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Business Events for Blended Travel

5 Ways to Design Business Events for Bleisure Travelers

Optimize meetings and events for this burgeoning market.

By now it's old news that business professionals are looking for bleisure travel experiences. How can meeting planners and event organizers capitalize on this growing movement? Here are five ideas for five different types of events.

Trend report after trend report confirms it: Blended or "bleisure" travel is here to stay, and it has big implications for meeting and event organizers. Attendees aren’t simply going to a conference for what’s on the agenda; in many cases, the ability to experience more of the destination plays a key role in the decision to attend.

“When you want to drum up excitement about an upcoming event or meeting, lean into the destination,” said Julius Robinson, chief sales and marketing officer, U.S. and Canada at Marriott International. “Whether it’s revenge travel or new opportunities in the ‘work from anywhere’ world, one thing is certain: Business professionals are eager to make the most of their trips. They want to know how you’re building a destination experience into the agenda, and Marriott Bonvoy Events is here to help.”

Of course, there are many different types of business events and meetings, and each will have different needs. To help parse out the right strategy for each situation, we explore five different event types in five different locations.

Incentive Trips: An Island Getaway to Inspire Even Bigger Results

Take your top performers to the top of a volcano? That might sound impossible, but in Hawaii, that kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience happens all the time with a sunrise bike tour to the top of Haleakala on Maui. A trip here shouldn’t be all about a vigorous two-wheeled sweat, though. Organizers can take advantage of loads of opportunities to give incentive winners a sense of the kind of calm that puts Hawaii on everyone’s bucket list. With whale-watching excursions, hula-dancing lessons and traditional luaus, flying here feels like a vacation to forget about anything that happens in the office.

In addition to helping groups explore this paradise, Marriott Bonvoy’s properties have longstanding relationships with local organizations that are working to preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty. For example, the 508-room Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa connects event organizers with a wide range of non-profit groups for beach cleanups, reforestation projects and activities with animals in humane society shelters to help attendees feel a deeper connection to the destination. And as Maui continues to recover from the devastating wildfires in the summer of 2023, Marriott Bonvoy has arranged a Makana for Maui program. Guests are encouraged to pack extra gifts for those in need in the West Maui community. It’s a chance to give back as the community works to rebuild.

Board Meetings: Cultural Immersion for Your Company Advisors in Calgary

When board members get together, the focus is naturally on the big picture of an organization’s future. However, event organizers should also aim to offer a closer look at the culture and customs that define the meeting destination. In Calgary, Marriott Bonvoy’s collection of more than 20 properties offers convenient access to Indigenous experiences that can help groups gain a better appreciation for the historical traditions that remain central to the region’s cultural fabric.

Events can start indoors at The Westin Calgary, which features nearly 26,000 square feet of indoor space in the middle of downtown, and then, they can stretch well beyond those four walls with Buffalo Stone Woman. The Indigenous-owned-and-operated hiking company organizes group workshops and hikes with teachings and stories from the land. Additionally, organizers can take board members to Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park where seasonal dance performances and presentations celebrate the Blackfoot people at the site where Treaty No. 7 was signed.

After meeting the people who make Calgary such a welcoming place (it was named the friendliest city in the world in the most recent Condé Nast Readers Poll), attendees can extend the trip to fall in love with Alberta’s outdoors at the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection. Located 70 miles from downtown, the mountainside property is perfect for skiing, hiking and exploring the Canadian Rockies.

Annual Conventions: Bring the Whole Family to New Orleans for More Fun

A three-day convention doesn’t have to be a solo trip for learning and networking. In fact, more attendees are looking to bring their families along for business events. And while New Orleans may be best known for Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, The Big Easy is equally big for families. Whether staying at the JW Marriott New Orleans, the Q&C Hotel and Bar New Orleans, Autograph Collection or any other of Marriott Bonvoy’s dozens of properties here, there are quite a few reasons for attendees to come early or stay later so the kids can do some exploring.

