A new, but growing movement in the American educational system could rob some hotels of their precious high-season business during the summer. As reported by The New York Times, a number of school districts and independent schools have lengthened their calendars from a traditional 180 days of classroom time to 190 or even 200 days.
Typically, this new kind of calendar means school years are starting earlier, as soon as next week in some districts. And given that many families need up to a week to prepare Johnny and Janie for school, the traditional family vacation time gets squeezed even more. For the week of July 22-28, STR reported a very healthy 75% occupancy for the hotel industry, but it will be interesting to see how that rate starts to droop in the next few weeks as school kids trickle back to the classroom.
The notion of schools changing their calendar is not a new one. Over the past three decades, there's been discussion in the halls of academia about overhauling the once-traditional September to May school year. After all, the original reason for a summer vacation—so kids could help on the family farms—is for the most part passé. Armed with that rationale, a few schools experimented with moving the traditional “summer” vacation to other parts of the year, often on a rotating basis so school facilities, teachers and support staff are kept at maximum efficiency all year-round. Needless to say, teachers and staff didn't universally embrace this idea, so the experiment quietly faded away. (Although the American Library Association says more than 10% of school kids in the U.S. are enrolled in year-round schools). The argument for an extended school calendar now centers more on the presumed need for further instruction for many children.
Should this trend take hold, hotels and resorts will need to revamp their marketing campaigns to avoid losing the all-important family vacation business. Perhaps an industry-wide campaign is in order to stress the importance of vacations as a way for families—often including extended families—to de-stress, recharge and reconnect with their loved ones. Another tack some hotels can take is to promote more vacations during other non-school periods of the year, such as Christmas, spring break and even President's Day weekend, which is already one of the busiest times for the travel industry.
It's time to be creative with your use of both traditional marketing techniques as well as some of the latest strategies of social media. The latter can be particularly important since some studies have shown it's the kids who are the biggest influencers of where and how families vacation.