Hotels Respond to Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism and Hospitality, University of South Carolina | December 27, 2015

‘Blurring’, or the gradual intermingling of professional and personal activities, is a global trend that is transforming the organization of private and work lives. Frequent travelers are connected and can be reached at all times. As a result, they are blurring the frontiers between work and personal life.

Recent research supports this trend. Pullman, Accor’s upscale hotel brand, and research institute IPSOS, surveyed over 2, 200 seasoned international travelers and found an increased blurring of their private and professional lives, partly due to the fact that mobile professional devices (PCs, smartphones and tablets) are increasingly commonplace in this target group. The survey’s key findings reveal that ‘blurring’ increases freedom and efficiency for travelers, with 82% of the survey panel believing that having a mobile professional device allows them to work more freely.

The same study found that 43% of international travelers always take their mobile professional devices with them on holiday or on weekend trips. Around 33% of them spend at least 30 minutes a day browsing the Internet for personal reasons (reading the news, booking holidays, consulting bank accounts, and checking their Facebook page).

BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, in a similar study of this blurring phenomenon, found that 60% of international travelers have combined business with leisure travel in the past, with most (30%) respondents adding two vacation days to business trips. Popular leisure activities are sightseeing, dining and arts/culture. A hefty 78% of respondents agreed that adding leisure days to business travel adds value to work assignments. More than half of these travelers combining business and leisure take their families with them.

BridgeStreet found that younger travelers are significantly more likely to combine business and leisure travel. Finally, a study by corporate travel company, Expedia confirmed that younger travelers are fueling this blurring trend. In its survey of business travelers, it found that 56% of Millennials (19-30 year olds) extend their business trips into leisure trips. They, more than other groups, are demanding new tools and apps inspired by the leisure travel and retail industries. With a majority working for companies that don’t have managed travel programs, they are seeking to take advantage of deals on everything from Airbnb to HotelTonight, as well as low cost carriers.

So how are hotels responding to this trend? Dan Howard, Director of Public Relations at Montage Deer Valley, says that all Montage Hotels & Resorts have been designed with this trend in mind. “Montage Deer Valley has the largest meeting space in Park City and both Montage Laguna Beach and Montage Beverly Hills are exceptionally popular destinations for meetings. But once the attendees arrive on property, they are immediately drawn to the leisure amenities of the resorts and the most frequent phrase we hear upon check-in of a group is ‘I have got to bring my family back here.’”

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.