Bleisure vs. Leisure: What Hoteliers Need to Know
Defining bleisure and leisure
Leisure is not a new concept, but leisure travel doesn’t have a definition because every traveler will enjoy his or her free time differently. Some will choose a peaceful retreat to escape the mundane, others may travel to fulfill a lifelong dream. Some travelers seek nature and adrenaline-filled experiences and wanderers who take to the trails to live, even so briefly, like a local. So, for the lack of a precise definition, let’s just say that leisure is travel for pleasure.
Bleisure is a new term that basically describes combining a business trip with a vacation. Or, according to the Collins Dictionary, it is the “blurry line between business and leisure trips.” It’s a young, growing trend. According to Kory Stamper, editor for Merriam-Webster, the notion first appeared in a Carlson Hotels press release in 2007 and was coined in 2008 by The Future Laboratory to define a shift in consumer behavior.
By 2016, Expedia® Media Solutions reported that 43% of all business trips generating in the USA across domestic and international destinations, were bleisure trips. The study, Profile of the American Bleisure Traveler, had other key findings:
- 32% of bleisure travelers are frequent business travelers who travel for work once or twice a month
- The majority of bleisure trips are spent in the same city or area as the business trip (84%)
- More than 80% of bleisure travelers stay at the same hotel where they stayed on their business trip.
- Most bleisure travelers personally research or book elements for the leisure portion of their trip, including hotel (70%), airfare (52 %) and restaurants (50 %).
Factors like sightseeing, cultural attractions, entertainment, and events play an important role for business travelers to convert to bleisure too, but so do location, pricing, and whether they have family or friends in the area.
Bleisure benefits for hoteliers
Bleisure is one of the travel trends hard to ignore due to its distinct benefits for both travelers and hospitality pros. The bleisure generation aims to combine business with a healthy and happier lifestyle, often including family members to the trip to enjoy more quality time together. This also makes sense from an economic standpoint, as combining business travel with leisure activities with family or friends provides substantial savings. It made sense during the Great Recession in the late 2000s, and the early 2010s, and the trend continues to grow encouraged by travel marketing tendencies that capitalize on the “experience.”
Bleisure travelers design their trips to satisfy both business needs and the pleasure aspect of the journey. They plan time to meet with customers, but also time to relax, to visit cultural and tourist attractions, to go sightseeing, and so on. They are also excellent clients for restaurants as many casual business ideas are discussed over a good meal. Last, but not least, they tend to extend their hotel stays to enjoy more of the destination. Bleisure travelers also report that this type of work-meets-fun vacation makes them more relaxed and more productive too.
“Bleisure trip research and planning happens in such a short window of time, so it’s important for marketers to understand the factors that influence the decision-making process for business travelers,” explained Monya Mandich, senior director of global marketing at Expedia Media Solutions, in a press release accompanying the findings of the Profile of the American Bleisure Traveler study in 2016. “Local activities and travel costs are leading factors in whether or not a business trip is extended for leisure, giving destination marketing organizations and hoteliers a powerful opportunity to target business travelers with deals and information that will help inspire bleisure travel and drive incremental revenue.”
When a business trip converts to bleisure, hotels see increased revenues derived from additional nights plus services for the business person and the accompanying party. Another direct benefit for hotels is higher occupancy rates in the weekends.
Hotels can attract bleisure travelers with loyalty programs but also with discounts, special offers, and perks designed to satisfy their business needs. For example, Internet fees should disappear from all hotel practices to appeal to the technological savvy business traveler who relies extensively on smart devices to access business and private information alike.
Hoteliers should also understand which factors impact the decision of the business traveler to book a bleisure trip. Among these, additional costs required to extend the stay and how close the trip is to the weekend seem to play the most important roles, just after the destination itself. But hotel affordability is also considered in the decision-making process – so a discount for an extended stay can convert a business trip into a bleisure stay. Family discounts can be great incentive for bleisure travelers too.
