Business travelers don’t come in a one-size-fits-all demographic. Some may just want to relax alone in their room or over a meal after a long grueling meeting, but others, dubbed “bleisure” travelers, want to take advantage of the attractions in the destination city. These travelers will commonly add an extra day or two of vacation time to their business trip—or “bizcation”—and may also include friends and family. Bleisure travelers need services that help them get their work done, plus amenities that allow them to enjoy their time outside of working hours.
Bleisure travel is fairly common—Hotwire reports that in 2013, 49 percent of all American business travelers tacked leisure time onto their business trips. While younger generations are more likely to take this kind of trip, bleisure travel is still common across age demographics—travel app developer TripCase reports that 56 percent of travelers aged 18 to 34 and 36 percent of travelers aged 35 to 44 added leisure time onto a work trip. BridgeStreet Global Hospitality reports over half (54 percent) of bleisure travelers bring family members or significant others with them. According to a BridgeStreet Global Hospitality survey, 20 percent of travelers had not taken bleisure trips, but want to, and 78 percent agreed that adding vacation days to their business trips adds value to them. However, a 2014 BridgeStreet report revealed that 59 percent of respondents’ companies had no policy on bleisure travel.
How can hoteliers reach the bleisure market?
Hotels accumulate vast amounts of data on their customers. You can mine that data for sharp insights into the types of guests expected at any given time—and follow through with the kinds of policies and packages that will appeal to those guests at those times. Here are some ideas for how the hospitality industry can take advantage of this growing cohort of travelers:
Extend discounted business rates
Because these bleisure travelers want to save money, they’ll seek out hotels and other accommodations where the corporate travel policy allows employees to book additional nights at the negotiated corporate travel rate. Conference hotels, in particular, should make a point to include a few days pre- and post-event in the negotiated discounted room rate to encourage attendees to come early, stay longer, and bring additional guests. The employee is still responsible for the cost of the extra nights, but taking advantage of the discounted group rate can save significant dollars.
Market loyalty programs
Aside from the financial savings when booking an extra night, it makes sense to make bleisure consumers aware that adding days to their work trip can mean adding more hotel loyalty points. This is a chance to highlight loyalty program perks—such as free fitness room access, concierge floor access, additional discounts on room nights, and room upgrades.
Offer bizcation packages
“Bizcation” packages can be created to appeal to differing market segments. For instance, the property can develop working relationships with local attractions, festival committees, museums, and other organizations to entice travelers to stay and bring additional guests with them. Even properties that don’t have attractions can encourage business travelers to stay a little longer by promoting spa packages or other relaxing getaways. These packages must combine value with attractive offerings such as access to private lounges, public transportation passes, and discounts with local shopping outlets.
Excursion inclusion and planning
Conference attendees head out after sessions and ceremonies to network with colleagues and seek entertainment in less structured settings. Social interaction often begins with receptions and other organized activities, either on the hotel’s property or with another destination or attraction. The hotel can incorporate “excursions included” registration fees to add value to attendee expectations and give them a taste of the fun to be had if they arrive a little earlier or stay a little longer. Event planners, who earn commissions on extra nights and otherwise have much to gain from the success of well-planned and promoted bizcations, can assist in organizing and promoting excursions, which boost use of amenities and attendance at local attractions and encourage longer stays.
Plan to Succeed
It’s clear from the data that people are very interested in participating in bleisure travel and will be quite receptive to efforts that make it easier for them. Before crafting a bleisure marketing strategy, it’s essential to break down the demographics by country of residence, length of stay, types of activities, and so forth. This information can be coupled with the upswing of business travelers who are more likely than ever to add personal leisure time to business trips (60 percent).
With all this in mind, hoteliers can more accurately predict who’s coming to stay (and when). When you know which groups you can expect to walk through your doors, your marketing personnel can focus their efforts on targeting those guests most likely to arrive early or stay late—tailoring attractive bizcation packages that meet just what they’re looking for. With the right data behind your marketing efforts, you’re in the perfect position to meet both their business needs and their personal wants—delivering the best of two worlds straight to your eager consumers.
About the Author
Roseanne Luth is the founder and president of Luth Research, a privately held market research company founded in 1977 and located in San Diego, California.