Attendees can spend an extra day at the Audubon Aquarium where kids can earn their own education credits while learning about the marine ecosystems that surround the city with more than 3,600 animals. It’s not just about looking through the glass; the aquarium offers experiences like snorkeling with cownose rays and meeting endangered African penguins. The aquarium, which is just an eight-minute stroll down Canal Street from the New Orleans Marriott, recently completed a $41 million renovation that includes a redesigned insectarium, a new butterfly garden, a stunning 450,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit and much more.

Family time in New Orleans is more than what’s underwater, though. Attendees can hop on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar to the Audubon Zoo. Beyond having a great time, their kids can go home with bragging rights as they share photos of feeding an alpaca or an orangutan and hanging out with the zoo’s three black bears. And when museum time wraps up, the 1,300-acre City Park is the place to be with miniature golf, a story-themed playground, boat rentals and concerts that show why New Orleans is the real music capital of the country.

Corporate Trainings: A Celebration of Innovation in San Francisco

Corporate training doesn’t have to solely include internal experts. In San Francisco, the Bay Area’s knowledge economy, which includes thought leaders from Stanford, UC Berkeley and a mile-long cast of start-up entrepreneurs, represents a chance to turn a training exercise into a transformative experience. And Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio of over 100 properties offers a perfect fit for every group size, from thousands of attendees at The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square to a more intimate gathering at The Clancy, Autograph Collection, an art-inspired property in the SoMa district.

As more companies work to create a culture that encourages thinking differently, there’s no better place to continue the aim to shatter the status quo after the training wraps up than San Francisco. For example, attendees can head to The Exploratorium, located just one mile from The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. The exhibits at this mind-bending museum of science, art and technology give attendees opportunities to marvel at the mysteries of the world by stepping into the center of a tornado vortex, watching water freeze and getting lost in a swirl of fog.

It’s not just standard museum hours, either; the facility’s After Dark series turns the building into a post-work maze of wonders on Thursday evenings. And if attendees don’t feel like walking back at the end of the evening, even the journey home can reach a new level of awe in San Francisco with a ride in one of Waymo’s self-driving cars.

Executive Retreats: VIP-Level Luxury, Paired With Miami’s One-of-a-Kind Culture

A retreat might sound like an opportunity to get away from it all, but attendees aren’t just looking for poolside lounge chairs and spa appointments (although, to be clear, they definitely need those, too). Miami is synonymous with a VIP experience, thanks to the five-star feeling at The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, The Ritz-Carlton South Beach and The Miami Beach EDITION. Attendees get to wake up with an oceanfront view and focus on business strategy with the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. When the agenda wraps up, though, it’s time to go beyond the beach and discover the food and art scenes of some of the best neighborhoods in South Florida. 

It can sound overwhelming to figure out where to begin exploring Miami’s 55 square miles, but Marriott Bonvoy makes it easy with tips on Miami’s must-see neighborhoods, hidden gems and most photo-worthy spots, like Domino Park in the heart of Little Havana and the creative hub of the Miami Design District. Past groups have exercised their creative muscles by turning city tours into photo-taking excursions, later sharing their favorite pics via social media channels. 

Of course, attendees can do more than capture their own experiences in Miami. They can spend time discovering creativity that comes to life without a smartphone at CubaOcho, where a collection of 19th century and early 20th century Cuban art lines the walls, and salsa bands and Cuban jazz legends soundtrack the evening. A mojito is naturally a perfect pairing.

Marriott Bonvoy: Stretching Across Borders for Every Kind of Experience 

While every meeting has a unique set of objectives, all events now share a common need: to connect attendees with opportunities to turn their trip into a chance to do, see and experience more of the destination. Bleisure travel can mean different things to different attendees. Some may want to bring their spouses and children, while others may want an opportunity for solo adventuring. No matter what your attendees want to do during the hours away from the program, Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio of over 30 hotel brands and 10,000 global destinations puts participants in a position to combine professional travel and personal time. 

This content was created collaboratively by Marriott Bonvoy Events and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.