Travel Weekly Consumer Trends 2016


Bleisure is now more than a buzzword

Bleisure is big business, and while the melding of business and leisure trips has long existed, it has recently been growing, along with the use of the 'bleisure' buzzword.

According to Travel Weekly's 2016 Consumer Trends report, the percentage of leisure trips that have a business component jumped to 17% this year, compared with 11% in 2012 and 14% last year.

The Global Business Travel Alliance's 2015 Business Traveler Sentiment Index found that 67% of business travelers said it was important to be able to extend business trips with leisure add-ons, while 36% of those surveyed had done so within the previous three months. About half brought spouses or other family members.

For travel agents, bleisure offers an opportunity to tap into a traveler who generally spends more and books more products than people who take strictly leisure trips, according to the Consumer Trends report.

When a business purpose was included in a trip, a travel agent was involved significantly more often than when no agent was involved (47% vs. 12%), and the amount spent averaged $1,556 vs. $1,332 for pure leisure trips.

Many travel agents are already tapping into this trend by learning to wear both corporate and leisure hats.

Bonnie Lee, CEO of Travel Leaders in Albertville, Minn., said she is "definitely" seeing an increase in corporate travelers adding on leisure trips, and Travel Leaders found in an April survey of consumers that 59% of respondents traveling on business planned to take a leisure trip in conjunction with that business trip this year. "It seems to be a priority for business travelers to get the biggest bang out of trips, both professionally and on a personal level," Lee said. "Companies seem to be very open to it. Their employees are happy and actually work harder on the trip because the reward at the end of the day is family, friends, etc."

Lee said her agents are increasingly asking their clients if their business trips will include an opportunity for "leisure time to be shared with family or friends."

She added that while "it used to be such a hard leap" for agents to do leisure travel for corporate clients, many now do both, and they remind their clients of that.

"Way too often corporate travelers don't even realize that their already-trusted travel partner can care for them not only on a business trip but for both them and their families for those all-important family trips," Lee said.

Not all agencies encourage their advisers to go the hybrid route. "Our corporate advisers refer clients to our leisure staff for their vacation travel," said Noelle Belt of WorldTravelService. "It is our view that being specialized is a better value and use of resources than trying to be all things to all clients."

Destinations are also benefitting and reacting to the bleisure trend, which in some places is exploding.

NYC & Company, the city's marketing arm, said that over the past five years, domestic overnight visitors combining business and leisure skyrocketed to 34% in 2015 from 2% in 2011 and doubled from 17% in 2014. NYC & Company said it has been targeting business travelers in its marketing messages and by working on spousal programs as well as highlighting the city's family-friendly attractions.

The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau found that in 2015 23% of its business travelers cited leisure as an additional trip purpose. In response, this year it is producing its first visitors guide geared to business travelers, in addition to its regular one. Content from both will appear on VisitDallas.com.

"Our business and leisure travelers are increasing at a fast pace, so it's a good time to provide content for both markets," said Frank Librio, vice president of communications and marketing.

And in Alaska, Liz Perry of Travel Juneau said, "We are definitely seeing an increase in leisure trip add-ons for business travelers."

To try to capture as many as possible, Travel Juneau encourages meetings planners to offer pre- and post-event stays. "We assist by suggesting activities based upon attendee preferences, then reach out to our partners for special pricing specifically for the meeting group," Perry said.

"Recently a group of bicycle dealers took advantage of Juneau's activities, and almost every meeting participant brought family and extended their stay by almost a week on one side of the meeting or the other."

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