It’s no secret that the bleisure traveller has re-emerged. The human desire for exploration, combined with a work-from-anywhere revolution, has blurred the boundaries between work and play. As the name implies, bleisure travellers are either arriving a few days before work-related commitments or extending their stay a few days after to unwind, spend time with loved ones or experience local attractions. As many people continue to work remotely, the number of bleisure travellers is expected to stay steady in 2023, so hotels that focus on bleisure travel, and increase their efforts to attract it, will be greatly impacted.
In April 2022, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) surveyed members and industry stakeholders involved in managing or procuring travel for their company. In the results, 90 per cent of respondents said employees are more (30 per cent) or equally (60 per cent) as interested in bleisure travel compared to pre-pandemic times. Only 10 per cent said employees are less interested in blended travel. Similarly, one study of global business travellers found 89 per cent wanted to add a private holiday to their business trips in the next 12 months, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AHLA) State of the Hotel Industry Report 2022.
Typically, bleisure travellers fall into two main categories: extended solo business travel and business travel with friends or family. While all generational cohorts have engaged in bleisure travel, it’s believed that millennials and Generation X have led the way in normalizing the trend as the pandemic pushed many Baby Boomers into premature retirement.
To better accommodate and attract bleisure travellers, hotels must ensure their properties offer amenities and services that bleisure travellers require. Most importantly, this group need plenty of in-room workspace, meeting-room availability and a stable Wi-Fi connection. Adding small conveniences, such as free coffee, improves the guest experience. Additionally, bleisure travellers appreciate digital touchpoints, such as branded mobile apps, mobile check-in and check-out, mobile keys or in-room tablets. As a result, hotels drive customer loyalty, return visits and company margins.
Another way for hotels to attract this segment is to showcase their leisure amenities, such as a spa, swimming pool and sauna or gaming area, to promote relaxation and minimize work stresses. Lastly, bleisure travellers are willing to spend money on local experiences. Generally, bleisure travellers spend less time planning their bleisure trips than a traditional vacation, so they appreciate when hotels highlight nearby restaurants, attractions and other sources of entertainment in seamless ways. On that note, here are a few hotel companies that have positioned themselves to reap many bleisure travel benefits.
Marriott International is opening its 160-room Moxy Halifax Downtown later this year, marking the first Moxy hotel in Canada. Instead of a traditional front desk, guests are welcomed at Bar Moxy where they will receive their room keys as well as a complimentary cocktail. The guestrooms are small, but expertly designed with plenty of outlets for electronics, a television, a foldable table and a full-size bathroom, while the hotel’s living room, games room, fitness centre, yoga room and library set the tone for a social experience. Additionally, the hotel features four event rooms encompassing 1,520 sq. ft. of total event space, a meeting room and a tasting room. Moxy Banff is also expected to open later this year.
“Moxy is an unconventional brand, with a large focus on communal spaces,” says Aaron Laurie, VP, Lodging Development, Eastern Canada, Marriott International. “The communal spaces allow guests to check in but also provides opportunities for guests to work and play. From a revenue-per-square-foot standpoint, limited density sites allow developers to maximize room counts, which is more difficult to do under traditional hotel brands with larger guestrooms.”
Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy
Marriott also unveiled its latest extended-stay brand – Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy (AMB) – to target travellers who enjoy unique, local experiences. Unlike Marriott’s existing extended-stay brands, including Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites, Element Hotels and Marriott Executive Apartments, AMB will not provide traditional hotel services such as food and beverage, meeting space and retail. The concept will target both new-build and conversion opportunities, but Laurie says locations have not been released for the brand at this stage.
“We’ve built upon our learnings from Marriott Executive Apartments, which we’ve had in our portfolio for decades, primarily in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,” says Laurie. “We’re applying a similar concept here in North America. Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy is a soft-branded hotel-serviced apartment concept, and allows developers to create their own unique design narrative for the hotel while simultaneously plugging into the power of Marriott. Similar to Marriott Executive Apartments, AMB offers apartment-style units with full kitchens, washers and dryers, and ultimately a lighter staffing model.”
Laurie continues, “AMB is different from Marriott’s existing extended-stay brands because it falls within our premium to luxury positioning while the others are either upper midscale or upscale. Generally, the units at AMB will be larger and have a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units whereas our existing extended-stay brands are typically studio or one-bedroom units. AMB has a full kitchen and a washer and dryer whereas our existing extended-stay brands have a smaller kitchen and communal guest laundry.”
Similarly, Choo Communities, an Ottawa-based developer, has offered a new way to travel with the creation of reStays, a boutique hotel that combines luxury hotel accommodations with condo-like amenities. The property boasts 111 suites, including fully furnished studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a series of signature collection suites. Hotel amenities include a private cinema room, SkyLounge, fitness centre, meeting room and sauna.
“Our suites are very different and particular in design. Where we are unique is that we are in a mixed-use building with 11 floors of condos that are privately owned, so it’s interesting to see how this co-exists,” says Andreas Spove, general manager at reStays. “The suites are laid out with full kitchens, including a freezer, fridge, stove, microwave and seating areas, as well as a washer and dryer. Some suites even have kitchen islands. The layout of our suites, in addition to our amenities and residential common areas, makes reStays so much more than a traditional hotel stay.”
Meant for both short-term and long-term stays, reStays seeks to re-imagine travel by giving guests access to the reStayers Club, which includes perks and storage facilities for their belongings, making travel light and accessible. Additionally, reStays offers a fridge-filling service and private-chef dinners. This summer, reStays will introduce new balcony furniture, including bistro tables, sun loungers, cocoon swings, hammocks and firepits to allow guests to enhance their luxury experience.
“Our fridge-filling feature is a popular and appreciated added option for guests, especially if they’re arriving late,” says Spove. “They can choose exactly what they want from our curated list and we can ensure the fridge is stocked with those items upon a guests’ arrival. We can also organize to have private chefs from our curated partner chefs list come in and cook for [guests] in the intimacy of their own suite, which makes for a special and exclusive experience.”
Germain Hotels owns and operates Le Germain Hotels, Alt Hotels and Escad Hotels across Canada. All brands prioritize functionality when it comes to guestrooms and common spaces as bleisure travellers seek to maximize their productivity. In June, Alt Hotel Calgary University District, managed by Nadia Gravel, will open. Some features that will cater to bleisure travellers at Alt Hotel Calgary University District include free Wi-Fi, 24-hour gym, Nespresso coffee machine, HD television with Chromecast device, workstation and more.
“The rise of the bleisure traveller is a trend we saw before COVID, but has since been accelerated,” says Marie Pier Germain, VP of Sales and Marketing at Germain Hôtels. “We pride ourselves on designing spaces that are comfortable and ergonomically well thought out for guests who want to work in their room during the time they are with us.”
Across all properties, Germain Hotels makes an effort to highlight popular leisure activities in the cities they operate.
“We propose packaged day trips to highlight activities guests can do throughout their stay,” says Germain. “Maybe someone wouldn’t have thought to see an attraction, but if we put it in front of them and make it easy and convenient then they might change their mind. Bleisure travel also gives travellers the opportunity to explore cities in a different light or at a time when they might not typically have visited.”
Germain continues, “It’s important to establish partnerships with [nearby entertainment brands] because we’re part of the same industry,” says Germain. [We need to support one another to attract bleisure travellers.]”
BY NICOLE DI TOMASSO