The rise of ‘bleisure’ travel

Bleisure travel is strong and increasing in popularity year-over-year. We spoke to Derrick Britt, director of sales, Choice Hotels Canada, for his thoughts on bleisure travel and its industry impacts.

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Derrick Britt, Director of Sales, Choice Hotels Canada

Q & A

What do the current numbers look like around “bleisure” travel?

Britt reports that just over 21.7 per cent of Choice Hotels revenue from the corporate segment came in over Friday and Saturday night indicating an extension of a trip from business to leisure. This year, looking from January to April 2024, that number is already at 21.4 per cent.

Generationally, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), millennials are most likely to take bleisure trips and from a motivational perspective, it is all about the location—taking the opportunity to spend time in a destination they have always wanted to see.

How should an organization respond to rising bleisure numbers?

Personal travel is increasingly combined with business trips—the bleisure trip. According to the GBTA, three factors come into play when deciding whether to stay at the same hotel for the business and leisure portion of a trip and they are, understandably: price, followed by loyalty/rewards program and amenities. This underscores the significance of strong loyalty and rewards programs to help keep travellers in hotels. These programs empower travellers to earn points during their journeys and redeem rewards to share with friends and family on future trips.

How have loyalty and rewards evolved under the Choice Hotels model?

The evolution of rewards and loyalty programs like Choice Privileges includes the functionality of allowing members to choose their rewards whether on hotel stays or VIP experiences etc. It’s important to ensure guests see the value of a loyalty program and for benefits to live beyond the hotel.

“Through our loyalty and rewards program, creating an opportunity for members to redeem for once-in-a-lifetime experiences builds a connection to not just our hotels but to all our brands,” offers Britt.

Where have loyalty programs originated versus where they’re going?

Loyalty programs have become more personal, there is now more of a relationship with the brands than ever before. “Given that Choice has so many hotel brands to offer in Canada, Choice Privileges is the common thread that links them all together,” says Britt. So regardless of the hotel where they are staying, guests can feel connected and important to their program, it is no longer just about the accumulation of points.

How are loyalty and rewards used to incentivize corporate travellers? And how have programs adapted to serve bleisure travellers?

Having offers and promotions that are exclusive to corporate travellers makes all the difference. Having the ability to earn while travelling for business allows members to then use their earned points towards their next leisure stay. With bleisure travel, they can leverage those benefits right away.

Please talk about building partnerships across the travel and tourism industry and hotel loyalty programs

This means working with some great travel partners to allow loyalty programs to give members even more options, like car rentals, cruises, and partner hotel companies from luxury, to casino hotels and even timeshares.

What do you think the outlook is for the next six months to a year for the Canadian hotel industry?

The outlook is looking great for the industry. “To put it into perspective, our RevPAR is 30 per cent higher than in 2019, so we’ve had more than a full recovery since the pandemic,” explains Britt. There are a number of factors that are contributing to a strong outlook, including a resurgence in demand for corporate travel, and the demographics are broad—both older and younger Canadians are travelling.

Baby boomers are doing more road trips and younger people are prioritizing travel in their spending. There is also a very favourable supply and demand relationship, given that 3 per cent of hotel rooms in Canada were repurposed for non-hotel use during the pandemic and very few new hotels have been built in the last three years. While the supply side is limited, the demand has increased, making it a positive environment in the industry for the next few years.

Sustainability is proving to be critically important to both guests and franchisees, Britt says that we will see improvements in this area in the next few years. Loyalty will continue to be a major contributor to guests, and most importantly bleisure travellers.

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