Business travel has long been a staple in the hospitality industry. From corporate events to client meetings to trade shows and conventions, business trips have always played an integral role in the health of airlines and hotels, particularly as a driver of mid-week revenue.
While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly halted leisure travel and nearly brought the hospitality sector to a standstill, business travel also experienced a drastic decline. With in-person dinners replaced by Zoom meetings and conventions exchanged for virtual trade shows, many hospitality industry leaders feared the once-bustling business travel market would never fully rebound.
What emerged instead, however, was a new phenomenon the industry has coined “bleisure travel.”
As hospitality continues to recover from the pandemic, it’s more important now than ever to remain at the forefront of evolving trends. Bleisure travel poses a unique opportunity to creatively enhance service offerings, increase revenue and invest in the work-life balance of your own team members.
What is “bleisure travel” anyway?
Bleisure travel is just like it sounds – a combination of business and leisure travel. With a multitude of corporations altering their policies regarding in-office attendance to remote work, the new work-from-home model has provided workers with more flexibility than ever.
Newfound freedom, opportunity
COVID-19 turned coffee tables into the new corporate office, making commuting through rush hour traffic non-existent with much of the workforce transitioning to a virtual state. Now, with many companies encouraging or requiring their employees to transition back to HQ, many employees are highly resistant to doing so.
As a result of this newfound flexibility and a re-opening economy, remote workers have the freedom to plug in from anywhere in the world. Why visit a major city only for a corporate meeting, when you could extend your trip to allow leisure time, too?
What once saw business travelers spending the least amount of time away from the office as possible, now opens an opportunity for the industry to create offerings tailored to business travelers as leisure travelers as well.
With bleisure travelers often extending their business trips by a few days to accommodate personal interests and exploration, this new travel segment has started to reshape weekly booking patterns at many hotel properties.
Historically, business travelers primarily helped drive bookings Monday through Wednesday. As the bleisure trend continues to grow, Thursday and Sunday nights are now outpacing historical business travel bookings. These factors contribute to what is expected to be a full recovery in ADR for most markets in 2022.
Outside of the hotel and airline industries, bleisure travelers are also impacting the cities in which they visit. By leveraging their company-paid flights and covered travel expenses, business travelers-turned-tourists are able to patronize local restaurants, attractions and businesses that may not otherwise experience business clientele. This provides an opportunity for hotel brands to benefit from a growing trend that not only supports one particular property but the health of the city as a whole.
How can my team capitalize?
Rolling out initiatives to support the bleisure traveler will ensure your hotel remains an enticing option during the booking process and remains top-of-mind for referrals and repeat business.
For example, Valor Hospitality Partners is capitalizing on the opportunities presented by the bleisure market by offering special packages and amenities at appropriate hotel properties to encourage corporate travelers to prolong their stay at their destination. When demand is low, hospitality leaders can consider offering discounts or other amenity-driven perks to guests that expand their reservation, encouraging them to book a longer stay at your property. If a company will cover the cost of two nights, what incentives can you offer the guest to add additional nights on their own dime?
Additionally, consider how to maximize your existing space to support the remote worker. Opportunities include adding flexible workspaces in public areas, opening meeting rooms for guests to use as a temporary office and offering flexible check-in and check-out times, all of which are enticing amenities to incorporate into marketing strategies.
Don’t forget your own employees
The hospitality industry revolves around travel and tourism, so it’s natural to attract team members with an affinity for travel and a passion for exploration. Just as bleisure travel serves as an opportunity to increase your bottom line, it also poses an opportunity to differentiate your brand as a top workplace.
As you or your team begins to travel for work once more, consider any opportunities to offer leisure perks. Can you identify and book properties that offer incentives for the bleisure traveler? Are you encouraging your team to experience the local market? Is there an opportunity for them to unplug and unwind?
For example, Valor Hospitality Partners does not set working hours when a team member is on the road. So, travelers are free to set their schedules as they see fit. This provides a more flexible opportunity to explore the destination without the constraints of a 9 to 5 schedule.
As the world continues to adjust to a new normal, being open and adapting to changes in travel trends is paramount to your brand’s success. The bleisure trend, specifically, has proved to be a win-win-win proposition, providing travelers with increased freedom to enjoy business trips, allowing the hospitality industry to augment business models to support these travelers and providing businesses with the opportunity to invest in their own teams.