New research by HomeAway on shoulder season trends, marketing and pricing reveals that shoulder seasons ─ those periods between peak and low seasons ─ vary widely from region to region, even in regions that otherwise are similar in climate and guest attractions. Shoulder periods will shift in both length and impact over time, according to HomeAway.
“Any event that affects local tourism can end up affecting the way a shoulder season plays out,” comments John Suzuki, who goes by the title of HomeAway Evangelist. “For example, changes in school schedules can directly impact when shoulder seasons occur. Common ways that owners and managers prepare for seasonal shifts include paying attention to airfare prices and historical hotel occupancy rates in the area.”
The research was gathered, in part, by using internal data such as booking data. HomeAway also has developed a new tool called MarketMaker, which is still in beta testing, that helps VRMs observe the behaviors of their travelers, their markets and their competitors, and will help clarify true shoulder seasons from VR to VR. Expedia data about events in local markets is integrated into the tool to help property managers and owners understand how events like festivals and conferences can affect a property’s popularity.
“MarketMaker will help users identify and track specific vacation rentals they are competing against in the same market, and is expected to give managers the data and tools they need to make informed decisions on how to maximize occupancy or revenue throughout the year, including slower periods like shoulder seasons,” explains Suzuki.
HomeAway found that type of home ─ urban location versus resort area, for example ─ is not always a factor in shoulder-season demand.
“Generally, we see that vacation rentals in true vacation destinations are impacted more by seasonal changes than urban rentals,” comments the HomeAway executive. “For instance, a ski chalet in Telluride may experience more seasonal shifts than an apartment in Denver. But cities also experience seasonal shifts: as families tend to vacation in the summer, regardless of where they’re traveling to. There were a few large cities on our list of top shoulder season savings destinations this year: Chicago, Seattle, and San Diego were among them.”
HomeAway’s research also found that there’s no secret formula for successful shoulder-season marketing, because local conditions vary so widely. “Certainly, shoulder seasons compel many property owners and managers to market their properties differently. It is common to see property owners and managers offer discounts, deals on long-term stays, or ‘above and beyond’ amenities to attract travelers,” notes Suzuki. “All other things being equal, we believe that managers who observe their markets closely, listen to their travelers, and make data-driven decisions tend to outperform their competitors.”