Embracing the Rise of Bleisure Travel: Adapting Hospitality Experiences to Meet Evolving Expectations

    Blesiure is a strange looking word—but in the hospitality industry, it’s one of the more important. A combination of “business” and “leisure,” it describes a new kind of guest who has emerged post-pandemic and is changing how properties are set up and meet changing expectations.

    Business and leisure travel used to be separate categories, with guests having different needs and expectations. Sometimes a business traveler attending a midweek meeting or conference might arrive a day early or spend an extra night on their own. But the widespread adoption of hybrid work models where people work remotely most, or all of, the time has changed that dynamic. So have two or three years where the pandemic prevented people from taking vacations away from home.

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    These days, there’s a good chance a business traveler will arrive intending to take some extra days at the destination, working remotely part of the time.

    “Pre-pandemic, Tuesday through Thursday were our busiest days, our highest ADR. Now, Thursday through Sunday is that busy window,” said Tony Roumph, Area Managing Director for Noble House Hotels and Resorts, who oversees the Argonaut Hotel and Hotel Zoe in San Francisco. “The other thing you’re seeing is not just the single traveler, but the whole family.”

    That trend for the business traveler to arrive with the family and do remote work before and after a conference is even more pronounced at resort destinations.

    “Our bleisure is group guests who want to come early or stay later, a sort of fear of missing out if they don’t,” said Chris Sommers, managing director at the Monterey Plaza Hotel on Cannery Row. “In Monterey, they may tie their stay into going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, for instance. And a lot of guests get a little pressure from their families—I heard one guest at our host stand say that when her husband heard she was coming here on a business trip, he insisted on coming along.”

    With this new traveler comes new needs and expectations, which have led owners to rethink everything from their public space design to their WiFi and room furnishings.

    “We just reopened last summer after an $80 million transformation involving a lot of change in the public space,” said Ben Stinnett, director of Sales and Marketing at VEA Newport Beach, a Marriott spa and resort. “We bring the outdoors in, and created lots of little communal areas where people can sit together and work, a mix of soft seating and tabletops. And there are plugs everywhere.”

    Meeting those needs for people to plug in and charge their laptop and phone is essential. So is reimagining the layout of the public areas so that people can work together, as well as creating “a lot of places around the property where it’s comfortable to plug in and take calls,” Stinnett said.

    In fact, some properties are finding that residents are attracted to their public areas as workspaces, relying on the hotel’s coffee service or breakfast to keep them fueled while they work in their “remote office.”

    “People come to the coffee shop and look at the ocean, and our lobby becomes this working living room for them,” Sommers said. “I know these people by heart, they just love it here.”

    To keep them happy, high-capacity WiFi is also essential—Sommers calls it “as important as water” for guests today. And even with increased speed and bandwidth, the days of charging for access are over because of bleisure traveler expectations.

    “As a business-friendly hotel, we’ve always had that in our rooms, but now everyone is traveling with 3–4 devices nowadays, and we have Chromecast on the property, and that puts even more strain on the WiFi,” said Ed Moreno, Resort Manager at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage. “And during weekends and group season, we see more people working on their patios as well, enjoying sunshine during the week, when we didn’t see them doing that before. We’ve bumped up our capacity.”

    The bleisure traveler has also led to some properties restarting practices they had curtailed or changed during the pandemic, such as housekeeping or full-service dining.

    “Some hotels in certain areas are pulling back on service, but we are adding,” Sommers said. “We’re doing full housekeeping daily, turn-down service, we brought back our entertainment so there is live music in our lobby bar every night.”

    It’s also important now that the hotel’s concierge be as able to set up a local adventure for the family as getting that sought-after table or theater ticket for a business meeting.

    “We have organized events off property like jeep tours or arranging for people to take the tram up the mountain in Palm Springs,” said Moreno. In Monterey, the hotel will whisk visitors to the Aquarium in a BMW SUV. The Argonaut in San Francisco has partnerships for outdoor experiences, including one with REI where guests can book hikes in the Bay Area.

    “It’s very important for us as an independent hotel brand to be able to tailor your stay so you can do things in and around the city,” said Roumph.

    And while it’s great to capture extra room nights and food and beverage spend from an extended business stay, the bleisure experience can pay longer-term dividends for properties.

    “Bleisure doesn’t always have to happen at the same meeting,” Sommers said. “If you win them over on this trip, they will come back.”

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