By Rachel Hong
Bleisure travel has seen a huge increase in the past two years. According to Expedia’s recent report titled Unpacking Bleisure Traveller Trends, there’s been nearly a 40% rise in bleisure trips since 2016.
On average, 60% of business travelers are adding leisure days to their trips, and most bleisure travelers say that they take a business trip at least every 2-3 months.
For hotels, this trend reveals a major opportunity to capture additional revenue from this booming segment of the marketplace. In the following post, we’ll dive into some of the key takeaways from the Expedia report, and discuss how hotels can attract this valuable audience to book and extend their trips.
High number of international bleisure travelers
In the US, only 12% of US bleisure trips are taken overseas. However, people in other countries seem far more willing to travel internationally. Among the four other countries surveyed, overseas bleisure trips are most common in India (38%), followed by the UK and Germany (36%), and China (23%).
As a result, hotels need to think beyond their own borders when considering their addressable markets.
Business travelers heading further for leisure
Despite the fact that two-thirds of previous bleisure trips happen in the same city as business trips, over 80% of this demographic are willing to travel from the work destination for leisure.
How far specifically? Over 50% are prepared to drive 1-2 hours for the leisure portion of their trips. And more than 30% say that they will travel the same distance by plane. Considering that business travelers have the desire to explore beyond their immediate destinations, hotels should look beyond their own locality when considering which sights and attractions to market.
Entertainment and activities are a big reason to extend
What motivates leisure travelers to extend their trips? In Expedia’s study, nearly half (48%) said that they are mainly motivated to enjoy great entertainment and activities. Ticking off bucket list items and exploring a must-visit location came next (43%), followed by being able to easily navigate a city (37%).
When asked what types of destinations convinced them to extend to bleisure, 56% of business travelers said that the biggest factor was the choice of food and restaurants. Beaches, natural sightseeing locations, weather, and historical monuments/sightseeing followed closely behind at around 50%.
Bleisure travelers don’t spend long researching trips
Business travelers are often short on time and don’t have the luxury of spending months researching a destination. According to Expedia’s study, 44% of business travelers spend just 1-2 hours of research before deciding whether to tack a leisure component on to their trip. And a further 35% spend between 3-5 hours.
Considering that many business travelers have a condensed path to purchase, hotels need to market their unique selling points quickly and persuasively. These selling points must also be highly targeted, promoting specific benefits that corporate travelers will find most persuasive to merit extending their trips.
Conferences are the primary reason for a business trip
The majority of business trips that include adding extra time for leisure are taken while attending a conference (67%). The reasons for taking a business trip after this include ‘External Meetings’ (46%), ‘Sales’ (42%), ‘Internal Meetings’ (30%), and ‘Other’ (5%).
What are the lessons for hotels?
Based on our key takeaways from Expedia’s latest research, we’ve compiled a series of tips for hotels looking to drive more bookings from bleisure travelers.
However, we need to first talk about creating rate plans that encourage bleisure travelers to stay a few extra days. The typical hotel obviously raises their rack rate (best available rate, or BAR) during peak conference or event days to get the most revenue, but you can also create special offers or special rate plans that encourage travelers to come a few days earlier or stay a few days later.
For example, this could involve a rate plan that offers 10-25% off the “leisure” days if your LOS (length of stay) includes shoulder days prior to or after the peak business travel days.
In this instance, if your conference is Tuesday-Friday, you can create a special rate plan that offers a special discount for staying through the weekend (Fri-Sat nights), or coming in early on a Sat-Sun-Mon and bridging the weekend before.
Of course, even though it’s booked as one stay, you’ll want to make sure your front desk can separate the leisure from the business part of the travel during billing so that the business part can be expensed accordingly.
1. Market to international bleisure travelers
With the vast majority of international business travelers prepared to travel overseas, international PPC marketing may help you capture a bigger slice of the booming bleisure market. PPC marketing is something you should definitely consider if your destination is hosting an upcoming local event that’s likely to attract an influx of business travelers.
To optimize your overseas marketing budget, check out your Google Analytics reports. You’ll be able to see a breakdown of overall traffic to your website by country and smaller geographical regions, which will give you a clearer idea of where your international bleisure travelers are more likely to come from.
On a related note, it’s also worth considering how to personalize your service to cater to different international guests.
2. Create comprehensive destination guides
Most bleisure travelers will travel beyond your surrounding location for leisure. So it makes sense not just to highlight the attractions near your hotel, but also any noteworthy sights in the surrounding region.
By producing an in-depth destination guide for your hotel website, you can inspire your business guests by showcasing a broad range of experiences available to them. Don’t just tell them about the great activities and attractions on your doorstep, but also highlight the must-visit sights within a couple of hours of your base.
Given the large number of international bleisure travelers, it’s especially important to make sure that your suggestions include enough contextual information to help those less familiar with your destination.
In addition to selling the specific highlights of your neighborhood and surrounding regions, be sure to include detailed area maps, distances to attractions from your hotel, and information on the proximity and price of various transport options.
Tools such as Arrivedo can help you build digital destination guides that position your hotel as a local expert.
3. Invest in a trip-planning tool
Short on time and eager for simplicity, business travelers won’t spend long researching your destination. To convince them to add a few days of leisure to their trip, you need to inspire them quickly and make it easy to plan. That’s where a trip-planning tool on your hotel website can pay dividends.
AI-powered platforms such as Utrip can produce customized itineraries in minutes based on a user entering basic details, such as the kind of experiences that they’re interested in, who they’re traveling with, and the length of their trips.
Given that the typical bleisure traveler only spends a few hours researching a trip, enabling them to plan their entire itineraries on your hotel website gives them a compelling reason to book with your hotel instead of the competition.
4. Offer relevant perks for conference attendees
With nearly 70% of business trips taken to attend conferences, Expedia recommends highlighting activities and experiences to incentivize corporate travelers to become bleisure travelers. However, it’s worth also thinking about the practical benefits that will make your hotel more appealing.
Assuming that most business travelers browse the hotels closest to their conference venue, why not offer bundled deals with complimentary transport or rental cars? It’s the kind of benefit that doesn’t require a huge expense, but saves your guest the hassle of arranging their own transport either before or during their trip.
It’s worth noting that Expedia’s research also found that 64% of bleisure travelers don’t have friends or family in the destination they’re visiting. To sell your destination to solo corporate guests, you might want to recommend local restaurants, meetups, or networking events where they can connect and socialize with like-minded business travelers.
Capitalize on the booming bleisure market
Bleisure travel is well and truly on the rise, and the opportunities for hotels to cash in on this lucrative demographic are substantial. In addition to the specific tips mentioned above, it’s worth remembering some of the fundamentals that can help your property attract more bleisure customers.
You can sweeten the deal by creating tempting offers that bundle room deals with discounts on major attractions and sightseeing tours. Unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi, streaming services such as Netflix and HBO, and in-room chargers for laptops and phones will also be highly appreciated.
Better yet, you can create tailored packages with personalized offers by leveraging past-stay data.
By staying on top of the latest trends and the general expectations of corporate customers, your hotel stands to convert the majority of business travelers who want to combine work with pleasure.