Attracting a good level of low season and shoulder season bookings is a major factor in achieving success in the hospitality industry. The ability to keep your accommodation occupied during these periods is key to achieving a healthy profit; and the answer is to apply some research, some creativity, and some legwork.
Firstly, make sure your marketing promotes low season as well as high season. For example, when we’re hunting for a lovely holiday cottage, we’re expecting to see a website full of stunning photos of blue skies and sunshine.
But if we’re looking for an autumn break, we know we’re not going to get that kind of weather and the website and literature can feel irrelevant. So show how great the local area looks in the low seasons too, with pictures of those glorious autumn colours in the woodlands, fields bursting with spring flowers, or a blazing log fire in the hearth.
Next, hit the right market; and identify niche markets too. We know of a self-catering cottage which happens to be close to a large RSPB Bird Reserve. Spring and autumn are great seasons for bird watching, and just one little advert on the Reserve’s noticeboard keeps this cottage almost fully booked right through both these seasons.
Once you’re clear about who you’re targeting, customise your offer especially for them to give yourself an edge over the competition.
Fell walkers love packed lunches and places to dry their boots; a lockable shed or a pressure washer are like magnets to cyclists, as is access to a washing machine; and a couple on a short break will be no doubt be drawn in by fluffy bathrobes and a complimentary bottle of champagne.
Cash in on local events too by taking the trouble to go and chat with the organisers, and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to get yourself listed on their website or literature. Sporting events like triathlons, marathons, bike races, sailing regattas, and extreme challenge events are exploding in popularity, and there are bound to be a handful which you can tap into.
Aside of sporting events, don’t forget county shows, food festivals, and the like. Plenty of these take place outside of peak holiday times.
Another big plus point in low season is a host who is happy to be flexible, on both dates and price. So if you’re prepared to give people exactly what they want in terms of change over days and stay durations, and if they can see they’re getting a good deal, you’re going to be a lot more attractive than places that won’t be so accommodating.
It might make your booking calendar a bit messy, but that’s a lot better than it being empty.
Contact people who enquired in the past but never booked - they must have liked the look of you to enquire in the first place, so who knows whether a tempting little special offer might just persuade them to come this time.