app. Mobile apps for business can be relatively cheap to set up and can help to increase bookings across the year.

9. Work around special dates

factor in special dates during the low-season travel periods

In an otherwise low season, it’s likely that certain dates, such as Christmas and New Year, might see increased bookings. While those dates may be quickly booked up, you should also look at the periods on either side of such holidays. By offering special offers for the times before and after prominent dates, you can attract even more customers and encourage them to make the conversion from interested to booking

If you think about it, many people want to spend those festive dates with family or friends, but equally, they may need a short break away. By offering special offers around those times, you can attract that market to your business. If you have a larger property (or properties), you might even consider aiming offers at larger groups; perhaps the whole family wants something like a pre-Christmas break together.

10. Remember your SEO

It doesn’t matter how great your property, your amenities, or even your prices are. If you don’t keep an eye on your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, then people are unlikely to find you when they are searching for a holiday or break. Look at what your competitors are doing but also look at what makes you stand out from other properties.

What are your special features? Is your property pet-friendly? Do you provide services such as Netflix for rainy days or have collections of games that can keep an energetic toddler occupied? These are the sort of things many customers look for, so be sure to include those ‘extras’ in your SEO strategy.

The takeaway

There are multiple strategies you can consider that can help increase bookings during your low season. From marketing to the different distribution channels you use, adopting the right tactics can make a real difference to the booking patterns you see for quieter periods.

create incentives during the off-peak travel period

While some tactics, such as adding amenities to your property, may involve some initial investment, you should see their benefits in the form of happy visitors in the long term. You want your property to stand out from competitors and for more people, both previous and new customers, to choose it above other similar properties.

Making a few small but effective changes to your business’ bookings strategy can help you increase bookings across the year, even during the slower times.

For example, by utilizing an online booking software – such as Rezdy – that simplifies the overall customer booking journey, you’re not only making it easier for your customers to book, but you’re streamlining your processes as well. With features such as real-time availability viewer, payment gateway integrations and automatic communications, your customers can place a booking in as little as 5 minutes.

Curious to see how Rezdy can fit within your business? Start your FREE 21-day trial or book a demo today!

If you enjoyed this article – 10 tips to help you increase your bookings during the off-peak season travel season – be sure to sign up to our newsletter, where you’ll receive the latest marketing, business & industry tips for operators and resellers.

Written By – Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform that features business phone numbers from Dialpad for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. She has also written for sites such as Reputation X and PayTabs. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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