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How To Identify and Sell to the Bleisure Traveler

by Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor |

Business people seem to have a renewed love of travel, and many of them are extending their trips for a little R&R or to experience a destination. This so-called “bleisure” trend represents a great opportunity for revenue strategists to increase revenues and profits from group and corporate customers.

According to recent research from Expedia Media Solutions, 43% of business trips turn into bleisure trips, with many of them lasting four or more days beyond the business portion of the stay. Often, spouses and other family members join business travelers for getaways. The trend is even more pronounced for travel outside of one’s home country, with 52% of international business trips turning into bleisure.

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The bleisure trend is part of a larger shift in attitude among business people. While at one time not very long ago many people dreaded the hassles and strain of business travel, that attitude seems to be changing, especially among millennial professionals. Data from NBT World showed that 30% of mostly younger travelers would potentially accept a lower-paid job if it meant they could travel more for work.

Pinpointing the Bleisure Traveler

Since about 60% of business travel doesn’t end up in a family getaway or romantic weekend, it’s sometimes difficult for hotel marketers to identify which guests might be considering extending their stays.

According to data from Expedia, bleisure trips tend to be spur of the moment with relatively short paths to booking, typically between one and four weeks. So a business traveler booking a room today for a conference in June might not even be thinking about adding nights to his or her stay. Given that fact, e-mail messages to travelers booked under corporate rate programs can be used to nudge them to consider extending their stays.

Not surprisingly, business trips for conferences and conventions are more likely to turn into bleisure trips than are other kinds of business travel. These trips are typically booked further out than a two-day trip to visit a client. If the meeting is in-house, the hotel’s marketing team should have easy access to contact info for attendees, providing an easy and natural way to encourage them to extend their stays.

About a third of bleisure travelers in the study said an event in the area, such as a concert, show or festival, is a big factor in extending business trips into bleisure occasions. If these events are in your market area, it might be possible to piggyback your message onto marketing efforts by event organizers. Of course, this arrangement might come with a cost, perhaps as some level of sponsorship of the event. But a designation as “official hotel” can help attract business, including from travelers who already plan to be at your property for business.

Pricing to Sell

Pricing decisions on offers to potential bleisure guests can be tricky. While 84% of bleisure trips are in the same hotel, 72% of those guests who decide to stay elsewhere cite the cost of the hotel as a major reason.

Simply put, room rate is less of an issue when a traveler’s company or organization is picking up the tab. But discounting just to attract this business isn’t necessarily the right strategy, especially if the bleisure segment extends over a weekend, typically the busiest portion of the week at many properties.

And until recently—and perhaps still in some contract language—some corporate rate agreements prohibited allowing weekend stays at the negotiated rates. While that’s not the case in most situations today, it makes sense to review contracts to ensure they include language that neither discourages stay-overs nor prices those rooms incorrectly.

While rate setting is specific to each hotel, time period and expected business, a possible strategy is to create tailored rates for potential bleisure business that hovers slightly below the corporate rate and rates available through direct-booking platforms.

Adding value to the bleisure stay is another way to capture this business. Upgrades to a premium room, free breakfast or parking, a spa visit are all examples of value-adds that could win bleisure business. It’s also important to provide these guests with information on local attractions, restaurants, shopping and more.

Bleisure business can be a good source of incremental revenue, especially in slow periods or between group business checkouts and check-ins. It only works for hotels, however, if it can be priced at a point that creates new business without sacrificing business from more-profitable customers.

Thanks for members of Duetto Research’s Customer Success and Solution Engineering teams for input on this topic.

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Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

Contributing editor at Duetto
Ed has been covering the hotel industry for more than 40 years. He was editor-in-chief of Lodging Hospitality from 1980 to 2012. He then joined Hotel News Now as an Editor at Large, until his retirement at the end of 2014. Ed still contributes to several publications and is a member of the advisory boards for the hotels schools at Michigan State and Penn State.
Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor
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Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

Ed has been covering the hotel industry for more than 40 years. He was editor-in-chief of Lodging Hospitality from 1980 to 2012. He then joined Hotel News Now as an Editor at Large, until his retirement at the end of 2014. Ed still contributes to several publications and is a member of the advisory boards for the hotels schools at Michigan State and Penn State.