Seasonality is one of the biggest challenges that Vacation Rental Property Managers and Destination Marketing Organizations face. High occupancy during peak season causes traffic and crowds but when the off season starts two months later, that same destination turns into a ghost town. While every travel destination is different, the pattern in a market’s occupancy over a year likely falls into one of these five categories:
- Summer peak: High occupancy only during summer.
- Summer peak with strong shoulders: Peak occupancy occurs during summer but occupancy is also high during spring and fall.
- Winter peak: High occupancy only during winter.
- Dual peaks: High occupancy during winter and summer.
- Year-Round: Even though these markets experience variations in occupancy, there are no huge swings in occupancy.
Destination type heavily impacts seasonal occupancy trends. For example, many destinations that have high occupancy in the winter and summer are mountain ski towns. However, there is still some nuance – beach destinations may only have summer peaks or if they attract snowbirds, may only have winter peaks. Local climate and distance from major cities are other major factors.
Some markets, like the North Carolina Outer Banks, only have strong occupancy rates during the summer. Property managers and local shops have to capitalize on June, July, and August visitation because during the rest of the year guest occupancy is below 20%. While school schedules obviously impact occupancy, so does climate – these three markets are quite chilly during the winter.
Summer Peak with Strong Shoulders
Other destinations with peak occupancy rates during the summer are also popular during the spring and fall. Climate continues to play a large role here – all four of our example destinations are relatively temperate during the spring and fall, making them great spring or fall break destinations.
Winter destinations have their highest occupancy rates during February and March when travelers are looking to escape the colder winter weather at home. Marco Island, Florida, has peak occupancy during the winter, unlike the other beach markets we’ve looked at.
“Ski town” may be the type of market you picture having a winter peak. But, in fact, many ski towns have capitalized on year-round fun and have two times of peak occupancy. The winter and summer seasons both have high occupancy rates in these dual peak destinations. Demand for these markets increases between December and February and again from May to July.
Though less common, some markets manage to maintain solid occupancy rates year-round. While these markets may have moderate rises and falls in occupancy rates, they do not see huge swings like in other areas. Orlando and the Hawaiian Islands have mild climates during the winter, which allows people to escape the cold weather, but also provide opportunities for a variety of activities during spring and summer breaks.
By looking at the common seasonal trends in occupancy rates, we see just how important destination type and weather are. You can’t control your destination’s weather but you can control how you address it in your marketing efforts and business management. Understanding the trends of markets with similar seasonal patterns and exploring the business practices of companies in those markets will help to ensure your success as a Destination Marketing Organization or Property Manager.