Outdoor excursions can provide an opportunity for professional development and networking by making work feel like a vacation.
Meeting attendees are discerning consumers, deciding whether or not to attend a meeting based on a number of factors, one of them being the destination itself. Attendees, more and more, are also tourists, seeking novel, memorable experiences that are deeply tied to the uniqueness of a place, according to findings from The Experience Institute.
The rise of “bleisure travel,” where travelers for business add additional leisure activities, provides organizations an opportunity to bridge the narrowing gaps between business and leisure, networking and relationship building, to meet objectives for team building that also satisfy the desire for fulfilling experiences.
“Business travel is a lifestyle for many of our guests and we’re seeing a growing desire by these travelers to add a leisure component to their trip and experience the destination beyond the meeting room,” Kelly Phillips, SVP Global Engagement & Strategic Accounts at Hilton, says in a report from the Global Business Travelers Association.
“There is such a high demand for it,” says Lindsay Rohler, general manager of Rowing Dock, which provides tours and activities on Lady Bird lake in Austin, Texas. “Event planners are stretching for new, exciting things to do. They want people to get away from their computers and just be in the moment. That’s when the ideas flow.”
Team building activities can be particularly suited for outdoor excursions, but should be safe and have specific objectives in mind so everyone has a positive experience. Event planners can work with local outdoor activity providers to get custom, structured experiences that reinforce organizational objectives in an unconventional space.
Rowing Dock was tapped by Kendra Scott, a billion-dollar fashion and decor brand, to create a team building and networking event on the water. They led the team on a night time paddleboarding activity were attendees worked together to navigate the lake. They were rewarded by a surprise, floating live concert on the water. “It was an experience they could’ve only gotten here,” Rohler said. “It’s exactly what clients are increasingly looking for. Something unique to the place.”
According to the GBTA report, bleisure travelers typically extend their trips for three days. The report recommends adding local activities as part of a meeting or providing organization discounts to attendees to use on the leisure portion of their trips. Rowing Dock, for example, works with organizations to provide discounted activities in advance of meetings so attendees have an opportunity to arrive early, spend more time with family or enjoy what the city has to offer.
“Being outdoors, engaging in more physical activity, removes some of the stress of feeling like you have to perform,” says Rohler. “People can let their guards down and connect. They’re more receptive to what their colleagues have to say and they’re more engaged.”