What do Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkeys, and Easter eggs have in common? They are all flagship products for their eponymous annual festivals. Yet despite the limited sales window, entire industries and thousands of companies have sprung up around them.

Passengers inside an overcrowded Yamanote Line train at rush hour in Tokyo Japan. Accounting the subway lines and all the other railways that operate in Tokyo 40 million people travel with this kind of transportation everyday in the city.Every spring, Japan residents enjoy a holiday known as “Golden Week,” a cluster of annual public holidays in late April through early May that provide an ideal opportunity for a travel vacation. A poll conducted by Rakuten Research (ed. note: Japanese text only) revealed that a third of respondents plan to travel within Japan during Golden Week, making it an incredibly important period for much of Japan’s domestic tourism industry.

So how do seasonal businesses cope? Here are 4 tips for how to prepare your seasonal business to succeed and maybe even enjoy the rollercoaster ride over those traffic peaks and valleys.

1) Smart Forecasting

Congratulations on the phenomenal success you had with your waterslide last year! Hopefully things go just as well or better this year. Just don’t forget to take into account that last year saw an unusually warm summer that allowed you to stay open 4 weeks longer than you had expected, so those big revenues might have been an anomaly. The Golden Week research showed that people in their twenties were much more likely to venture far afield in this period than people in their sixties, who are keen to avoid the crowds. So this may not be as strong a travel period for the more flexible older traveler. It’s great to be optimistic, but the smart play is to look at average revenues and external sources to make more dependable predictions for the season ahead.

2) Develop new, complementary revenue streams

Or maybe you hit a run of bad luck and now your waterslide business is on the rocks. Two straight summers of forest fires nearby have kept visitors away and by the time the smoke cleared the summer holidays were already over. Have you thought about other revenue streams you could build that would help maintain a more consistent cash flow? Some may have questioned the wisdom of building your outdoor waterslide in Canada, but why not prove your detractors wrong by turning it into a winter theme park when the snow comes. Developing complementary revenue streams spreads out the seasonal risk and might even allow you to employ more employees year-round, rather than just for one season.

3) Keep in touch

Seasonal businesses may only have one opportunity each year to sell to their customers. But the process of winning business is ongoing and your competition is not going to sit still either. Your customers have the entire off-season to think about their seasonal plans so be sure to keep them engaged in your business so you are top of mind when they make their holiday plans. For example, a ski resort operator could send a postcard to customers of their CEO waterskiing in full ski wear with a short note: “Looking forward to seeing you in December.” Off-season promotion requires creativity, but also provides the opportunity to have some fun.

4) Prepare, prepare, prepare

This almost goes without saying, but not quite. There is nothing more important than preparation because once the busy season starts you will likely be too busy to make any major adjustments. Use the off-season wisely to evaluate the state of your business; consider what your business can do better; and think about what different scenarios might occur that would have a significant impact on your business.

 

Interested in more business insights from the travel industry? Check out our 10 business lessons from Japan’s top 10 hot springs.