The question is quickly becoming irrelevant.
“Bleisure” is a frankenword I can’t bring myself to say aloud. It sounds like a probiotic food supplement. However, I thoroughly endorse the trend of intentionally combining business and leisure travel. The concept, of course, is not new. Many of us have wince-worthy recollections of conferences that offered registrants a package that included “shopping and sight-seeing excursions for your spouse,” presumably so the menfolk could bring their wives along to the convention and then extend for a few days in Las Vegas. Yikes.
Thankfully, this thinking has gone the way of smoke-filled conference rooms. Younger professionals are seeking to infuse more of what matters into every aspect of their complex lives. It is less about juggling schedules and more about immersing oneself in multiple layers of each experience.
Owing largely to this fresh perspective, we may be at the point of dispensing with any number of useless distinctions. For example, do we really care about the gender of a traveler and whether they are strictly traveling for business or pleasure? I don’t think so. If I arrange my schedule so that with every city I visit I take time to explore something new, make meaningful connections, and promote personal harmony in my life, I call that making good choices.
We can thank a pent-up demand for vacation travel for giving this trend new momentum, and young professionals for making it a priority. Research showed that 72 percent of Gen-Zers were either already planning or considering splurging on a really big trip, followed by Millennials (68 percent), Gen-Xers (60 percent) and Baby Boomers (51 percent).
Our own post-pandemic research shows that now, when deciding whether or not to attend an event, Millennials, more than any other group, consider whether or not a destination offers personal vacation/relaxation opportunities. This is what we’ve come to think of as the pursuit of “Arts and Eats.” When we couple this with the shift toward remote/flex work habits, two other insights emerge: One, it’s easier for people to extend their stay because they are managing their own work schedules; two, if they have been working remotely with team members who are distributed across the country, they may be seeking the kind of face-to-face networking opportunities that events can facilitate. (This research was referenced in my previous blog.)
As experience designers, we have an opportunity — perhaps an obligation — to make the events we host more conducive to this balanced mindset. We can schedule activities to conclude near a weekend so that it’s convenient to extend the stay. By partnering with the destination city, we can arrange for packages that include additional hotel nights, tickets to attractions, and discounts for places of special interest. Why not stage aspects of your event at satellite locations around the host city so that attendees get a taste for the locale and what it has to offer? Promote hiking, fitness and wellness opportunities that are unique to the area. Reach out to local businesses whose products and services might be of particular interest to your audience; perhaps you can arrange an in-kind sponsorship that benefits everyone.
It’s time to think outside of the convention-center box. The only box event planners need to worry about is time itself. What matters is how we help people fill it.
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