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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | December 22, 2014

InterContinental Marseille Hotel-DieuThis month The Hotel Insider had the opportunity to take part in a TED-style roundtable talk with several InterContinental Hotels & Resorts general managers from around the world, including Mexico City; Marseille, France; and New York City. The topic was the growing Bleisure market — the blurring of business and leisure travel (see M&C's recent feature on the topic at bit.ly/1wyYzbq). The gathering took place at Maysville, a trendy Southern-inspired eatery on New York's west side, where we enjoyed a sampling of small batch brews from the restaurant's extensive whiskey selection.

"Bleisure has absolutely become a big trend for us," said Guillermo Valencia, general manager of the 661-room InterContinental Presidente in Mexico City. "We are running 70 percent plus occupancy on the weekends, and that is primarily from business people who are staying over from their meetings. The room costs the same if you are by yourself or bring someone along with you." To capture the bleisure market, the Presidente has put together a number of itineraries for guests, which allows them to capture the highlights of Mexico City in 36 to 48 hours, either on their own or with a local tour guide.

InterContinental Presidente Mexico CityHerve Houdre, general manager of the InterContinental Barclay in New York City, which is currently closed for a $175 million top-down renovation, says New York is the ideal destination to capture bleisure business. "The bleisure segment has always existed. It is very big in Europe. Only now, we are making it official and talking about it," he said. He referenced a family from France that arrived at the Barclay for the weekend before the hotel closed. They were joining the father who was in the city the previous week attending a meeting. "They flew in for just 48 hours to experience New York with him, and they kept our concierge very busy," he said. "I have been pushing our salespeople at all our New York hotels to offer the Sunday night discount to groups, as a way to keep them and capture the bleisure segment. It's very profitable."

According to Madelijn Vervoord, general manager of the 194-room InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu, which features the first ever Clarins-operated full-service spa, not only is the bleisure market growing, but because meetings are getting shorter, meeting planners have begun asking the hotel for ways to pack more of the destination into breaks, outings, in-room amenities, even meeting-room design. This year the hotel installed a Pétanque area, France's popular sport, in its outdoor garden. Similar to British lawn bowling and Italian bocce, it has become a popular French-themed break with American groups looking to inject some local flair into their itineraries, which leave little time for off-property excursions. As an added bonus, the great grandfather of the family-owned company that makes the steel balls, known as boules, used to play the game gives a talk on the history of the game, discusses how it is played and provides a demonstration.

As we wrapped up our tasting with a nine-year-old Knob Creek Single Barrell Reserve, Houdre pointed out that while TripAdvisor and other online outlets are good sources for bleisure guests hoping to get some serious insider tips on their destination, planners should encourage their attendees to tap the knowledge of the concierge. "The concierge is one of the pillars of the InterContinental brand. They can give you information you absolutely will not find on the Internet," said Houdre. "They participate in all the pre-cons, so use them. They have a wealth of information that can be so helpful to planners."