Shell on Beach

When two or more business folks gather to talk about tourism on the Crystal Coast, just mention “early June weeks” and watch the frowns, the heads start shaking no, no, no slowly back and forth all while bemoaning, “it’s the prettiest weather of the summer and there is hardly anyone here!”

Early June is known for brilliant, sunshine filled days and welcome summer warmth all with much less of the dreaded humidity than the blistering “dog days” of late July and August. Even the nights are more beautiful in early summer, with mild, soft breezes stirring the sea oats and overhead the star-filled heavens free from humidity’s haze. Beaches that were crowded just one week earlier during the Memorial Day weekend and the entire last week of May are now stunningly empty just when the summer season should be off to a jubilant start.

Vacation rental managers and vacation rental homeowners are faced with this conundrum of lower bookings at the very beginning and the very end of our summer season. Stated as economic theory, the savvy rental guests in the marketplace know the weeks preceding early June or later in August are also lovely weather-wise and the rental rate is a very favorable shoulder rate, sometimes even 50% lower than the summer seasonal rates.

Statistically, we have seen this trend for decades as our rental properties have higher occupancy the week immediately preceding or immediately following the peak summer season weekly rental rate.

Currently, we absolutely encourage our homeowners to be proactive and flexible in their pricing decisions. One very effective strategy for us has been to focus on the early weeks of June during November to try to increase demand for these weeks early by pricing them just slightly lower than the full summer season rate. We do a follow up marketing campaign in late April or early May to try to stimulate last minute bookings. So far, this has been quite successful and we are gratified that this means we are still booking these weeks at a higher weekly average revenue than other vacation rental homes in the North Carolina market. We won’t be satisfied until we are at full occupancy like we enjoy for all the other weeks of the summer.

Now that we are just a few weeks out from the first two weeks of June, we are encouraging our homeowners still in need of bookings for this time period to offer something of added value as an enticement to secure the booking rather than deeply discounting (beyond 15-25%). Among the successful promotions have been offering complimentary tickets for the entire family to the NC Aquarium, Mac Daddy’s coupons, tickets for a sunset cruise or a $50-100 gift card to be used toward a nice meal, groceries, seafood or even a tank of gas for the car. Rental guests love that they are getting a little something extra and these are much more economical as an incentive than offering a deep discount on the rental revenue.

In the meantime, if the early June time frame has been difficult to book for your vacation rental home, one of the best options of all is to consider using one of those weeks for your annual family vacation. Then, your beach week can be at the beginning of the summer and gives you one more opportunity to freshen up the décor and ensure everything is ship-shape as you head into the intense vacation rental weeks from mid-June to mid-August. Discover and enjoy early summer on the Crystal Coast before your favorite restaurant becomes so noisy, crowded and impossible to get a table! Shopping at our local grocery stores and gift shops is also a pleasure without the crowds that we all know will occur later in summer.

Our local tourism development authority (TDA) is also very committed to increasing visitors to our area during these lowest occupancy weeks of summer. Much discussion and strategic planning is occurring and these weeks are being targeted for future festivals, events and sports themed travel. Even more fascinating is the way the TDA is able to focus their marketing efforts on foodie couples with no school age children or millennials yearning for a destination with exhilarating wind sports and a strong local craft beer presence in our restaurants and brew pubs. We are interested in any demographic of traveler not dependent on school calendars when planning summer travel for these early weeks of June! This will be a welcome boost to our local tourism economy and we remain hopeful that the early weeks of June won’t be quiet in future years.

When does summer truly begin? No one on Emerald Isle would say the summer solstice for by the third week of June, we’ve been enjoying glorious beach days since Easter. For this beach gal, summer begins when my sun-warmed bare feet walking along the water’s edge welcome the cooling splash from the tidal pools I encounter. That’s probably today, even if the calendar tells me it is only May!

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