Travel and Tourism Industry is one of the rapidly growing industries in the United States. The industry has a very significant impact on the society and the degree of effect it generates is analyzed based on the extent of seasonality arrivals and on the volume of tourists that visit a certain region at any given time. According to Uysal, Fesenmaier and O´Leary (1994), tourism forms a very integral part of the economy of the United States and its performance highly depends on seasonal changes in human behavior, climatic conditions, as well as economic activities. Seasonality is therefore an issue that is currently affecting the Tourism and Travel Industry in the United States, and that need to be addressed with immediate effect. This paper examines seasonality as one of the issues that has been affecting the Travel and Tourism Industry in the recent past. It also gives a detailed description of the causes and impacts of seasonality with respect to the Travel and Hospitality Industry. The paper also outlines what the United States Travel Association is doing to adapt to seasonality issue, and what such actions could mean to the future of the industry.
Seasonality involves high concentration of tourist flows to one destination in certain months of the year. High flow of tourists to one particular destination during a few weeks is likely to put pressure on the industry because it places a great burden on the resources of the destination area. This phenomenon also results into carrying capacity problem in the industry. Uysal, Fesenmaier and O´Leary (1994), define seasonality as a very important period within the year when business activities are bounding due to change in climate and seasons. Tourists regions have different seasonal potentials due to variations in natural factors. It is for this reason that different tourist attraction centers are believed to have varied seasonal qualities and resources. Some regions find it extremely difficult to overcome problems that are caused by seasonality. Since majority of tourism activities rely on climate-dependent attractions to attract tourists, they are greatly affected by changes in weather and climate. Examples of tourist destinations that largely rely on out-door facilities include countryside attractions and coastal resorts.
Causes of seasonality can be classified into two broad categories namely natural causes and institutional causes. Natural causes of seasonality refer to changes in natural occurrences such as weather and climate. The main variables that contribute to variations in the number of tourists traveling to a particular destination are differences in temperature, amount of rainfall, quantity of snowfall, and changes in hours of sunlight. Natural factors can make a place either attractive or unattractive for tourism activities (BarOn, 1975). For instance, areas with warm and cold climate are largely characterized by seasonal changes in the number of tourists visiting due to different tourist activities that can be carried out during such seasons. Natural seasonality is associated with variations in the number of tourists visiting a given destination on a yearly basis. Tourists have specific climate preferences which call for the need to distinguish between different types of tourists. For instance, some tourists will often wish to enjoy sunlight on the beach while others will prefer hiking on the snow (BarOn, 1975).
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Institutional causes of seasonality in tourism mainly refer to changes in human behavior and are linked to three different factors namely holidays, and travel habits, and hosting of events. Institutional seasonality is largely dependent on economic and sociologic factors because some tourists will be motivated to visit certain destinations as a result of social, ethnic, or religious factors, while other people will visit certain areas because they like traveling and they have money to do so. The fact that both natural and social factors can generate seasonality makes the issue a very big problem that should be addressed as possible considering the degree of impacts that its brings to the Travel and Tourism industry as a whole (BarOn, 1975).
Seasonality poses numerous problems in the Travel and Tourism industry including ecological-related impacts, economic-related impacts, socio-cultural-related impacts, and employment-related impacts. Economic-related problems that result from seasonality are often observed during off-peak periods when very few tourists are visiting a particular destination. Peak seasons normally compel tourist attraction centers to expand their businesses in order to take advantage of the rising number of customers. Unfortunately, during off-peak regions, these destinations experience loss of profits especially due to underutilization of resources are tourist facilities. This negatively impacts the Travel and Tourism industry as a whole in the long run (Koenig-Lewis and Bischoff, 2010).
Seasonality also causes seasonal employment in tourist attraction destinations which largely affect the industry and national economy as a whole. According to BarOn (1975), concentration of tourists during peak season at a destination results into ecological problems such as air pollution and congestion. Sub-cultural impacts that result from seasonality in tourism affect both the visitor and the host community and they include things such as poor quality of life and lack of parking space. These negative impacts have compelled the Travel and Tourism industry to formulate and implements strategies that can help solve the seasonality in the tourism industry.
The Travel and Tourism Industry in collaboration with the United States Travel Association is working very hard to ensure that seasonality problem is effectively dealt with. One important thing that the Travel and Tourism industry must understand is the fact that the problem of seasonality cannot be solved completely because natural and institutional causes of seasonality cannot be avoided. The nature of benefits reaped by tourists varies from one season to another. It is therefore important for the industry to understand these specific tourist needs for every season in order to prepare various destinations early to fully meet those needs. This will help to prevent ecological impacts associated with seasonality such as congestion (Koenig-Lewis and Bischoff, 2010).
Strategies that are used to solve the problem of seasonality in the Travel and Tourism industry are intended to fulfill three main objectives. These include increasing demand during off-peak season, reducing tourists demand during peak season, and redistributing demand in both peak and off-peak seasons. Differential pricing is strategy that is intended to increase demand during off-peak and reduce demand during peak season (Koenig-Lewis and Bischoff, 2010). Under this strategy, tourist destinations with the help of the industry’s management charge relatively low prices during off-peak and high prices during peak periods. Differential pricing strategy helps the Travel and Tourism industry to ensure that people who were unable to travel during peak due to high charges get an opportunity to visit similar places during off- peak. This way, the tourist destinations are assured of constant flow of visitors throughout the year. Additionally, the Travel and Tourism industry is able to minimize wastage of resources as its facilities are effectively utilized throughout the year (Koenig-Lewis and Bischoff, 2010).
Another strategy that the Tourism and Travel Industry is using to solve the seasonality problem involves focusing on diversified attractions to ensure that tourists are redistributed in many destinations all year round. This also includes introduction of new products such as special events that target specific target markets. The United States Travel Association has recognized that seasonality in tourism can also be solved by pushing for creation of policies that will encourage tourists to visit particular destinations during off-peak. For instance, the Association is pushing for federal involvement in tourist promotion in order to encourage those who do not like traveling during off-peak to do so (Platzer, 2014).
In addition, the United States Travel Association together with the Travel and Tourism Industry are struggling to reduce costs of obtaining Visas for tourists who are willing to travel to tourist destinations within the United States during off peak seasons. They use the Visa Waiver Program to facilitate foreign travels in the United States at a time when very few travelers seem to be moving to the region. All these strategies are implemented in order to promote development of the Travel and Tourism Industry now and in the future. The Travel and Tourism Industry should put the necessary resources in place to ensure that the seasonality problem is solved and maintained at low levels even in the future. In case the industry may require certain legislations to be put in place to solve seasonality in tourism, it should seek for immediate support from the United States Travel Association (Platzer, 2014).