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Winning Over Business Leisure Travelers with Better Digital Experiences

Tim Linberg, Chief Experience Officer

If you're already traveling for business, why not make the most of your trip by extending your stay for leisure?

This is the mindset behind a growing section of the travel industry. Whether you want to call it “bleisure” or “bizcation,” travel leaders know that it’s becoming increasingly common to turn business travel into leisure vacations. This trend could certainly complicate the lives of business travel managers everywhere. But it also gives all kinds of travel companies an opportunity to capture the attention of business leisure travelers and develop new revenue streams.

However, you can’t just ride the wave of business leisure travel and expect increased revenue without any effort. The key to winning over business leisure travelers is to give them digital experiences that meet (and exceed) their expectations.

The Business Leisure Travel Market Opportunity 

While the travel industry has been busy trying to figure out how to build new revenue streams from the “experience generation,” the market of business leisure travelers has grown quietly. In 2016, Expedia released a study that introduced the idea of combining business and leisure travel as a subsection of the travel industry. At the time, Expedia found that 43% of U.S. business trips included an added leisure element.

In the years since that first Expedia study, the business leisure travel market has continued to grow. Expedia’s 2018 study found that 60% of U.S. business trips now include added leisure time. And while 88% of business trips are domestic, business leisure travel is a global trend. Expedia reports that 51% of domestic business trips include leisure while 52% of international business trips become bleisure travel.

Business travelers choose to extend their trips for a number of reasons—exploring restaurants in a new location, going to the beach, enjoying better weather, sightseeing, and more. Regardless of the reasoning, the steady growth of business leisure travel is an opportunity to boost revenue if you can reach people in their planning stages and keep them engaged over the long term.

Knowing the digital expectations of bleisure travelers is your first step to capturing this market both in the short term and as the trend continues to grow.

3 DIGITAL EXPECTATIONS OF BLEISURE TRAVELERS

Our own research found that 67% of survey respondents have extended a business trip for pleasure. We know that this is a rich opportunity for travel and tourism companies to boost revenue. But what really matters is figuring out how business travelers are going about extending their trips.

Many customer experience trends in the travel industry as a whole revolve around the push for real-time personalization. However, we found that 94% of bleisure travelers make their plans in advance, avoiding in-the-moment decisions about extending their trips. This means that you have ample opportunity to use digital experiences to capture their attention well before their trips begin.

Meeting these three digital expectations of bleisure travelers will give you a good foundation for capturing the market.

1. SEARCH OPTIMIZATION FOR BLEISURE TRAVEL

The 2018 Expedia study found that 80% of bleisure travelers spend anywhere from one to five hours researching their destinations. While travel-related and destination sites are top resources, the primary channel for bleisure travelers is a general search engine.

With the right approach to content creation and technical SEO, you can tailor your digital experiences specifically to the needs of bleisure travelers. Regardless of how specific their needs are, travelers expect accuracy in their search results. If they search for your travel offerings via search or on your specific site and don’t find what they’re looking for quickly, you risk losing them to competitors.

We found that 82% of bleisure travelers book their own trips as opposed to leaving the planning to business admins. This means that search optimization can give you direct access to the market and an opportunity to capture attention.

2. LOYALTY PROGRAMS DESIGNED FOR BLEISURE TRAVEL

Our research found that 70% of bleisure travelers always or often make their decisions based on an ability to earn points through loyalty programs. They don’t want one-off relationships with travel companies. Bleisure travelers want access to a loyalty program that’s easy to use and provides increasingly-personalized service as the relationship builds.

The challenge is designing a loyalty program that truly engages the bleisure traveler. For example, 44% of bleisure travelers say they use separate apps to manage flights and hotels. And as a result, they might belong to separate loyalty programs. With so many competing travel companies, your digital experience and loyalty program can quickly get lost in the noise.

Making a loyalty program that seamlessly integrates with your overarching digital experience can make all the difference between loyal bleisure travelers and ones that work with your competitors.

3. UNIFIED DIGITAL EXPERIENCES FOR BLEISURE TRAVEL

Much like consumers in every industry, bleisure travelers expect more unified digital experiences. It should come as no surprise that bleisure travelers prefer to control their entire trip through a single mobile app or website. Whether you’re an airline, hotel, or online travel agency, it’s important to provide omnichannel digital experiences that make the bleisure planning process as convenient as possible. Breaking down barriers in the planning process will give you a competitive advantage that increases traveler engagement and sparks loyalty over the long term.

The challenge is building a foundation to make these unified digital experiences possible. It takes more than just a mobile app or a newly-designed website to support the seamless bleisure planning experiences that travelers demand.

But you don’t have to try and create a digital services platform from scratch all on your own. We can help you amplify your revenue by capturing the growing bleisure travel market. It all starts with a backbone of technology that will help you deliver superior digital experiences.

If you want to learn more about the digital customer experience trends that are driving the bleisure market and the travel industry at large, check out our free Trendspots report on travel and tourism.