Bleisure customer experience: Meeting the needs of the modern traveler
Business or pleasure? Today, the purpose for travel no longer fits neatly into an either/or category as a growing number of travelers are taking a blended approach.
Often viewed as a job perk, ‘bleisure’ travel provides employees with the opportunity to re-charge their batteries by fitting in some sightseeing between conference schedules and meetings while on a business trip.
Jeff Kim, account manager for marketing and alliances at Asiana Airlines, explained the allure of this mixed approach in Travel Weekly: “As young people these days are trying to achieve the most they can as early as they can, they seem to see full vacations during their young adulthood as luxuries they cannot afford.”
Bleisure travel, Kim continued, allows “them to find their own balance between work fulfillment and personal edification — a balance that makes them happy and that they can enjoy guilt-free.”
As a result of this growing trend, travel and hospitality brands are adapting their customer experience to attract and retain the growing segment of bleisure customers.
Bleisure travel is on the rise
Bleisure is becoming popular among a broad range of traveler profiles, but especially so with young professionals and solopreneurs.
A 2018 Expedia Group Media Solutions report, Unpacking Bleisure Traveler Trends, surveyed 2,500 bleisure travelers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, India and China. It found that 60 percent of business trips turned into bleisure journeys.
“Bleisure travelers want to soak in the culture and have an amazing life experience,” says Wendy White, vice president of marketing at Egencia, Expedia’s business travel division. “But, they typically spend less time researching and planning compared to traditional leisure bookings, so they may need help coordinating a tour or activity.”
That said, personalizing your brand’s approach shouldn’t feel overwhelming, as the needs and expectations of bleisure travelers aren’t so different from strictly business or strictly leisure travelers. “[They all] have the same customer service needs. They all want a personalized booking experience, a quick solution if any issues come up, and the ability to manage their trip on their own terms from their computer or phone,” says White.
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Why refining bleisure customer experience is worth it
Bleisure travel can be extremely profitable for hospitality brands as these kinds of travelers often tack on extra days to their trips to explore their local surroundings. Whether guests are looking to visit historical sites, want to enjoy local dining or participate in unique events in the area, all of these provide an opportunity to ‘wow’ and delight customers.
According to the same 2018 Expedia report, food/restaurants, beaches, natural and historical sightseeing and nice weather are the top reasons business travelers extend their trips for leisure. It’s important to remember that the original and primary purpose of the journey is business, and that these customers often have less time available to conduct research. In fact, Expedia finds that bleisure travelers often make a number of last-minute bookings for hotels, flights, ground transportation and car rentals.
“Business travelers especially don’t want to deal with any hassles on their trips. They’re there to get the job done and go home. Any service request they have will be related to making their trip as efficient and productive as possible,” Egencia’s White explains. “And if there is a problem, they want to be able to self-serve and avoid talking to a live service rep if they can.”
“After they’re done with work and leisure has kicked in, it’s a different story. Now they’re looking to maximize their time away from the office,” she continues. “They’re more likely to seek out customer service to ensure they enjoy their trip. Another thing to keep in mind is partners and children will often join for the leisure portion of a trip so there may be more family-oriented asks of a hotel or airline.”
Getting bleisure customer service right
The customer service offered to these professionals should be consistent, whether they are traveling for business or pleasure (or both) and should reflect an understanding of their individual needs. The challenge to travel and hospitality providers is finding the right opportunities to insert elevated customer service into their guests’ experience.
The MICE industry (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) — which organizes travel for groups typically made up of solo business travelers — serves as a good entry point. These organizers can encourage more professionals to extend their stays by offering a bleisure liaison who can recommend and answer questions on travel activities that would work in harmony with their business agenda prior to, during and after the event. They can also coordinate with local service providers to offer bleisure packages.
With the right customer support to answer questions, handle last-minute arrangements and address any hiccups, travel and hospitality brands can grab a bigger share of the growing bleisure market by helping busy professionals not only see more of the world, but truly enjoy it.
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