So, you’re on a trip related to business and walk out of your last meeting. Instead of going to the airport, you head back to your hotel, pick up your "plus one" and start a fun adventure in a new city. THIS is bleisure travel – the increasingly popular travel trend that mixes business travel with leisure. Bleisure travelers are taking cities by storm and spending big bucks along the way. And the trend is predicted to continue to grow in 2017 and beyond. According to a 2014 BridgeStreet Global Hospitality report, 60% of travelers reported having taken bleisure trips, with 49% adding two or more additional days to their business travel when they do. Those that have done so say it helps them to work more effectively during the work portion of their trip, takes some of the stress out of business travel and keeps them more relaxed while away from home. There’s also the added benefit of quality time with your "plus one" (most often a significant other or close family member). Need one more reason to start paying attention to this segment? This report revealed that half of the respondents that said they had not taken a bleisure trip indicated that they wanted to. So why is all of this important for destinations? Virtually all the additional trip expenditures will go directly to destination stakeholders in the form of accommodations and other in-market related expenditures vs. to expenditures related to transport to and from the destination.
Strategies to encourage more bleisure travel to your destination:
- According to a recent Expedia Media Solutions report on the American bleisure traveler, destination websites are a primary research point for potential visitors and influence decision making for the traveler, with the city’s sightseeing and restaurant scene being key areas of interest. So, establish great website content to engage travelers and position your destination as “bleisure friendly” with itinerary ideas, testimonials and blog entries targeting bleisure travelers.
- Train your DMO’s group sales team to encourage trip extension strategies as they work with meeting planners. One example might be suggestions to book meetings to start on Monday morning or to finish up at noon on Friday.
- Encourage your accommodations providers to negotiate pre- and post-meeting rates to motivate meeting attendees to extend their stay to play. Be sure to remind them that it’s easier to tempt someone who is already staying at their property to extend their stay than to attract new leisure travelers. One example might be a 25% rate discount on weekend nights with at least two week nights.
- Work with meeting planners to communicate "plus one" opportunities and structure them in a way that will encourage more registrations and meeting attendance. One example might be to work with stakeholders on itineraries and "must-do" opportunities that are suited for and will engage the "plus one" during business hours.
- Turn business travelers to your destination into bleisure visitors for their next trip. One example might be to encourage restaurants to develop an offering that would encourage business travelers to your destination to extend their next business trip to your market.
- Make the bleisure market an active promotional segment with a dedicated strategy and goals, not just a sideline conversation. One example might be to employ digital remarketing tactics to reach potential bleisure travelers before they book their transport: "3 reasons to spend the weekend in XYZ".
And a few other interesting findings in the BridgeStreet report that can help you shape compelling marketing to this segment: The top three most popular bleisure activities are sightseeing, dining and arts/culture. And the top reason for bleisure travel is the desire to explore the world and experience a new culture. An impressive 96% of respondents believe they gain cultural experience through bleisure travel. For the 35 and under crowd, the primary reason for bleisure travel is to explore a city they’ve never been to. Are you ready to win more overnight stays by growing your bleisure business? Create a plan and make it a priority to educate your business visitors about why they should extend their stay. Provide targeted information to the business traveler, add services from your group sales team and bring your destination’s brand to life for this growing travel segment.