The Bleisure Boom: What Does it Mean for Hospitality?

 

It used to be that a vacation was a vacation. You finished up at work, turned out the lights and disappeared for a week or two. No project updates could light up your smartphone poolside. No videoconferencing could be done whilst parasailing. Work and vacation were separate worlds, and you existed in one or the other.

Enter the age of connectivity. When we travel for pleasure, work travels with us. When we travel for business, we’re adding elements of vacation to the mix. It was only a matter of time before words like “bleisure” and “bizcation” found their way into our vocabulary.

Part of it has to do with teleworking, or working somewhere other than the office. This phenomenon has its critics (tech giants like Google and Yahoo have dialed back their teleworking numbers in recent years), but generally speaking, it’s still on the rise. Recent statistics from the Australian government indicate that one in four Australians telework to some extent. As NBN infrastructure gets stronger, this number is expected to increase. The government itself wants 12% of its workforce teleworking by 2020.

The rise of teleworking indicates that work and vacation will continue to blend because we can work just as easily from home as from a hotel or serviced apartment with a laptop. As millennials sweep the workforce and take over management positions, bizcations will only become more commonplace.

(Check out this study by Bridgestreet, a global hospitality firm, for more compelling stats on the bizcation/bleisure boom.)

So what does this mean for hotels and resorts? How can they position themselves to capitalise on the blurred line between business and pleasure?

The first step is to understand what people are doing. Most bizcations are business trips first, with leisure time tacked on before or after. People traveling thousands of kilometers for a meeting or conference are asking themselves: How can I make the most of this trip? What about my partner, my children? Is there a way to involve them? This isn’t something new of course, people have tacked on extra days for years however it is now a recognizable trend and of course someone has added a name to it!

Hotels need to create special offers and marketing campaigns that speak specifically to these questions. If you have guests attending a conference, incentivise them to stay longer. Offer special rates, discounts to local attractions and easy transport options. Highlight your business amenities, meeting rooms and free high-speed internet. Come up with language and packages that paint a picture: Business travelers can stay on, explore the area and stay connected. (For a good example have a look at Millennium’s Studio M Bizcation Package in Singapore).

As with all hotel marketing, there are three windows of opportunity: 1) Before the business guest has arrived (email, text or social media interactions), 2) during/after check-in (verbal interactions with front desk staff, social media, letter delivered to room), and 3) after the guest has left (email, text or social media interactions). The one with the most impact of course is when you email them to confirm their booking - don’t just take the typical route of confirming dates and names dammit, add something special to entice them to stay longer or arrive earlier.

The concept of bleisure can also be incorporated into web sites and general advertising. Days Inn has dropped a series of bizcation-themed videos on YouTube. Pullman Hotels & Resorts has undergone a complete brand overhaul, positioning itself as a premier destination for bleisure travelers. A recent merger between the loyalty programs of business-centred Hyatt and leisure-centred MGM Resorts is designed to convert travelers from business to leisure. Each of these marketing efforts revolve around a few key factors: Social connectivity, fast and dependable wifi, fitness and cuisine, and the unique qualities of the destination.

Bleisure is big, and it’s only going to get bigger. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a global brand or invest millions to grab a share of the business. What you do need are specific insights into who your business travelers are, what they’re in town for, and what drives them to add a leisure component to their stay at your hotel. These insights will allow you to shape campaigns that have an impact.

The image of a man or woman in a suit, on a beach, with a laptop, is popping up on blogs everywhere. Nobody actually wears a suit on a beach, but it’s a visceral reminder that work and vacation are no longer separate worlds. For any hotel willing to do its homework, this opens up a new world of possibility.

 

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