What do you get when more and more business travelers extend their stay at their destination for leisure purposes? Bleisure travel is the awful moniker coined to define what is undoubtedly a growing trend in the travel industry, as the blurring of personal and professional lives of travelers increases on a global level. Others refer to this recent phenomenon as "bizcations" where the business trip leads to a short vacation, with some rest & relaxation - also known as R&R.
According to a recent survey by Pullman Hotels, conducted by the research firm Ipsos, and looking at the behaviors of 2,200 seasoned international travelers, company-owned mobile devices are indeed very much at the heart of their everyday travel behaviors, as reported by Skift:
- 43% of international travelers always take their mobile professional devices with them on holiday or on weekend trips;
- The Chinese and the Brazilians are "blurring" champions and the most connected travelers. 79% and 71% respectively have at least one mobile professional device (compared with 60% in the other countries);
- French and German travelers are the ones that blur their professional and private lives the least;
- The French have a very negative opinion of the use of mobile professional devices. Most notably, 59% of them believe it to be a source of stress;
- 43% of the survey sample acknowledges that they work before going to their workplace.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DESTINATIONS
While these statistics point towards a very real potential conflict between personal time and business, it also underlies another phenomenon where business travelers are now more upfront about going on some business trips with spouse and even sometimes children. According to a US report published by Orbitz in 2012, polling 600 American business travelers, 72% said that they take extended executive trips that have a leisure component. And 43% had a significant other accompany them on a business trip!
Knowing how much vacation time goes unused by most Americans, specially compared to Europeans, this can therefore represent a great opportunity for destinations catering to the American business traveler segments. Europeans cities and most big American cities can reap the rewards from this trend, where a business trip to Paris can be extended into a weekend in London, Belgium or South of France, or a trip to Philadelphia or New York be followed up on the seashore to Atlantic City, for example. Of course, many may decide to extend their stay in the city where the conference or meeting took place, to discover and make the most of their hotel rooms.
SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGES THE EQUATION
The challenge that ensues is how to communicate or promote to the road warrior when the very definition of this road warrior is evolving due to mobile professional devices and the evolution of travel technologies. This is where savvy online marketers, mobile and social media practitioners can gain a competitive edge, as can be seen with many luxury hotel chains such as Fairmont, Four Seasons, IHG, Marriott, Hilton or Starwood. Many of these luxury hotels mine social media to enhance the customer experience prior, during and after the stay in their establishment.
In this evolving context, younger business travelers are showing different behaviors than their predecessors, according to a recent survey conducted by Expedia and its business travel arm, Egencia, with 8,500 travelers in 24 countries. Among some of the highlights:
- 18-30 year olds take more leisure trips (4.2 mean) than those 31-45 (2.9 mean) and 46-65 (3.2 mean).
- In North America, 54% of 18-30 year olds bring a significant other on a business trip, versus 36% of 31-45 and 16% of 46-65.
- Globally, 42% of 18-30 year olds say they would spend more of the company's money on high-end meals, compared to 26% of 31-45.
Not surprisingly, the study also found that younger business travelers are much more vocal on review sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, not necessarily because they are more outspoken but perhaps more simply because this always-on generation was brought up with sharing platforms as part of their daily life.
Now that the Meetings, Incentive, Corporate & Events (MICE) segment of the travel industry tends to blur with more traditional leisure travel behaviors, needs and wants, how will hospitality stakeholders take notice and adapt their approach? How can destinations embrace this new reality and keep travelers longer, to spend their dollars with hotels, restaurants and other attractions within the city or resort? There is certainly an opportunity here, and it will be interesting to see how this trend unfolds and which destinations make the most of it...