Hotels pursue travelers enjoying bleisure travel
Mixing business with pleasure is the name of the game, and a growing trend in today’s hospitality sector.
Bleisure travel, or combining business travel with leisure time is on the rise due to several factors, according to industry experts.
As opposed to our former baby-boomers, who over the last 15 -20 years, were strictly business on work trips, what we see in next-generation traveler is that they mix the two together, says Loren Nalewanski, vice president and global brand manager for Marriott’s SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites brands. With the limited, free time they have, “They’re getting to know a local area a bit more. They’re arriving a day earlier than their meeting or extending their stay into the weekend.”
For the brands he represents, business travelers account for about 52% and bleisures make-up 18%-20%, says Nalewanski. To appeal to such segments, “We continue to program our products and services in ways that lend themselves more to inviting someone, or one’s family along, such as taking in a baseball game or a unique dining experience,” says the executive
Beginning with accommodations themselves, “Our suites open up for more than one person,” says Nalewanski. And, “We’re mindful that our breakfast programs accommodate children and significant others. We offer scrambled eggs, waffles, and sweet treats.”
Supporting bleisures’ wellness interests, “In our gyms, there used to be a cardio piece and a stair master, but now we’re doing yoga mats. People are more tuned into healthy bodies and minds,” says Nalewanski.
A forthcoming national partnership with Weber-Stephen Products, the maker of Weber grills, further assimilates home and hotel activities.
“We’re going to have outside grilling areas, complete with a standard Weber grill, tools, spices, and seasonings, so guests can grill for themselves, just the way they do at home. It creates a backyard feel. Over 100 have been installed and the rest will follow over the next year or so,” says Nalewanski.
At Great Wolf Resorts, bleisure travel is a major focus of their 95-person (and growing) national sales team.
“If you have to travel for business, as a parent, it can be gut-wrenching,” says Rhonda Khabir, corporate national sales director for the company. “When you can take your family along, you don’t feel as badly about it. You’re more motivated to get your work done.”
Set to open five new resorts in the next five years, the organization’s fourteenth property will debut this November in Colorado Springs and will include 311 rooms and a 20,000 square foot conference center.
“Our groups and conference business is significant, nearing fifteen percent at some resorts,” says Khabir. “Mid-week travelers have grown two percentage points in the last two years and we’re seeing increased length of stay both pre and post events."
While each client organization is unique, “Our resorts are a special place for anyone,” says Khabir. “The most critical point to working with us to help your event become a success is to remain flexible on high-compression weeks. When we’re extraordinarily busy, it’s harder to get group allocation.”
Catering to bleisure guests who are accompanied by their families, “After a long day in the conference center getting business done, we generally do not plan an awards dinner so they can be with their families, participate in story time in the grand lobby or movie night,” says Khabir.
During the daytime, “We do have a kids club, which provides a special education curriculum,” says Khabir.
“Once folks figure out that we all have to do more with less, kids especially will say, hey, why wouldn’t we go with mom or dad on a business trip? It’s about experiences and finding more time with family, I expect it to be a way of life,” says Khabir.
5 Ways to Cater to the Bleisure Set:
- Ensure connectedness. “In our suites, we make sure we have plug-ins everywhere so guests have the right space to be productive and can do more work wherever they want to, says Nalewanski.
- Think family-friendly. Social media lends itself to bonding activities, says Nalewanski. “We’ve set up ‘selfie spots’ for families. Such picture spots make it a little more fun and playful for guests.”
- Serve up non-traditional experiences. "Bleisure travelers want to tell their friends about kayaking down the Chicago river with a personal guide speaking to the history and architecture of the city. Unique, authentic experiences exist. You have to know where to find them,” says Gordon Taylor III, director of sales and marketing at the Conrad Chicago.
- Anticipate needs. Bleisure travelers are seeking elements to make work trips more convenient and less stressful, says Colleen Birch, senior vice president of revenue optimization at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “We offer comfortable rooms outfitted with desks, a business center, a variety of restaurants and lounges/bars suited for both business and leisure entertaining.”
- Trend-forecast. “Hotels will continue to update their programming to engage guests while they have down time. We recently started to offer cooking classes, painting and wine hours and cocktail-making classes” says Josh Herman, director of marketing and public relations at Fontainebleau Miami Beach.