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INSIGHT: Delegate behaviour – mixing business and pleasure?

21 February 2024

Author: Andrew Swanston, Head of Sales – Conferences & Events


After the Covid-19 pandemic, many in the conference and events industry questioned how people’s attitudes to in-person events might have changed. A fair question, given the large-scale behaviour change which had taken place and the many aspects of working life which had adapted to the online world.

To delve into this question further, we commissioned research to understand the behaviour of event delegates and to understand what trends are most likely to shape the future of our industry. Our report, ‘Event with Intent’  uncovers and explains some of these motivations and behaviours.


Business before bleisure

One trend prediction and a catchy term which we have often seen cited in the media is ‘bleisure’ – the combining of business and leisure, to make the most of travelling to a destination event. Industry commentators in the media discussing the trend suggested that this ‘two birds with one stone’ idea would be particularly popular given restricted spending budgets, the impact of the cost of living and a growing consciousness around carbon footprints. 

For our report, we spoke to 300 delegates, event organisers and agencies and found that ‘bleisure’ has not caught on in quite the way many had predicted. More business focused goals such as networking were still the main reasons for attending an event: ‘Opportunities to network’ emerged as the number one priority for attendees, selected by over 60% of respondents to our survey, whilst only two people selected ‘leisure’ as the most important factor for attending an event.


Baked in bleisure

This is not to say that the leisure opportunities of a destination aren’t an important factor. The attractiveness of a destination and the draw for attendees will always be enhanced by the dining, hospitality, entertainment and other leisure activities on offer. Our research suggests London has it in spades, with delegates scoring the leisure opportunities in the capital 4.4/5 on average.

The event agencies we spoke to agree that the most successful events of the near future will be those which can provide a more ‘blended’ bleisure - incorporating leisure activities and experiences into the day, whilst providing different types of opportunities to network and build relationships.

Leisure opportunities shouldn’t be overlooked by organisers, but viewed as part of the overall value mix. Continued investment in the capital’s vibrant culture and leisure scene, as well as creating options to suit different budgets, will be key to maintaining London’s position as the top event destination.

Investigating the intent behind visitor behaviour will enable ExCeL to stay ahead of the trends when it comes to attending events and delegate priorities. And we hope this will prove invaluable to event and conference professionals, as you navigate the exciting challenges and opportunities of our industry in the year ahead.

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