Off-season: a defining moment for the tourism business


Of the many challenges housing, restaurants, and attractions face, the off-season offers one of the biggest challenges.

The off-season is the period between “peak” and “off-peak” seasons, or what Mike Somers, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Hospitality and Restaurant Association, calls “the time between dirt and branches.”

In fact, the specific peak and off-season times vary depending on the geographic location and the types of activities offered. Each specific destination attracts many visitors who are looking for certain conditions, places to stay and services. For example, the peak season at beach resorts usually falls during the warm summer months. With the onset of cold weather, the interest of visitors also falls. So, if you’re interested in scuba diving, the cooler months like October and November are coast season.

Meanwhile, for ski destinations, the warmer months make up their “low” or off-peak season. For example, at the ski resorts in the White Mountains, winter was the peak season for almost a century, while until a few decades ago, summer was a quiet period on the ski slopes.

Off-peak times are times of the year when a place is least busy or popular. In New Hampshire, this means the period from November to March to April. Much of New Hampshire has what amounts to a second peak season in September-October, when the presence of glistening fall foliage amid dramatic icy landforms and crystal-clear lakes draws visitors from across the US and around the world.

Those of us who live in New Hampshire are aware of the presence of thousands and thousands of visitors during the peak season. The same people who are sightseeing, walking, swimming and shopping become our rivals for gas, parking spaces and groceries. While we recognize the importance of these visitors, residents breathe a sigh of relief when they leave on Labor Day. During off-peak times, some of us quietly miss the excitement of new faces and events in our midst.

Outside of the travel industry, few realize the importance of the off-season in making or breaking attractions or hospitality. In today’s economy, very few destinations can survive for long without significant cash injections during the off-season.

From whom and how does this support come after the crowds of visitors have returned home? Somers tells us that the main source of off-season customers are locals. At the end of the peak season, a symbiotic relationship develops between New Hampshire residents and the tourism industry. Granite staters recognize that attractions and lodging must supplement their peak season income and are ready, willing and able to take the place of those who are out of state. Meanwhile, enterprises know exactly how to increase…

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