By Kaitlyn Wallace
In the modern business world, where “grind culture” is idolized and professionals are expected to work both side hustles and nine-to-fives, finding time to travel, enjoy the sights and sounds of a new city, or even simply to relax can be close to impossible.
This is where “bleisure”– a travel experience blending business and leisure– comes in. As the boundaries between work and home life blur, employers and travelers alike are taking advantage of the opportunity for increased professional satisfaction and a better work-life balance by focusing on the rise of the “bleisure” experience.
What Does Bleisure Look Like?
“Bleisure” travel can take many different forms. For some, “bleisure” can look much like a family vacation, with sightseeing and child-friendly activities occurring mainly outside of work hours. For others, leisure can be built into professional schedules, with meeting planners arranging group sightseeing and entertainment to add value to their events and promote wellbeing for their attendees.
Maria Davis, CMP, Director of Meetings and Partner Relations for Missouri REALTORS explains her perspective on “bleisure” as follows: “We know our members like to learn about the city and community they are in– its history, what’s unique to the area, etc. Our members also like to explore the dining options not available in their own communities.” Like any other form of travel, meetings and events attendees are looking for novel experiences that are often unavailable in their home city– the more out-of-the-box, the better!
Like most professional trends in 2022, “bleisure” travel is still heavily influenced by COVID-19. Though the pandemic initially put a damper on travel trends, COVID-19 may actually be driving up the demand for “bleisure” travel. Davis explained that “isolation has no doubt reminded all of us that life is short and can change in an instant… this made us yearn to travel and explore, as well as reminding us of the importance of spending more time with our family and friends. So, any business-related travel can also be an opportunity for a mini-vacation or a reunion.” With the post-COVID push to return to normal life by travelling, socializing, and exploring previously locked-down experiences, “bleisure” travel is experiencing a massive uptick in demand.
But it’s not just the demand for “bleisure” travel that’s changing. Like many other products and experiences, “bleisure” travel is expected to continue on a thematic trend towards wellness and self-care. In a movement partially driven by the work demands placed on many young professionals during COVID, and partially driven by a collective realignment of values in the wake of quarantine, many professionals are looking to shift their focus away from “grind culture” and towards self-care. Davis reiterates this trend, noting that “activities related to wellness, such as spa treatments, hiking, yoga, bike/motorbike tours, and other ‘me time’ activities will be popular for those enjoying bleisure on their own.”
Taking Advantage of Bleisure Trends
So, what can meeting and event planners do to keep up with this trend? As the meeting and events world continues to diversify and expand, attendees are coming to expect more and more from their business and professional experiences. Planners are rising to the challenge by finding new and exciting ways to entertain and inspire their attendees, often by leaning into the quickly accelerating wellness and “bleisure” trends.
Davis offers several key pieces of advice for taking advantage of “bleisure” trends: “Before heading anywhere, do your research and make sure to check in with the local Convention and Visitors Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce regarding popular area activities or events that are taking place during the time of your visit… we also encourage our attendees to arrive a day or two early and/or stay a day or two late. Finally, don’t forget to also look into the activities offered by your hotel of choice. There just might be a good spa, dining experience, well-equipped gym or relaxing pool experience just an elevator ride away.”
The Bigger Picture
As we’ve discussed over the past few months and even years, the trends created by the COVID-19 pandemic are not going away. But this does not always have to be a bad thing– as we’ve seen in the rise of “bleisure” travel and an increased focus on wellness and self-care, the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can actually work to expand and create new markets and experiences for planners and attendees alike.
Embracing the trends created to combat “grind culture” both adds value to meetings and events and helps recharge and restore the energy of attendees. So next time you’re planning an all-business professional event, pause and consider– do your attendees want something more? You might just find that they do– and that you can meet this need by diving headfirst into “bleisure” planning.
Kaitlyn Wallace is a contributing writer from St. Louis.