How to tackle seasonality in tourism
29 January 2024
At the seminar “Framtidens ledare i turism – världens största bransch” in Mariehamn about sustainable tourism development organised by Åland University of Applied Sciences 17.1.2024 several speakers highlighted the importance of prolonging the season and many consumer trends are supporting the need for more and new kind of services for the off-season. This is also highlighted in the newly established tourism strategy for destination Åland, as mentioned by Head of the Åland Government Karin Sjögren who opened the seminar for tourism businesses, politicians, students and lecturers.
Antti Honkanen, adjunct Professor and Managing Director showed unambiguous statistics about the seasonal variation on Åland Islands, peak season being the summer months. Statistics also show that the tourist arrival numbers have been quite stable throughout the years (except for the covid-19 period) and the number of arrivals from other markets than mainland Finland and Sweden are not very significant.
Senior Consultant and Future Strategist Anna-Paula Jonsson from Kairos Future, shared her view on the latest trends. Among all trends she mentioned I find meaning and community really interesting. There is an increasingly big group of people feeling lonely and lacking a sense of purpose. Empathy and human encounters, as well as community building activities are much in demand.
During the seminar certain topics were reoccurring. We heard about mindfulness, slowing down, flexible work and sustainability. To tackle the seasonality challenges food experiences and events were mentioned as key factors.
Business developer Torsten Engsig from Bornholm talked about what they do to promote the off-season. In marketing they are in the midst of a rebranding process where they focus only on autumn, winter and spring. They try to attract visitors during winter with the slogan Winter Island Bornholm, same island – new experiences. The website presents all winter activities, christmas markets, gourmet experiences, places for winter swimming, and by using the Bornholm app visitors get updated information about opening hours.
A really brave move to stop promoting the high-season! Summer is selling itself and everybody already knows that Bornholm is a sunny summer destination. According to Torsten it’s the food experiences, events like the craft weeks in autumn and the mice sector (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) that keep the off-season going.
So coming back to the question in the title, how to tackle seasonality in tourism? There is no quick fix, long term commitment, cooperation and joined forces are needed. Challenges need to be worked around with creative solutions. Visitors need new reasons to go to typical summer destinations, be it remote working, experiencing autumn storms, cooking and baking classes, retreats with nature experiences, mindfulness and yoga, food experiences or inspiring events. All of these needs to be packaged into attractive, easily accessible services. The project Light in the Dark will tackle these issues, by analysing what visitors want in the key market areas, by understanding the tourism companies concerns and challenges with seasonality, by working with new product development and by creating marketing material promoting the off-season. These planned project activities together with some crazy ideas and eager and broad-minded entrepreneurs will result in innovative and sustainable new products and a more versatile offering during the off-season.
Monika Birkle, Project Manager, Åland University of Applied Sciences