Fall 2023: how travel marketers should plan now for the coming season

June 2, 2023

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While summer is king for many leisure travel brands, resorts, and destinations, the fall shoulder season has become an increasingly important time for bringing back travelers and developing new revenue streams. Yet some of the best destinations in the U.S. empty out just when they’re at their most enticing.

The good news for destinations and travel brands? 87% of Americans plan to travel domestically in the second half of 2023. This is up from 82% in the same time period in 2022, according to the American Travel Association. Moreover, they found that Americans are planning to spend an average of $200 more for domestic travel in the second half of 2023 versus the same time last year. The increase in spending is not by choice, of course. The rising cost of air travel, hotel accommodations, and rental cars all factor in.

So even though more Americans are planning to travel this fall, they're also likely to seek out ways to save. Here’s a look at how these competing factors are impacting travel planning in Fall 2023, and how your travel brand or destination should prepare.

Think outside.

For many leisure travelers, fall trips are all about embracing the season and saying goodbye to the sweltering heat of summer. After hiding indoors over the summer, leisure travelers are ready for a breath of fresh air. This is the time for travel marketers to focus on everything travelers can do al fresco at their destinations—patio dining, nature trails, walking tours, hiking, biking, star gazing, you name it. This obviously bodes well for mountain and northern destinations, but just about any destination can capitalize on the desire to beat the heat.

Want to learn how Slingshot helped Holiday Inn Club Vacations launch their annual Falladays event and drive shoulder season bookings to their Texas resorts during the Fall? Check out the story here.

More travelers are going small.

Have you noticed the rise of more branded travel marketing for smaller, unexpected destinations? It’s no accident that states like Iowa and Nebraska have poured more resources into luring leisure travel lately. While people still flock to popular destinations like Orlando and Las Vegas, travelers are increasingly eager to discover what’s new and hidden out there as well. Not only do these destinations fill the need for authentic, original travel experiences, they’re often more affordable. We see this trend surging during the second half of 2023.

Travel marketers from destinations of all sizes can take advantage by emphasizing more out of the way, unexpected experiences. It even provides an opportunity to reach out to previous visitors and encourage them to experience your destination in a whole new light. We took this approach with our friends at Visit Dallas, and the results speak for themselves.

Capture more travelers with shorter “getaway” options.

While more people are planning to travel this fall, they also tend to do so for shorter periods of time. Many people use the bulk of their vacation time during spring and summer, leaving little left over for the autumn months. Destinations should respond accordingly by promoting shorter "getaway" experiences that reflect both the time people have to travel as well as the savings they're certain to seek when doing so.

Vacation days aside, inflation, the rising cost of living, and increasing consumer debt are all impacting how long people are able to travel. In other words, they may want to travel longer, but may not feel like they can afford it. As a result, travelers are more likely to choose destinations where they can make their travel dollars go further. Resorts and hotels can be part of the solution by offering discounts on extra nights. They’ll save money, and you’ll keep them on site a little longer. It’s win-win.

DMOs: go beyond your footprint.

DMOs should not be afraid to promote activities beyond their specific location. In the past year, many urban destinations from Denver to Fort Worth have adopted this approach, encouraging longer hotel stays by featuring activities both within and beyond the city limits. Such tactics were once considered taboo in the DMO space. But more forward-thinking DMOs have realized that curating regional travel experiences only creates more value for the traveler, while also positioning the destination as a hub for longer trips.

Fall 2023 is shaping up to be a great one for domestic destinations and leisure travel brands. And now is the time to prepare. For more on how Slingshot can help you capture a greater share of the Fall travel market, reach out today.

Topics:destination marketingleisure travel