85% of the bleisure travelers are looking for destinations with great sightseeing locations. With this information in mind, hotels should prioritize featuring nearby attractions and events in marketing materials.
It’s also important that many business travelers trade offices for hotel rooms. In fact, there’s an entirely new trend revolving around the digital-nomad idea, because many business activities can be conducted from everywhere in the world with good Internet access. Strategy Analytics’ latest report, Global Mobile Workforce Forecast Update 2016-2022, predicts that the global mobile workforce is set to increase to 1.87 billion people in 2022, accounting for 42.5% of the global workforce. The need for bleisure will rise with the mobile workforce too.
The rise of “bleisure hotels” is the expected effect of the shift in work and lifestyle globally. Names like Zoku Amsterdam, New World Beijing Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, and so many others pop-up in travel publications praised for being best for business and leisure. And making a hotel bleisure-friendly is not an impossible task: offer discounts for extended stays or room upgrades, add loyalty programs to your marketing strategy, offer exclusive perks – like free sauna access, complimentary massage – and the list goes on.
Is leisure still relevant?
The needs of bleisure and leisure travelers are often very different. While business travelers may demand high-speed Internet access and a workspace, leisure travelers spend less time in their rooms and more time sightseeing. The leisure journey impulse can be triggered by all kinds of factors and not for the need to travel for work. Leisure travelers seek places to relax, explore, and experience.
Google says that 60% of leisure travelers choose to spend more on travel than home improvements, financial investments, or health-related products. But, unlike business travelers, who may return to the same hotel several times within the timeframe of a year, leisure guests prefer to explore different destinations every time. So, “a millennial leisure traveler who spends lavishly at a hotel once a year may not be as valuable as a business traveler who spends less on a single trip but returns again and again.” (think with Google)
Yet, although the bleisure trend is strong, leisure travelers remain the most important segment of the population. Leonardo reports that two out of three domestic trips are leisure trips.
Many leisure travelers take long planning and researching for their trips. Data from think with Google suggests that, when they first start thinking about a trip, 78% of leisure travelers haven’t decided which airline to book, and 82% haven’t chosen accommodation either. This type of guests will take time to plan a trip, visiting a variety of sites, reading reviews, planning itineraries, making a bucket-list of must-see attractions, or searching for off-the-beaten-path activities to “explore like a local.”
But a new generation of young, more impatient, connected, and demanding leisure travelers emerges with the age of assistance. They often look for last-minute deals and make impulse purchases based on their findings. Their booking behaviors changed too. Recent data from think with Google revealed that:
Over two-thirds of U.S. elite hotel loyalty program members would pick
a different hotel for a better price.
Over 60% of U.S. travelers would consider an impulse trip based
on a good hotel or flight deal.
If a travel brand tailored its information and overall trip experience
based on personal preferences or past behavior, 76% of U.S. travelers
would be likely or extremely likely to sign up for the brand’s loyalty program,
and 36% (over 1 in 3) would pay more for more tailored information and experiences.
Because leisure travelers have a lot of time on their hands, they are more active, curious and willing to experience the new. Sometimes they may splurge, spending more on travel than they do in their everyday lives, but others can be frugal. Either way, their primary purpose of traveling is for pleasure. For them, the location of the hotel plays the most important part in planning the trip. They look for hotels near the main attractions of the destination they visit. Proximity to places to eat and cultural activities is critical too.
Leisure travelers appreciate complimentary incentives too: free breakfast, a welcome bottle of wine in the room, free room upgrades, are all the type of bonuses that can make a leisure traveler a grateful guest and a powerful brand ambassador. Unlike business travelers who may be focused on work, leisure travelers expect and demand attention, and are more likely to spend a couple of minutes to review the hotel on TripAdvisor, Google, Booking.com or other review sites. They may expect free Internet access too, but mostly for entertainment purposes: to share experiences from their trip on social media or to get in touch with family and friends.
Last, but not least, the leisure travelers are the ones who will use the recreational facilities offered by the hotel the most: swimming pools, children’s playgrounds, fitness area, bar, and so on.