In the past, it was relatively easy for hotels to categorise travellers and travel bookers and treat them differently during the booking process. Now, as business and leisure travellers merge in many ways, it is becoming increasingly difficult for hotels to plan for these segments. Covid has accelerated this trend, making it increasingly difficult for hotel commercial teams to understand the ever-changing travel and booking patterns and adjust pricing accordingly. This has led to a change in hotel product design and marketing as well.
This is not only a challenge for hotels, but also for Travel Management Companies (TMCs) that serve their clients – the companies. While more and more companies are starting to address this type of mixed travel in their travel policies, a large part of it is still not managed.
Although overall business travel has not yet returned to 2019 levels, the emergence of increasingly mixed formats has helped to support and revitalise this segment. However, as this category grows rapidly, hotels need to give travellers the tools they need to achieve a work-life mix similar to what they have at home when they are on the road.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) surveyed members and industry representatives who manage or source travel for their companies in April 2022. The results show that 90% of respondents said their employees are more (30%) or equally (60%) interested in bleisure travel compared to pre-pandemic times. Only 10 % indicated that employees were less interested in mixed travel.
Even though this is a challenge, on the one hand, hotel public spaces and hotels with restaurants and bars have the chance to profit from this trend by adapting their offer to the needs and wishes of this new segment. This means free high-speed internet, sufficient power sockets and good coffee. Examples of product development
What about air travel? Since the pandemic changed the way people think about business travel, the major US airlines have been thinking about new types of travel to replace it. Delta has talked about the premium leisure traveller, people who would pay for a nicer experience on board and an upgraded hotel and ground package. Other major US airlines have spoken of the “blended passenger”, or the “bleisure” passenger.
So what does this mean for distribution in this blended version of travel? Do bookers continue to seek the best deals through one channel (the TMC) or do they split it in two – with business travel booked through the TMC and leisure travel booked separately on their own? Or does this give us the opportunity to re-evaluate the way we bundle services and products?
It could be argued that this is where attribute-based selling can play a role and have an impact, as travellers seek very specific experiences and features for their hotel rooms or during their trips.
It may also be worth separating the growing demands of Bleisure travellers from those of Workcation travellers, as they may have different motivations and expectations. For example, there is a difference if the spouse goes along for a long weekend or if the whole family works elsewhere for a longer period of time.
Companies like Spotnana, which just closed a $75 million funding round, aim to fill some of these gaps, for example, through personalised travel booking, where travellers can see booking options based on their preferences and take advantage of the same loyalty benefits available on suppliers’ websites.
Finally, there is the ongoing debate about how terrible the name “Bleisure” is and that it is time to find a new name. Among the suggested alternatives is “Mullet Travel”, originally coined by the Wall Street Journal. If you feel strongly about Bleisure, do not miss this article.