Who profits from the business of spring break?

by February 24, 2012
spring break

Photo by iStock

With post-Mardi Gras headaches barely a thing of the past for Fat Tuesday revelers, it’s now time to consider the business angles surrounding the next bout of winter debauchery and discretionary spending popularly known as spring break.

Many colleges and universities will be entering the annual mid-term hiatus within the next week or few – this StudentCity directory lists dozens of spring-break start dates – and depending on your locale, you might want to look at the economic impact of the annual influx or outflow of student residents.

It’s a fun peg for looking at these important business angles:

2012 tourism outlook.  Not a bad moment for looking at spring break travel – the college and the young-family versions – as bellwethers of the entire year.

Marketing and promotions.  From apps to swimsuits to beachfront aerial advertising, spring break is a chance for sectors beyond transportation and hospitality to cash in.  A number of sites advertise apps for the season,  like this Appolicious round-up of helpers for the hungry, dateless and geographically challenged smartphone users.  What a fun tech story and even better if you can find local apps developers targetting the college crowd.

The ‘can’t hurt to try’ award goes to this marketing effort, I thought, by the Fairfield Inn & Suites in the Chattanooga, Tenn. area.  They’re billing themselves as the spring break stopover and really, what an enterprising advertising campaign!  All those Gulf Coast-bound road-trippers have to sleep sometime (we hope) so if you’re at a half-way point, why not check with hospitality firms to see if they get a boost from southward traffic?

Collateral damage.  The annual invasion of tourists is a boon for bistros and beer distributors – and also for the professionals that help pick up the pieces, like the plethora of driving-under-the-influence attorneys who advertise directly to the spring break crowd.  I bet there is a brisk business in that, disorderly conduct and other representation – and I wonder what bump insurance companies see in medical and other claims by winter vacationers?  Might be worth asking at brokers and  health systems in your neck of the woods.

That starts a train of thought:  Even the best-behaved spring breakers generate a bump in garbage, empty bottles and general wear and tear,while the worst-case scenarios might mean a business boost for hospital emergency rooms, cleaning firms and damage-remediation specialists.  Who benefits from badly behaved tourists?

Family vacations. Spring break isn’t just for college students, of course – increasingly it appears that K-12 kids and their families are making the most of winter breaks; keep that demographic in mind when you’re out reporting.

Those left behind.  Do college towns rejoice or suffer during the exodus?  When the ‘gown’ crowd departs, are there special promotions to tempt townies who otherwise avoid campus eateries, theaters and other venues?  Or do service and food firms use it as a welcome hiatus for cleaning, restocking, revamping and relaxing?   A feature story about small businesses managing seasonal ebb and flow of revenue might be timely now.

Personal finance.  I hate to sound like the Grinch but in my book, anyone who spends a portion of loan money on a trip to South Padre Island or Myrtle Beach or for that matter dowtown Minneapolis on spring break had better not moan years hence about monthly payments.  Just as students are about to leave town for visits or vacay, it might be interesting to poll them about how that travel is being financed.  Again, not to begrudge anyone a respite – but is staying in one’s already-paid-for rental unit watching Netflix for a few days, or catching up on sleep,really so awful that the alternative – jetting out of town on borrowed funds – is imperative?

In light of dire predictions that trillions of student loan debt is the next big economy-crashing bubble we face, I think – and wrote about in this previous blog post — it’s quite legit to inquire about how these borrowed funds are being spent.