Meetings

Bleisure Travel: A Growing Trend for Conference Attendees

By / Jul 8, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Research shows that more business travelers are blending work-related trips with vacation time. Here’s why association meetings may want to make the most of the trend.

Back in April I had the opportunity to attend ASAE’s Great Ideas in Association Management Conference, Asia-Pacific, in Hong Kong. I spent my first few days doing what I normally do at any ASAE conference: attend sessions, talk to members, and write meeting-related news for Associations Now.

But, since it was my first time in Asia and I flew 16 hours to get there, I decided to extend my trip and do some traveling and exploring post-conference. So, for five days, I had myself a mini Hong Kong and Macau adventure—a trip I probably would not have taken had I not been there for business already.

This add-on travel time has a name of its own these days—“bleisure travel.” And it means just what you’d expect: blending business trips with vacation time.

The bleisure traveler population is growing, too. In a 2014 survey of 640 international travelers by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality [PDF], 60 percent said they have taken bleisure trips, and 46 percent said they add personal travel days to “every trip” or “most trips.” The survey also showed that these travelers usually add two vacation days to work-related travel, and more than half bring their family members or significant other with them.

Bleisure travel also has its benefits. Those surveyed says it not only helps them gain cultural experience and knowledge but also benefits them as an employee and brings added value to their work assignments.

So, it looks like the bleisure travel trend is here to stay, which means that associations may want to consider how to help meeting attendees take on the additional role of bleisure traveler.

One option is to offer packaged pre- or post-conference tours of the destination where your conference is taking placing. For example, after the International Fruit Tree Association’s 2016 Annual Conference in February, the group held a three-day tour dedicated to lower Michigan’s fruit agricultural industry. Participants ate local food, did a wine tour, and visited orchards.  This month, the International Big History Association is offering a post-conference tour: a 10-day “Taste of Europe” where travelers will visit Alpine Europe and see sights like the Jungfraujoch summit in Switzerland.

Even if your association doesn’t want to get in the business of offering formal tour packages, you can make small changes to capitalize on the bleisure travel trend. One could be to have your meeting conclude on a Thursday or Friday so that attendees can spend the weekend in the conference city.

Speaking of cities, choose a destination wisely.

According to the 2015 report “The Decision to Attend Study–Phase One,” 82 percent of the more than 7,000 current and potential meeting attendees surveyed said that the destination definitely factors into their decision to go to a meeting.

More than 50 percent of those attendees also said they’re likely to extend their stay or turn their trip into a vacation, fueling additional room nights.

Another sign that bleisure travel isn’t going away? Last summer, Airbnb expanded its corporate travel arm, Airbnb for Business. After the launch, the company analyzed data to show how bleisure travel is contributing to its growth among business travelers. Data from Airbnb shows that 35 percent of bookings are for two or more people, suggesting that business travelers are bringing along family and friends and that they are staying nearly twice as long as their work requires.

Bleisure travel also comes with another perk: It could be a way for U.S. workers to start using more of their vacation time.

How does your association help conference attendees turn a business trip into bleisure travel? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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