The Fall shoulder season brings visitors to the countryside who are part of interest groups or niches that can provide valuable end of the season income for small town businesses.
Snowbirds are senior citizens who travel to warmer climates in the fall, and back north in the spring.
Official “snowbird states” are Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina and Texas. If your small town is in one of these states get active about attracting these winter visitors. Check out Snow Bird Helper for more information.
If you’re not a “snowbird state” you may still benefit from this lucrative niche market if you are on a north/south route these people use. They usually travel major interstate and state highways in their RV’s between their home in the north, and their winter destination in the south.
Here are 5 things you can start this year to encourage snowbirds to stop in your town and stick around for a longer visit:
- Put up a welcome page on your web site listing RV parks, motels, restaurants and several interesting things to do that would appeal to seniors.
- Work to get linked on snowbird web sites like snowbirdhelper.com.
- Write a welcome letter from your town including discount coupons and information about your attractions, and distribute it to all your RV parks and lodging that attract seniors.
- Get some volunteers to personally hand them out to RV’ers parked in your box store or shopping center parking lots.
- Alert your visitor center workers and business owners to expect snowbirds over the next 6 weeks and be prepared with great visitor ideas targeting senior travelers. Make sure everyone has your welcome letter.
Talk to seniors coming through this year to find out how they make travel decisions. You can use this information to actively market to snowbirds next year starting in July and August.
Fall foliage enthusiasts
The New England states aren’t the only places people can go for spectacular fall foliage displays. If you are one of those many locations with areas of great color, build your market of fall foliage followers beginning this year.
Check out Gorp’s Fall Foliage Map to get more information about the expected peak season this year for your area.
Gather information about locations near your town that have great fall color. People at a nearby college or university, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management can help.
Create a fall foliage map for your web site, and a driving guide to pass out at your visitor center. This year it might just be a one-sheet printout. In Plumas County CA, this is a big market for them and they have produced an excellent guide to market their fall color year round. Check out their web page and guide.
Plumas uses their blog to provide daily updates on locations for peak color throughout the fall. Other areas use their Twitter sites. Check out Sheila’s Guide to Good Stuff to learn how areas are using Twitter to keep “leaf-peepers” updated on peak color.
This is the season for meteor showers with the Orionids from Septemer 28th through November 10th, the Northern Taurids in October and November and the more spectacular Leonids in November, which might produce a meteor storm this year according to EarthSky.
Many small towns are far enough away from the light pollution of major metropolitan areas to provide great viewing areas for amateur astronomers and families interested in experiencing the wonder of a meteor shower. Read more about these showers.
Towns like Flagstaff, AZ, Borrego Springs, CA and Ketchem, ID are actively working to preserve their dark skies.
Again, use your web site to market your dark skies. Get local amateur astronomers to donate great pictures, and to help you get the correct details about these meteor showers for you area.
Talk to your local businesses about how to serve meteor shower enthusiasts. Meteor showers are best seen in the very early morning. Motels should offer an early continental breakfast to returning stargazers and allow late checkout. Let your visiting stargazers know about any 24 hour restaurants in the area. If your local amateur astronomers are having any organized star parties, publicize the dates and times with maps.
It’s late to begin implementing these things in a big way this year. But by paying attention to the opportunity now, your chamber of commerce and small business community can take promotional photos, interview the visitors who have found you on their own this year. You can begin to study the market and working on promotional materials to make any of these ideas a big part of next year’s shoulder season.