This Just In

Bleisure Trend Takes Off with Trade Show Attendees

FRANCES FERRANTE, SENIOR EDITOR
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CHICAGO — The web page for Informa Connect’s upcoming Greenbuild International Conference + Expo this Nov. 1-3 in San Francisco includes a prominently placed video featuring Mayor London Breed welcoming potential attendees to her city. “Our food and wine scene is second to none, and the cultural experiences available to you are extensive and inspiring. Please take the time to enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer.”

What that used to mean for convention attendees was a night out on the town with colleagues, or maybe leaving the show a little early one afternoon to explore the shops near Moscone Center or take a quick hop over to the Ghirardelli chocolate factory.

Not anymore. Now, a trip to a trade show often includes tacking on a weekend or more, according to the latest research on what’s become known as “bleisure” travel. Forbes declared that bleisure is poised to take over traditional business travel—including to trade shows—in 2022 and beyond: “A full 89% of people plan to add personal vacation time to their business travel this year—many of whom will bring family and friends along.”

The reasons for this trend are varied. For one, maxxed-out employees are finding it harder to take week-long vacations. They can work from anywhere. And tacking a couple of days onto a trip to a convention is economical since their airfare and hotel are already covered.

The Industry Adapts for Bleisure

Hotel companies are responding in numerous ways, from changing the design of their big-box hotels to be more experiential and lifestyle-driven to partnering with tour operators to offer itineraries and amenities that showcase the destination.

Show organizers have also picked up on the trend and, in certain industries, are marketing the destination more prominently or even choosing destinations that build excitement among potential attendees and drive them to participate.

“We are seeing an increased interest in selecting destinations that offer appeal to the attendees and take them beyond the four walls of the convention center,” Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Director of Meetings, International Association for Dental Research and American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research, said.

The web site for the association’s upcoming congress in Marseilles is an example, with content describing the city, which is famous for its gastronomy and leisure activities. “On top of that,” it says, “the wonderful weather in September allows for sailing, swimming, hiking and climbing in the famous creeks (les Calanques).”

Zeck said, “Our site selection criteria prioritize destinations that offer walkability to shops, restaurants and historic sites. Our board has also voted to select destinations that offer pre-and post-congress tour options to enhance attendance and interest. By selecting these venues at least four to five years in advance, our members can plan for their trips well in advance.”

Reach Leslie Zeck at lzeck@iadr.org