Bleisure travel may be a buzzword, but it’s also a huge opportunity for hoteliers to gain more business and upsell event attendees and business travelers by enticing them to extend their stays. Let’s take a closer look at bleisure business and why it’s important for hoteliers to take notice.
What is ‘bleisure’ travel anyway?
Business trips can be stressful, and often, there isn’t enough time to actually explore the destination where the conference or event is being held. Attendees sometimes extend their stays for a couple of days after the event to relax and explore the area — a type of mini-vacation known as “bleisure.”
A recent study from Expedia Media Solutions found that 60% of business trips in the past year included a leisure portion. And with younger generations gaining more influence in the business travel world — as event attendees and as planners — that figure is expected to rise. Millennials and Gen Z are entering the workforce in droves, and they’re taking over when it comes to a desire for business travel. Forty percent of millennials and Gen Zers travel for work, and of those, 69% have extended a work trip to include leisure time.
4 Tips for attracting more bleisure travel business
Across all generations, a 2019 study by CWT found that travelers in the Americas extended a business trip for pleasure 2.7 times in the previous 12 months — compared with an average of 2.4 times globally. Plus, business travelers rarely change lodging on bleisure trips, according to a GBTA survey. On their last bleisure trip, 82% stayed “at the same place for both the business and leisure portions” of the trip.
We’ve compiled a few tips for how hoteliers can increase group bookings and transient business by making sure you’re providing the bleisure options that attendees and planners are looking for in an event venue and hotel.
1. Bring the experience to the attendees
Business travel isn’t always as fun or glamorous as it sounds. Often, attendees are so busy and rushed that they barely have time to step outside the event venue and see more than just the hotel bar.
Because of attendees’ desires to blend leisure and business — whether or not they have the time for it — planners are increasingly trying to incorporate cultural experiences into their event agendas and bring leisure activities to their attendees.
Joshua Novick, vice president of business development for London & Partners, says of incorporating leisure into business travel: “If the attendees can’t go out and experience a double-decker bus, we’ve had clients bring in double-decker buses into the convention center and turn them into food trucks. Or they’ve taken the exhibit hall and turned it into a giant, adult-sized ball pit. It’s taking what you have and making it as quirky and creative as you can and integrating the destination into those experiences.”
This is where hoteliers can step in and step up, by providing quick access to the best things your city has to offer and connecting attendees to cultural experiences unique to your area. If the event schedule doesn’t allow for offsite excursions, bring the experiences to the attendees in creative and immersive ways.
2. Offer bleisure extension packages and encourage repeat stays
Half of business trips that last two to three nights are most likely to turn into bleisure trips. And 82% of business travelers said they stayed at the same hotel for both portions of their last bleisure trip.
Compared with Millennials, older travelers are more likely to stay at the same place for both the business and leisure portions of the trip — the most common reason being convenience (71%). The same survey found that when business travelers of any age did switch to a different hotel, 42% mentioned price as a reason. Price has a huge impact on not only lodging decisions in general, but whether or not attendees will change accommodations or extend their business trip for leisure at all.
Make it easy for attendees to choose to extend their stay at your hotel. Set yourself apart from competitors by offering short-stay packages that appeal to bleisure travelers and entice them to stay longer. Or incentivize them to add extra nights with incremental discounts, such as 10% off an additional night or 20% off two nights.
At business hotels, weekends tend to be quiet and can have a lower occupancy rate than during the workweek. Bleisure travel is a great way to fill this gap — and guests can benefit from favorable weekend rates. To encourage business guests to extend their stays, hotels should offer them additional nights at the corporate rate.
Consider creating custom packages tailored to the needs of the attendee, such as extension packages or repeat-stay offers. You could even offer all-inclusive weekend extensions or perks at the hotel restaurant, or exclusive excursions and experiences offered only to attendees who extend their stay. Turn the attendees and bleisure travelers into loyal repeat customers by incentivizing colleague referrals, providing special discounts and perks, or creating an exclusive rewards program.
3. Highlight business traveler essentials and enticing leisure amenities
“We are living in an ‘always-on’ culture,” said Heather McCrory, CEO of North America and Central America at Accor. “We’re always working. Taking the time for meaningful leisure and wellness pursuits is more important than ever. Even more, we’re seeing the desire of our guests to enmesh these experiences from start to finish with the further blending of business and leisure.”
Business travelers look for a few key features in a hotel, including high-speed Wi-Fi, coworking spaces, plentiful power outlets, easy travel, and proximity to important business centers. Bleisure travelers, though, are also looking for additional amenities and features to enhance their stay.
Provide add-on services such as spa access or treatment packages, massages, fitness classes, in-room movie nights, and live music onsite. Help attendees unwind after their busy conference with a complimentary cocktail at your hotel bar or a free yoga class. Consider partnering with local entertainment and tourism businesses to provide tour guides, cultural experiences, and discounts on local activities or restaurants.
4. Go above and beyond to create a personalized bleisure travel experience
Technology is so ingrained in our everyday lives — and attendees and guests expect hotels to ensure that their experiences are fully customized and relevant to their needs. In response, major hotel brands are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence and other technology to optimize digital personalization to meet these demands.
Travelers increasingly expect for brands to know them and what they like, and they often require a certain level of personalization before becoming loyal to a brand, said Chris Davidson, executive vice president of MMGY Global’s insights and strategy division.
In addition to using technology to increase personalization, hoteliers should consider connecting their guests to the culinary experiences that interest them. MMGY’s survey of American travelers found that 80% of respondents were interested in the authentic food eaten by locals. They also value new dining experiences, such as street food and food trucks, and local fare that is available only in certain locations.
“What we’re seeing from younger business travelers is that they want to be able to go out after their meetings are done for the day,” said Scott Beck, CEO of Visit Salt Lake in Utah. “It’s important for them to know that there are interesting bars around and that there are good places to eat.”
It means differentiating your city from others and marketing it properly to your intended audience. Show the attendees what they want to see, and show them that your city can offer them the amenities and activities they want.
Position your hotel for bleisure travel
If your hotel can demonstrate a commitment to accommodating the bleisure traveler and connecting them to the local experiences they are seeking, you’ll have a leg up on the competition and be in a better position to entice business travelers to extend their stays — and choose your hotel.
Up next, read more about bleisure travel trends: