If you’ve ever been on a business trip and extended your stay for some sightseeing or beachside sun, you’ve experienced what it’s like to merge business with personal leisure time. This type of travel, coined “bleisure” in 2009 by the Future Laboratory, is a part of a growing trend shaping the way we travel.
You may have also experienced a “workcation” or “bizcation,” which is when you work remotely while you’re on vacation. While these phrases aren’t new, the act of combining work and leisure time has morphed into a more fully realized form of “blended travel,” which encompasses any mix and match of business travel and personal travel. This is, of course, a direct result of the pandemic ultimately changing the overall dynamic of how we work. With the added flexibility for employees, particularly the remote or hybrid employee, we can now travel while we work—and work while we travel.
According to the 2022 Future of Blended Travel report from Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, 66% of U.S. consumers surveyed reported that remote work has encouraged them to explore new destinations, while 72% said they enjoy the ability to work from different locations. With this trend becoming a mainstay, brands, hotels, Airbnbs, and other types of accommodations need to evolve with the times and provide employees and travelers with the logistics and amenities needed to make blended travel a seamless experience.
Destination: Sunshine & Adventure
Even during lockdowns, the travel minded headed to sunny skies and beaches and places that could give them adventure. In a post-pandemic world, warm climates and outdoor experiences are still top travel destinations. In fact, the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2022 IRF Destination Preferences Study found that Hawaii is the No. 1 desirable destination, followed closely by the Caribbean and the Western U.S.
With experiences playing an important role in the destination, employers looking to book incentive trips for employees will want to make sure that the location offers immersive experiences for participants to explore local culture—a trend reported in the IRF’s Decision Drivers 2022: Elevating the Experience. This means locations that offer entertainment and culture are top choices.
The Shaping of Corporate Events
When planning corporate events, taking blended travel into consideration isn’t just a thought, it should be a part of the strategy going forward. This of course includes your site destination. Given that certain destinations are more appealing than others for travel (locations that have sunshine, offer adventure, and are rich in culture and entertainment), looking for venues that are in spots people want to travel to can help not only with attendee engagement, but also with the overall success of the event. With direct flights highly desirable, choosing a location for your corporate event that’s closer to home—in North America or adjacent—is also a trend you won’t want to ignore. Getting an extended group rate for employees who might be looking to stay a few days extra will help them manage their travel with more ease—and show that you understand the blended traveler’s needs.
Tips for Planners to Design for Blended Travel
Flexible agendas: Just like attendees no longer want their days jam-packed with activities and speakers, the duration of an event should be shorter to allow attendees to tack on extra days either before or after for both work days and play days.
Tracking blended travelers: Much like you gather information surrounding your event attendees, you’ll want to put into place a system that can help you track your blended travelers—so that you can better serve them during the next event.
Hotel options: Morning Consult found in a 2022 survey that hotels were the favored type of lodging among blended travelers, meaning that corporate event planners should turn an eye to the amenities available for their blended traveler attendees. Fast Wi-Fi, followed by free Wi-Fi were the top desirable wants, while finding a hotel that was close to a work location and connected to the community weren’t far behind.
Flexibility is the Employee Sweet Spot
With more flexibility, comes greater happiness, according to the Future of Blended Travel Report. In fact, the report found that two thirds, or 66%, of workers agreed that a flexible work schedule makes them more productive.
It’s no secret that people are excited that in-person events are back, but the pandemic put life into perspective. Today, employees want to connect more, which means more time networking at events and during their downtime. And they want more leisure. With 60% of U.S. respondents to the 2022 Crowne Plaza survey planning to add leisure time to future business trips, it’s a good idea to start baking blended travel accommodations into your corporate event strategies now.