When was the last time you took a good look at the business traveler?
Just a few years ago, it might have been easier to pinpoint business travelers: senior executives in a power suit, glued to their BlackBerry, laptop bag in hand, heading straight for the business lounge at the airport. You could probably spot them a mile away. Not anymore.
Today’s workforce is dramatically different than before, and so is the world of business travel. The rise of remote working, an increase in satellite offices and a shift toward a global workforce means business travelers may be taking frequent, short trips, often to the same destination, several times a year. Add in millennials – the largest generation in the U.S. workforce – and you have travelers who plan their own itineraries, often on their smartphone, and at the last minute. Savvy travelers make the most of their time on the road by taking bleisure trips; combining business travel and leisure travel into one trip.
The latest Bleisure Traveler Trends research from Expedia Group Media Solutions reveals that bleisure travel is on the rise: 60 percent of business trips are extended for personal travel. And bleisure trips are not just happening when travelers go to exotic or international destinations; bleisure can occur anywhere, anytime. Destinations, both domestic and international, will miss the boat if they don’t capitalize on the opportunities presented by this emerging traveler segment and the incremental revenue bleisure can bring to the market.
Here are the top tips for destination marketers to make the most of the bleisure boom:
1. Leverage the influence of unique, local entertainment and activities
Understanding what bleisure travelers want is the first step in capturing their attention. In the study, 48 percent of travelers identified great entertainment and activities as leading factors when deciding whether to extend their stay for leisure in a specific destination, followed by bucket list or must-visit locations, and ease of navigation or getting around. To appeal to bleisure traveler preferences, marketers should consider showcasing a destination’s unique activities, experiences and attractions on maps, paired with walking routes or transportation options and helpful navigation tips.
2. Keep it simple, keep it short
Business travelers are often short on time, which can also be said about bleisure travelers. Approximately 80 percent of bleisure travelers spend just 1-5 hours on research for their trip, including inspiration and planning, illustrating a condensed path to purchase. To capture the attention of potential bleisure travelers, ensure that your marketing messages and creative are simple and to the point, with a strong call to action. Entice them further with bright, emotive imagery, as well as great deals.
3. Cater to traveler habits and preferences
When designing and marketing itineraries or suggested activities to the bleisure audience, it’s worth noting that the average bleisure trip lasts nearly seven days. Seventy percent of business trips last just two or three days (the business trip duration most likely to convert to bleisure), and leisure days added to business travel can nearly double the length of the trip, which is a big incentive to capture this market. Create itineraries or suggested stays that are 2-4 days in length and highlight attractions and activities that are relevant to bleisure traveler interests.
The rise of the solo traveler, particularly among younger workers, is another preference worth noting. Sixty-five percent of travelers go it alone, and more than 60 percent don’t have family or friends in the destination. When looking to attract the bleisure audience, promote singles-friendly restaurants, activities and tours, and steer clear of calling out group activities with minimum participant numbers.
4. Know your audience (and your destination’s best assets)
Blessed with natural beauty or sandy beaches in your market? Locations with these offerings are among the top three most attractive types of destinations for a bleisure break. Rest assured that you don’t have to be a coastal hotspot to attract bleisure travelers – this audience is hungry for the culinary scene. Fifty-six percent said they are more likely to consider a bleisure trip in destinations with great food or restaurants. From local cuisine to natural or historical sightseeing to arts and culture, spotlight your destination’s best features, and connect them to bleisure traveler preferences for amplified awareness.
5. In-market opportunities
Bleisure travelers may not book all their trip components in advance, creating an opportunity for marketers to reach and convert travelers in-trip. This is especially true for ancillary products like dining, tours and activities, entertainment and transportation, which are less likely to be booked in advance. More than 60 percent of bleisure travelers invest time in choosing the hotel for the leisure portion of their trip, compared to only 38 percent of travelers who research or book dining in advance, and fewer than one-fourth of bleisure travelers researched or booked activities, tours or entertainment for leisure.
6. Year-round opportunity
One of the biggest boons when it comes to bleisure is that it is not seasonal. Business travel occurs year-round; rain, snow or shine, travelers are capitalizing on their opportunities to extend trips for leisure. While there are variations throughout the year– bleisure travel presents an opportunity to bolster slow or shoulder seasons with off-season specials or extra rainy-day incentives.
Tourism & Promotur, the tourist board of Tenerife, a city in Spain’s Canary Islands, attracted business travelers to their destination with the idea of a tropical vacation during winter, or what they advertised as “turning winter into spring.” They ran a two-week digital campaign during the past winter holiday season and used custom audience profile segmentation to target travelers searching for business, leisure, and weekend getaways. By identifying and targeting business travelers who were open to adding leisure travel to their trip, Tourism & Promotur increased bookings by more than 50 percent year over year.
7. Identify strategic partnerships
During the inspiration and consideration phase, more than two-thirds of bleisure travelers consult search engines, 47 percent turn to travel-related websites (including OTAs, airline and hotel sites, and review sites), and 44 percent tap destination websites. Strategic partnerships and a multi-platform approach will empower you to reach and influence bleisure travelers, and ensure your destination is part of the consideration set within the abbreviated research and booking window.
Whether you’re marketing a bustling business city or a smaller hub, you can attract the bleisure traveler to your market. They might be up for an all-out adventure or just a few extra days of R&R, but at the end of the day, there’s an opportunity for destinations of all sizes to increase visitation and in-market spend.
Learn more by downloading our study on bleisure travelers.
This article first appeared in Martech Advisor (MTA) on November 19, 2018.