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Bleisure: The Trendy Transformation of Business Travel

In recent years, the landscape of corporate meetings has witnessed a notable shift towards incorporating elements of leisure into business travel — a phenomenon often referred to as “bleisure.” At Brightspot, we call this “Ombre” travel. Ombre is the gradual blending of one color hue into another. In travel, it is the blending of business with leisure time in one trip. With this new shift, organizations are looking for cost-effective solutions to accomplish this. Second-tier cities have emerged as hidden gems with planners by offering unique opportunities for both business and leisure, without compromising the quality and experience of hosted events.

As trends shift in the market, the preference for these small market destinations and the growing importance of blending work with leisure activities is more prevalent than before. Exploring how these dynamics are reshaping the way companies plan and execute their corporate and incentive gatherings will help mold the future of how people meet in person. From cost-saving advantages to enhanced attendee satisfaction, we will discover the benefits of embracing small market trends and integrating ombre travel into the landscape.

In the 2024 Trends Report released by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), 71% of corporate planners are actively open to and seeking new destinations. There is a tremendous interest for shorter-haul incentive trips. Placing a program in a smaller market location means that the local flavor is woven into the event planning. By integrating elements of the indigenous culture, cuisine, and traditions into the program, provides attendees with genuine and immersive experiences that authentically reflect the destination’s unique character. Working with local chefs to create menus and artisans to curate gifting experiences provides both local economic support and allows the destination to speak to the attendees.

By working directly with local growers and suppliers in a small market, sustainability becomes a benefit too. This topic is still top of mind for planners, CEOs, and many Millennial attendees. In fact, Millennials and Gen Z will make up 60% of the workforce by 2025. Younger generations of workers want more efficient ways to spend their time and more mindful gifting options. From reusable beverage containers and crossbody bags made of upcycled materials to creating-your-own welcome amenity lounges, each step contributes to the reduction of waste and providing personalized mementos of the trip.

This plays perfectly with the emphasis on health and wellbeing which has been on the rise. Incorporating wellness activities, healthy culinary options, yoga sessions and mindfulness workshops in local settings are a bonus aimed at supporting an integrated approach to wellness. Mixing in immersive activations or some free time a day pre- or post-event are often a popular and cost-effective way to showcase some second-tier city mystique.

Smaller market destinations provide personalized activities and married with local flavor, while still navigating sustainability and prioritizing well-being to truly provide an “ombre” experience. Event planners can tailor agendas, activities, and amenities to the specific preferences and interests of attendees. This helps to create a more meaningful and memorable experience for all involved. There is a destination appeal of extending a day on a business trip for leisure that draws attendees in that can’t be denied. Everyone enjoys visiting a city they’ve never been to before so why keep attendees cooped up in the 4-walls of a meeting room the entire time? Options for exploration can be provided to guests within pre-registration materials and selections can be collected during the registration process. Whether it is a sponsored group event or the option to pre- or post-extend. Always provide the option for Ombre.

At the end of the day, leveraging second-tier cities for corporate meetings and short-haul incentive travel programs provides a cost-effective option while offering opportunities for business, leisure, and crafting memorable moments for participants. This trend is likely to continue as companies continue to work with tight budgets while still trying to maintain the quality of the attendee experience.

Here are some of Brightspot’s favorite second-tier city destinations with Ombre appeal:

Tucson, Arizona

Carmel by the Sea, California

Santa Barbara, California

Saint Augustine, Florida

Louisville, Kentucky

Sante Fe, New Mexico

Asheville, North Carolina

Fredericksburg, Texas

Williamsburg, Virginia


About Michelle Crosby

Michelle Crosby, CMP, CITP is a seasoned hospitality professional with over 25 years of experience. As an accomplished account executive at Brightspot Incentives and Events, an esteemed agency catering to Fortune 1000 and mid-market clients, Michelle specializes in orchestrating sales incentives programs, crafting bespoke group incentive travel, and seamlessly managing full-service meetings.

Michelle’s journey in hospitality has been rich and diverse. Prior to her tenure at Brightspot, she honed her skills across various roles, from sales and services positions at three prominent hotel chains to orchestrating special events for a well-known NFL Stadium. She also held management-level positions at several national destination management companies, each contributing to her wealth of expertise.

Driven by her own experiences, Michelle is passionate about paying it forward. Recognizing the value of mentorship, she dedicates her time to guiding young individuals and Millennials aspiring to break into the dynamic world of hospitality.

When she’s not immersed in the world of incentives, Michelle finds joy in the company of her husband of 23 years and her beloved cocker spaniel, Hershey, at their home just outside Dallas, Texas.