“Bleisure,” if you haven’t heard the term yet, you will soon. The practice of combining business travel and leisure travel into one trip is on the rise. A recent study commissioned by Expedia Group shows that 60% of business trips turn into bleisure, a nearly 40% increase from 2016. So how do you, meeting planner extraordinaire, capitalize on this exciting new trend? Read on to learn how.
Give Them a Reason to Attend
One of the most common challenges faced by meeting planners is how to ensure and drive attendance. Meeting trend research has shown that meeting-goers are hungry for experiential programs where an element of excitement, education and inspiration can be found outside the meeting room. And they clearly have an appetite for tacking leisure time onto their business trip. So, give them what they want. Pick a location for your next conference or event that fits the deciding factors for bleisure travel.
Bleisure Travel Must-Haves
The #1 factor in choosing to extend a business trip, or as we might say, choosing to attend your meeting in the first place, is a “great entertainment or activity city.” Close behind is, a “bucket list” or “must visit” location. Washington, D.C., just across the Potomac River from Alexandria, Virginia, makes the study’s list of Top Bleisure Destinations. The best part is, a meeting or event in Alexandria will cost you less money than a corresponding event in the nation’s capital and your attendees can easily visit both Alexandria and D.C. during their stay. Plus, Visit Alexandria has created an itinerary showcasing ways attendees can extend their stay in Alexandria and the region.
An “easy to navigate city” rounds out the list of top three factors in extending for bleisure, and Alexandria’s walkability makes it an ideal location, as does the city’s access to major airports, interstates and public transportation, including new water taxi service that runs visitors quickly and conveniently across the water to both D.C. and Maryland’s National Harbor.
A city with good restaurants also makes for a great bleisure destination. Alexandria’s dining scene continues to receive kudos as a culinary oasis and its numerous bars and pubs, many in historic buildings, make it a great place to go out. Plus, just across the river, D.C. has its own vibrant culinary scene and Michelin Dining Guide.
Sightseeing, both natural and historical, is also appealing to bleisure travelers. Museums, art and culture play a role in ranking a destination as top for bleisure. Alexandria, home to a rich history from the 18th century to the present, has a host of historic locations, museums and attractions to visit. The world-famous Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former munitions factory transformed into an artistic powerhouse with three floors of artist studios and galleries, is just one of the reasons the city has been recognized as one of America’s Top ArtPlaces.
The Millennial Factor
Millennials now make up the largest percentage of America’s workforce. And with their blurring of the lines between business and leisure, along with their strong desire for business travel, is likely the primary reason for the rise of bleisure. Recent research by Hilton Hotels & Resorts shows 75% of today’s new road warriors see business travel as a major work perk, and 69% want to extend their trip for leisure. But the survey also shows that many millennials fear the disruption to their lives that business travel brings, including everything from weight gain from fattening restaurant food to the challenge of sticking to their workout routine while on the road.
Be a savvy meeting planner and take this research to heart. Pick a location that provides numerous dining choices and work with your venue(s) to design a healthy F&B program for meals and breaks, so your attendees won’t tip the scale when they return home. You can also make fitness a part of your meeting plan so they won’t feel that attending means missing their workouts.
The bleisure trend makes the choice of location for your next event even more critical then ever before. When you are arranging your next event, boost your attendance by making the bleisure travel must-haves an essential part of your meeting checklist. The team at Visit Alexandria is happy to help you discover all the reasons why Alexandria tops the list of bleisure destinations. They’ll even help create both group and individual custom-tailored pre and post itineraries, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days.
Insider Tip: If you don’t want get in the business of offering formal tour packages, you can make small changes to capitalize on the bleisure travel trend. Consider having your meeting end on a Thursday or Friday so attendees can spend the weekend in the conference city. In some cases, extending group rates on lodging beyond the conference dates invites attendees to rest and recuperate. Work with your CVB’s group sales team to learn about available options.
Header image by K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria