Hot Trend: Turning Business Travelers into Bleisure Travelers
By Andrew Dyer Vice President of Global Supply , Egencia | January 28, 2018
The term “bleisure” has been an industry buzz word for the past decade, but what exactly is bleisure? Bleisure describes the phenomenon when business travel is extended into, and combined with, leisure travel. According to Expedia Media Solutions’ Bleisure Study, nearly half (43 percent) of business trips in the U.S. today are bleisure trips, with employees extending stays from an average of two nights to six-plus. We can expect this number to increase as hoteliers begin to cater their offerings to this unique demographic.
Research has shown that a majority of business travelers would like to extend their business trips for leisure when possible. Motivated by the potential to gain new cultural experiences and knowledge, business travelers already see the benefit and convenience of tacking on time to their business trips to explore the city they’re in. Employees are embracing bleisure travel and employers are responding to their preferences by modifying their company travel policies. Now’s the time for hoteliers to take advantage of the opportunity.
With bleisure continuing to trend, it also offers major advantages to properties that can attract these valuable guests. In terms of booking behavior, a majority of business travelers stay at the same place for both the business and leisure portions of their trips. Fully understanding business travelers, as well as their needs, can help hotels continue to ride this growing wave and ensure both parts of their stay are equally as satisfying.
The growing interest in bleisure travel can be largely attributed to the millennial generation as they’ve entered the workforce. Bleisure travel has evolved with the changing profile of the corporate traveler. Millennials are young and tend to delay marriage. Therefore, they’re less likely to have family obligations, which means they have fewer commitments to prioritize when considering business travel. Thus, millennial business travelers have a higher propensity to extend business trips with vacation time and seek more flexibility while on the road.
Not only are corporate travelers changing, but their employers are responding to their evolving preferences as well, with amendments to their corporate travel policies. With more companies starting to develop increasingly progressive travel policies to allow for personal time during business travel, this shows that bleisure is making a significant impact across various industries as work and wellness continue to merge.
Extending business trips for leisure is generally viewed as an appealing option, but as bleisure becomes more prevalent, it’s important to keep in mind the perspectives of travel managers as well. Depending on a company’s travel policy, a travel manager would have to consider any issues regarding duty of care, traveler monitoring, insurance coverage and expense management for example when an employee decides to extend their business trip into a leisure trip. According to Tim Wheatcroft, Head of Corporate Communications, Chrome River, hotel expenses can be tricky to manage, because a single hotel bill lists both business and leisure transactions, such as personal drinks or room nights that aren’t covered by the employer, for example. To get around the problem, however, there are solutions that automate the process and allow users to expense only the appropriate items individually.
Bleisure Means Big Business
As travelers continue to book more bleisure trips, hotels have the opportunity to capitalize on this growing trend. Bleisure travelers interested in extending their trips can help hoteliers fill empty hotel rooms. According to Egencia data, the average length of stay for bleisure trips is typically four to five nights compared to the average two nights for non-bleisure trips. By applying the right strategies to help encourage business travelers to extend their stays, hoteliers can create highly profitable opportunities to increase their occupancy levels. For example, hotels may decide to offer specific incentives or promotions, which can further encourage guest loyalty.
Monitoring and knowing when occupancy levels tend to fall can help determine when to focus on targeting bleisure travelers to help fill rooms. For example, based on booking data from Egencia, bleisure trips tend to increase at the end of the year. With this in mind, hoteliers can take advantage of business holiday travel by offering special holiday bleisure packages or rates. This can encourage guests to extend their trips and invite friends or family to join during the remainder of their stay to celebrate the holidays together. In addition, Egencia data shows that Saturdays experience the fewest corporate bookings, so hoteliers have the opportunity to target bleisure travelers and persuade them to arrive early for a Monday-Tuesday business trip, or stay for the weekend if their business trip falls later in the work week.
At the heart of every bleisure traveler is a business traveler, so hoteliers must first appeal to their corporate needs. Business travelers rank price and location above earning loyalty points when it comes to choosing a hotel. Knowing that business travelers respond primarily to factors related to convenience and cost, hoteliers should package their offers accordingly and promote additional amenities such as complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, and free onsite parking to transform business travelers into bleisure travelers.
Enticing the Bleisure Traveler
First and foremost, don’t assume that a corporate traveler is just a corporate traveler –every corporate traveler has the potential to be a bleisure traveler. That said, make sure to provide relevant materials and information such as destination brochures, local discounts and sightseeing tips, to give business travelers a reason to extend their business trip into a leisure trip. Nearly 70 percent of bleisure trips are planned because of destination, so if your property is within close proximity to popular attractions, it’s important to emphasize your location and transportation options.
Price is also an important determining factor for bleisure trips, so offering special rates may persuade business travelers to lengthen their stay. Properties that regularly host meetings and conferences, or are nearby popular meetings and conference locations, could partner with event organizers to offer special group rates to attendees to encourage early arrivals or extended stays post-event. To reiterate, 84 percent of bleisure travelers stay in the same hotel that they did for business, so a meeting or conference creates a perfect opportunity to entice existing business guests to add extra leisure days to their stay. In addition, shared lodging is a popular choice among business travelers and many look to shared lodging for authentic experiences when traveling for work. With this in mind, hoteliers can focus on providing more authentic, locally-focused experiences to attract bleisure travelers.
Communication should always be a priority with guests, especially when catering to the fluctuating needs of bleisure travelers throughout their entire stay. By reaching out and determining what guests will need for the duration of their stay prior to their arrival, hoteliers can proactively prepare and personalize their accommodations accordingly. Providing accommodations that are favorable to business travelers such as free Wi-Fi, business center access, multiple plug-ins for maximum connectivity, etc. can ensure a comfortable, hassle-free stay throughout both parts of their trip.
In addition to communicating with guests, it’s also important for hoteliers to be mindful of travel managers when business guests decide to extend their trips for leisure as well. Simple tasks, such as providing clear invoicing to show what part of the trip can be appropriately expensed to the company, can help ensure transparency and alleviate some of the pain points travel managers encounter with bleisure trips.
Winning Gold with Bleisure
With more employees looking to make the most of every business trip and companies altering their corporate travel policies to accommodate employees’ booking behavior, bleisure is showing no signs of slowing down. Hoteliers should take advantage of this massive opportunity to further increase occupancy at their properties. Armed with the knowledge that most bleisure travelers tend to stay at the same place when extending their business trips, hoteliers can determine what amenities and offers are the most attractive for these guests to encourage them to stay. Leveraging a property’s prime location, featuring nearby events in the area, providing special offers and other tactics can persuade existing business guests to tack on additional days to their trip.
Most business travelers genuinely enjoy traveling for work over their everyday office work. With this in mind, hoteliers have the power to transform a pleasant business trip into an unforgettable bleisure trip.
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