According to Expedia Media Solutions’ latest study, Profile of the American Bleisure Traveler, 43% of all business trips, both domestic and international, include an add-on leisure component that can represent incremental revenue for hotels.
The study—announced during the annual Expedia Partners Conference in Las Vegas in December and done in conjunction with Luth Research—presents an analysis of the behaviors that drive purchasing patterns for the leisure portion of the trip.
“We conduct these studies to help identify emerging consumer trends in order to inform where we put our resources and thus, the products that we build. We share these studies externally to raise the level of understanding as far as current consumer behaviors so we’re all putting the customer first,” says Monya Mandich, senior director of global marketing at Expedia Media Solutions.
Reaching this customer requires marketers to lithely shift messaging tactics as the booking window takes place just one to four weeks out from the actual trip, with 43% of respondents booking all or most of their leisure activities one to two weeks in advance. Hotel research is also a priority for these travelers as 35% begin looking into accommodations before anything else. Even more noteworthy, 41% visit an OTA site prior to their trip, while only 24% visit a hotel website.
“This trip is dictated by business needs and the booking window is compressed,” Mandich explains. “Using an OTA is more efficient for them—and for marketers who have a shorter timespan in which to influence the booking. These travelers are visiting OTAs because they may be booking both the business and leisure components at the same time. So marketers need to have a clear call to action.”
These are frequent business travelers, 32% of whom are traveling once to twice monthly and 71% of their business trips are two- to three-night stays. Business travelers working in technology have the highest propensity (24%) to convert to bleisure, followed by business travelers working in healthcare (10%), and then government/public administration and also manufacturing (7%, respectively). The purpose of their business trip also seems to have some influence over the decision to extend for leisure. In addition, those attending a conference or convention are the most likely to add a leisure component to the trip, while those attending a client meeting or team off-site have a higher likelihood of staying a few extra days for leisure than business travelers making a sales trip.
The duration of a business trip can also affect the chances of the traveler extending for leisure; business trips of three or more days are 30% more likely to include an added leisure element. Still, 37% of respondents reported that the leisure component of their trip mirrors the duration of the business portion of the trip, while another 21% reported staying longer for leisure than for business. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said that where in the week their business trip falls relative to the weekend is a consideration when extending for leisure, while 66% reported that the destination factors into their decision. In fact, the conversion rate to bleisure also increases to 52% when business travelers go abroad.
“We know this traveler exists and most of us have been a bleisure traveler, but we wanted to understand the booking patterns, what converts them to bleisure and how to track them to a destination and property. We don’t want to make assumptions,” Mandich notes. Domestically, Tier 1 cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are leading destinations for bleisure travel as are other major metropolitan markets like Boston, Nashville and San Antonio. “There’s opportunity for hotels in any location to highlight leisure activities in the area that would be of interest to bleisure travelers,” she adds.
Most bleisure trips are by and large spent in the same destination as the business trip. However, there is a correlation between the length of the business trip and the probability of business travelers to visit other surrounding destinations.
This inclination to combine a leisure visit with a trip to some of the nation’s most expensive cities or into an international business trip also aligns with the study’s finding that bleisure travel is an effective cost-savings strategy as 66% of bleisure travelers are apt to spend more on the leisure component of the trip because their travel costs were offset by their business travel.
So although 84% of respondents said they don’t change their hotel accommodations for the leisure component of their trip, 72% of those who do switch hotels for their leisure visit do so because of cost. Although, other reasons for checking-out of their business accommodations include staying with family or friends in the area, relocating to the property with better proximity to their leisure interest as well as the star rating of their business accommodations.
“When hotels are targeting business travelers, we see a lot of messaging around WiFi speed and how robust the business center is, but hotels can pivot on that and talk about nearby leisure activities,” suggests Mandich. “Also, given that price is so important, there is the possibility to offer discounts or something to appeal to customers in order to entice them to stay at the same property and address their sensitivity to pricing for the leisure portion.” She points out that value-add promotions are compelling to these travelers and advises hotels to capture these travelers’ attention with offers like free WiFi or free breakfast in order to counterbalance cost concerns.
The study indicates that one-third of bleisure travelers are primarily interested in area events such as a festival or cultural happenings (86%) as well as sporting events (76%) and concerts (64%). But great sightseeing, beaches, dining and local museums and art offerings, in addition to outdoor activities, also affect the decision to extend. “It’s all about understanding what this traveler is looking for,” says Mandich. “So using this type of content in messaging and campaigns can help hotels and we offer opportunities for hotels to target these travelers because of the methodology that we use to identify them, including traveling alone and a shorter booking path.”