An Inside Look at the Leisure Trend –

Business travel has long been a staple of the hospitality industry. From corporate events to client meetings to trade shows and conventions, business travel has always played an important role in the health of airlines and hotels, especially as a midweek revenue driver.

Contributed by Duane Marshall, Valor Hospitality Partners, Atlanta, GA

While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly halted leisure travel and nearly brought the hospitality industry to a standstill, business travel has also seen a drastic decline. With in-person dinners replaced by Zoom meetings and conventions replaced by virtual trade shows, many hospitality industry leaders feared the once-booming business travel market would never fully recover.

What emerged instead, however, was a new phenomenon that the industry has coined as “leisure travel.”

As the hospitality industry continues to recover from the pandemic, it is now more important than ever to stay at the forefront of emerging trends. Leisure travel provides a unique opportunity to creatively improve service offerings, increase revenue, and invest in the work-life balance of your team members.

What is “leisure travel” anyway?

Vacation travel is exactly what it sounds like – a combination of business travel and leisure travel. With many corporations changing their policies regarding office attendance to remote work, the new work-from-home model has given workers more flexibility than ever before.

Newfound freedom, opportunity

COVID-19 has turned coffee tables into the new corporate office, making rush hour travel non-existent as much of the workforce transitions to a virtual state. Now that many companies are encouraging or requiring their employees to move back to headquarters, many employees are highly resistant to doing so.

As a result of this newfound flexibility and new economy, remote workers have the freedom to plug in from anywhere in the world. Why visit a big city just for a corporate meeting when you can extend your trip to have some free time as well?

What once made business travelers spend as little time as possible away from the office is now opening up an opportunity for the industry to create offerings tailored to both business and leisure travelers.

Industry impact

As leisure travelers often extend their business trips by several days to accommodate personal interests and exploration, this new travel segment has begun to change the weekly booking patterns of many hotels.

Historically, business travelers have primarily helped drive Monday-Wednesday bookings. As the leisure trend continues to grow, Thursday and Sunday nights are now outpacing historic business travel bookings. These factors contribute to what is expected to be a full ADR recovery for most markets in 2022.

Outside of hospitality and airlines, leisure travelers also have an impact on the cities they visit. Using their company-paid flights and covered travel expenses, business travelers turned tourists are able to patronize local restaurants, attractions and businesses that might not otherwise have business customers. This allows hotel brands to capitalize on a growing trend that not only supports a particular property, but also the health of the city as a whole.

How can my team capitalize?

Deploying initiatives to support leisure travelers will ensure that your hotel remains an attractive option during the booking process and remains top of mind for referrals and repeat business.

For example, Valor Hospitality Partners capitalizes on the opportunities presented by the leisure market by offering special packages and amenities at relevant hotel properties to encourage corporate travelers to extend their stay at their destination. When demand is low, hospitality leaders may consider offering discounts or other amenity benefits to guests who extend their reservation, encouraging them to book a longer stay at your property. If a company will cover the cost of two nights, what incentives can you offer the guest to add additional nights on their own dime?

Also, consider how to maximize your existing space to support the remote worker. Possibilities include adding flexible workspaces in public areas, opening up meeting rooms for guests to use as a temporary office, and offering flexible check-in and check-out times, all of which are attractive amenities to incorporate into marketing strategies.

Don’t forget your own employees

The hospitality industry revolves around travel and tourism, so it’s only natural to attract team members with an affinity for travel and a passion for exploration. Just as leisure travel serves as an opportunity to increase your profit, it also provides an opportunity to differentiate your brand as the best place to work.

When you or your team start traveling for work again, consider any opportunities to offer leisure benefits. Can you identify and book properties that offer incentives to leisure travelers? Do you encourage your team to try the local market? Is there an opportunity for them to unwind and relax?

For example, Valor Hospitality Partners does not set business hours when a team member is on the road. So travelers are free to set their schedules as they see fit. This provides a more flexible opportunity to explore the destination without the constraints of a 9-to-5 schedule.

As the world continues to adjust to the new normal, being open and adaptable to changing travel trends is paramount to your brand’s success. The leisure trend, in particular, has proven to be a winning proposition, giving travelers greater freedom to enjoy business travel, allowing the hospitality industry to expand business models to support these travelers, and providing businesses with an opportunity to invest in their own teams.

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