What is low season?

Low season for hotels is any period in which bookings are harder to come by – the opposite of peak season. During these periods room rates may need to be lowered in order to attract the small number of bookings that are available to your hotel. 

We’ve all been there – the times when it feels like our momentum and success is slowing down. For many hotels and small accommodation providers, business is very seasonal.

Often holiday periods or particular seasons will see a boom in bookings and revenue, while in the low periods it’s much harder to drive results. However, if you can find ways to keep a healthy stream of sales in the low season your business will be much more successful in the long term.

This blog will give you plenty of tips on increasing occupancy at your small property even when tourists aren’t flocking to your destination.

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Factors that contribute to low season for hotels

There’s no universal low season for hotels. The timing of your hotel’s low season will instead be defined by factors such as:

1. Seasonal weather

Winter in coastal areas. Summer in snow villages. Wet season in the tropics. Most destinations are defined by their climate, and there will be times of the year when the weather is less than ideal, meaning fewer visitors.

2. School holidays

If your hotel attracts families, they are far more likely to book during school holidays, which can mean your low seasons are the school periods in between.

3. Local events

There may be certain times of year when local events see your area attract more visitors than normal. Likewise, there will probably be chunks of the calendar in which not much excitement happens at all, which can lead to a low season for hotels in the area.

4. Economic factors

The cause of a low season isn’t always local – sometimes it can be defined by something bigger, such as the state of the economy. If unemployment, interest rates or inflation are up, people avoid spending on luxuries like travel.

5. Travel trends

The rise of Airbnb and boutique accommodation. The influence of Instagram, TikTok and other social media on travel choices. The increasing number of people looking to explore their own backyard. Travel trends are having an ever-increasing level of influence over hotels’ low seasons.

6. Travel restrictions

As hoteliers found out in early 2020, travel restrictions can instantly usher in the lowest of low seasons. There’s no telling if or when travel restrictions might come back into force, so it’s wise to plan ahead as best you can for this scenario.

Hotels low season for each country

Most hotels’ low seasons will be defined in some part by the local climate. So when do different low seasons occur? Here’s a brief country-by-country look at low seasons around the world.

Low season in the United States

The northern hemisphere winter generally defines low season for hotels in the US, with the week or two around the festive season a notable exception. Ski fields across the country are in high demand over winter.

Low season in the United Kingdom

Like the US, the UK experiences a low season in the depths of winter, particularly in the early months of the new year. A lack of ski fields makes this time of year a relatively uniform low season across the country.

Low season in France

Blessed with a number of world famous ski fields, and a favourite spot for many international travellers to spend the festive season, France’s winter low season isn’t as intense as that of the UK.

Low season in Spain

While Spanish hotels’ low season also spans the northern hemisphere winter, the relatively mild conditions, at least in terms of Europe, make Spain a more tempting destination over this period.

Low season in Italy

Once again, the Italian low season generally runs from January to March. Like Spain, Italy experiences milder winters than other European countries, and like France, Italy boasts some enviable ski fields, both of which help to make this quiet time of year a little more popular.

Low season in Australia

Australia is such a sprawling country that low season changes depending on where a hotel is. In the northern tropics low season is over the Australian summer, which coincides with the hot and humid wet season. In the south, low season is in the Australian winter, when locals tend to escape to the sunny, tropical destinations in the north.

Image representing increasing hotel sales in low season

How to prepare in low season for hotels

The very first step is to identify when your property’s low season actually occurs. Is it one chunk of time or different periods throughout the year?

Look at historical reservation data, made easier with hotel software systems, to pinpoint any trends that indicate when your occupancy rates take a dip.

After this you can look at other considerations such as:

Targeting the right guests

Your typical guest may not be the same guest that is receptive to your off-season offers. For example, if you are usually a summer destination and your low season is winter you might start to target hikers, adventurers, or sports enthusiasts who will enjoy the cooler months to pursue their passion. 

Or you might stop targeting leisure travellers and start trying to attract those travelling for business instead since business travellers are active all year round. 

It’s important to note that the more planning you do, and the more you aim to maintain your occupancy, the further in front of your competitors you’ll be.

How to increase hotel sales in low season

So you know when your low season occurs and you know who you should be targeting. Now let’s look at some examples of the marketing activities you can perform to bring in business.

1. Utilise your loyalty members and subscribers

Your email database is a pool of potential guests you always have handy – particularly loyal guests who have stayed with you before are happy to get rewards. You might be able to entice them for quiet getaways with packages or food and beverage deals.

2. Try out special packages

To convince guests to travel when they aren’t necessarily planning to, take the stress and logistics out of their hand by creating all-in-one packages that include food and beverage deals, shuttle services, and tours or activities.

3. See how you can use different spaces at your property

When your hotel isn’t so busy it’s a good time to see how you might bring in people from the local community or domestically. If you have garden spaces, halls or meeting rooms, a bar area etc. you could hold small social events, business meetings, or celebrations. 

4. Review your distribution channels

During low season you need to ensure your hotel gets in front of the handful of potential guests that are available. Do you have a presence on all the booking channels that your target guests tend to use? Are you maximising your direct booking opportunities by pointing guests to your site? 

Adding more booking channels doesn’t necessarily mean adding more work. The Little Hotelier channel manager can seamlessly integrate with 450+ booking channels, and lets you manage all of them through a single, simple screen. Updating pricing, availability and info across every listing in just a handful of clicks!

5. Negotiate local partnerships

Working with other businesses in your area can benefit both parties when business is down. Promotions that include extras such as tickets to attractions, discounts for restaurants, or packages for classes or wellness treatments can incentivise guests to take the leap and commit to a booking.

6. Offer long-term stays

Going back to targeting different guest segments, there could be niche markets that want to take advantage of long-term stay packages.

For example, retirees who have plenty of time on their hands and want to experience a new community for a length of time. Another option is young professionals who are now taking advantage of remote working post-COVID.

7. Implement offers only available during low season

This is where you can get creative and offer exclusive services during your low season. For example, you could open up your hotel team building getaways, guests with pets, kids stay free, or special rates for business guests.

8. Get guests to leave reviews

Guests trust the feedback left by other guests – it’s what makes hotel review platforms so powerful. Encourage this feedback by asking happy guests to leave a review when they check out. You might even consider incentivising a review by offering the guest a discount on their next stay.

9. Renovate your hotel and make upgrades

Low season is the perfect time to enhance your property through renovations and upgrades, in preparation for high season. But if you finish this work early, it can also help you pick up more business during low season, which is also a great time to offer a deal or discount, perhaps for the first few guests who stay in a new room.

10. Create referral programs

Incentivise loyal guests to tell friends and family about your property with a referral program, where a member earns a discount or credit when a contact stays with you. These programs can prove particularly valuable during low season by delivering a steady supply of guests.

11. Engage in social media

Hotels are businesses that are built for social media. You may have a bit of extra time on your hands over low season, so use it to show off your property and your area on the platforms that your target guests tend to use.

By Shine Colcol

Shine is the SEO and Content Manager of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. With more than five years of experience and expertise in content strategy, creation, and management, Shine has produced informational content across various topics, mostly around improving daily operations and increasing business metrics. She aims to share well-researched articles in hopes of helping bed and breakfast owner-operators win more bookings and gain more control of their small property.