Hotels Respond to Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & 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.'"

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.