As the busy summer tourism season winds down and we transition into cozy fall, those of us at destination marketing agencies know it’s time for a change of tune. Autumn is the perfect opportunity to tap into the innate strengths of your travel destination and offer visitors the chance to enjoy your unique travel experiences year-round.
Here are nine creative marketing campaign ideas to promote tourism during the offseason:
1. Organize a Restaurant Week with Special Menus
Every restaurant and every destination has one-of-a-kind local flavors. What better way to promote that than to help your destination organize a week- or month-long period where multiple restaurants offer special dishes and deals? Reach out to some of the top eateries in your area, and ask them to participate by having a limited time, chef’s-pick menu designed to bring in the local spices, veggies and recipes, for example.
Encourage participation by posting about Restaurant Week on social media, tagging partner businesses, and possibly even adding a giveaway prize for a lucky winner. These events repeated yearly can often attract return visitors and delight local customers at the same time.
2. Sponsor a Town Run
Promote community bonding and healthy lifestyles with a town run that will encourage visitors to immerse themselves in the one-of-a-kind culture of your destination. Add a theme for a personal spin and a little extra fun to highlight the values of your town and what makes you stand out! Working with a charity partner can also be a great way to attract participants and give back to the community.
Get partner hotels to offer a discount on stays for those out-of-town runners who want to be there bright and early at the starting line, and be sure to cross-promote those discounts.
3. Back a Local Artisan Festival
There’s nothing quite as special as having a one-of-a-kind piece and a memory associated with it. Host a makers market-type festival to highlight the work of local artisans that makes your town vibrant and creative. These kinds of markets are a particularly strong idea during the offseason’s winter holidays, when you can encourage shopping local for everyone on your gift list. Be sure to equip all the vendors with digital assets they can use to cross-promote the market and boost attendance!
If your area is prone to inclement weather during the offseason, be sure to keep your venue and timing in mind. An outdoor festival in a park in the fall might be fine, but a holiday market in early December might require an indoor event space.
4. Create a Giveaway for a Free Stay at a Hotel
For anyone looking for a relaxed getaway, take the planning off their hands and offer a giveaway to your most alluring hotel. Host the giveaway on social media and highlight a travel itinerary to get people excited about the possibilities while also encouraging online engagement.
5. Hold a Holiday Baking Contest
Lean into the holiday spirit with an event like this one in your community! Who can ever really get enough of the secret family recipes that are passed along during the holidays? Create a one-stop shop for all of your town’s most prized flavors and traditions, and let your community members lead the way and compete for recognition with a cookoff-type of event where guests can sample! Does your community grow apples? Include an apple pie category. You get the picture. Visitors will be left looking to replicate the signature flavors of your destination.
6. Market Harvest Time to Wine Lovers
Maybe this is our hometown roots in California showing, but in the fall around these parts, it’s grape harvest time! Many wineries will already be having special events during their fall harvest season. Do some outreach and put together a calendar of events in a roundup blog post on your website, and do some collaboration posts on social media. Folks with families typically do most of their traveling in the summer, so these wine-lover campaigns are a great way to keep your hotels filled with couples and others come fall.
If your destination doesn’t include wine country, that’s OK. Simply ask yourself what special events could you highlight in your area and go from there!
7. Highlight Those Offseason Holidays
Just because it’s not summer doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of travel occasions during the rest of the year, thanks to long weekends, family get-togethers and more. Do not forget to market for these upcoming critical moments:
- Veterans Day
- New Year’s Eve/Day
- Valentine’s Day
- Spring Break
Get your holiday-specific content out there a month or two in advance so folks have time to plan a stay.
8. Create Seasonal Itineraries
Making an itinerary is a great way to show off all your destination has to offer. This kind of content works beautifully as a blog post or page on your website, offering plenty of SEO benefits and potential partner backlinks. It’s also really excellent fodder for an email newsletter as a new season approaches. Here’s a great blog post example for spring for our client Visit Arroyo Grande. Be sure to include information about what the weather is like during the given season for travel planners.
9. Switch Up Your Demographics
Summer is when families travel, and we know families are coveted by travel destinations. But they are not the only travelers! Use the offseason to try marketing to other demographics, switching out your photography of families enjoying your destination to retired couples, for instance. Consider a campaign centered around younger or business travelers who might “work from hotel.” The offseason is a great time to show why everyone is welcome in your destination.
If you want to talk about more ideas on supporting an increase in visitors through your marketing, reach out to Mary Verdin at [email protected].