Understanding the bleisure travel trend

It seems that businesses are embracing bleisure travel. And that's great news for business travelers.

It's a perk, benefit, and a great way to motivate travelers that are away on business to go to locations and get the most out of the experience – once the work is done, at least.

For today, we’ll be taking a look at why bleisure travel so effective, why businesses are embracing it and the implications this will have on the corporate travel industry.

   Contents

What is bleisure travel?

Examples of bleisure travel

Why is bleisure travel popular?
Potential issues of bleisure travel
Are businesses on board?
It’s getting easier to combine business and leisure travel
 

What is bleisure travel?

Bleisure travel refers to travel that combines business and leisure activities on a single trip. When traveling somewhere for work, you could set aside some of your free time to sight-see, for example.

It's all in the name, which as you may have guessed, is a portmanteau of the words business and leisure. Also known as 'workations', the purpose of these trips revolves around the business aspect, with the leisure part being more of an addition that is said to have a positive effect on the traveler overall.

This makes sense intuitively, but it's worth looking closer at what counts as bleisure.

The blurring of business and leisure in travel

More than ever, the line between the personal and work lives of employees is becoming blurred. Trends like the rise of virtual meetings, have played a role in that. But now, this is starting to be felt in travel – but in a more positive way.

The experience is not unlike a regular vacation when you step off the plane in a new location. However, you‘ll likely have a strict schedule to keep in order to make it to that exhibition on time and so don’t have time to get to know the location before you are swept away on the next activity on your agenda.

In this context, you can start to see how the concept of business/leisure travel started to appear. People are looking to rebalance the needs of work and leisure while away to get the best of both worlds.

The data backs this up: When corporate travelers were asked about their favorite work-life balance measures, bleisure travel came out on top. [1]

Once you finish that meeting with the client, do you just head straight back to the hotel? What about squeezing in an extra day and flying home on a Saturday or Sunday? If all work has been done, then you would think it would be fine to check out some tourist spots.

That is the essence of bleisure in travel.

 

Bleisure travel in a nutshell [Infographic]

Here's a quick look at everything you need to know about bleisure:

bleisure-travel-trend-infographic

 

Examples of bleisure travel

Looking at things broadly, bleisure can come in numerous different forms. You know that ping pong table at your office? That's one example of combining leisure activities in a business context. The same is true for any other dedicated leisure spaces in the workspace.

The quintessential example of bleisure travel is the business traveler who is flying off to another city to attend a meeting or an event and plans to visit a landmark or two while there.

Here are a few scenarios that would count as an example of bleisure travel:

  • A business traveler attending a conference in New York City who extends their trip to spend a few extra days exploring the city's museums, restaurants, and iconic landmarks.

  • A salesperson traveling to a client meeting in San Francisco who adds on an extra day to visit nearby wine country and enjoy some wine tasting.

  • A consultant traveling to a project site in Bali who takes some time off afterwards to enjoy the island's beaches, temples, and cultural attractions after completing their work.

  • A software developer traveling to a tech conference in Tokyo stays the weekend to explore the city's cuisine, fashion, and cultural experiences like a tea ceremony or sumo match.

Then there are freelancers and the wider ‘digital nomad’ community – these people are location independent, allowing them to be more mobile and explore new places in between their work.

You get the idea.

While bleisure has recently risen in prominence, it's not necessarily a new phenomenon – as long as there has been business travel, it stands to reason that some took their free time from their schedule to explore the hotel and surrounding area, too. They didn’t necessarily have time dedicated to leisure, but instead used their evenings to look around.

The difference is that now this kind of combination of leisure and business is now more structured – and is being facilitated by the company.

Why is bleisure travel popular?

millennials-and-bleisure-travel

Bleisure travel is on the rise. But what makes it so popular?

There are many benefits that the trend can bring about to both travelers and their employees. Here are a few of the headline benefits that can come about:

Benefits of bleisure travel

- Cost

One of the obvious benefits is how the traveler can get some time dedicated to exploring the location at their own leisure. More importantly, it comes at a reduced cost.

The flights to and from the destination are usually covered by the company as part of the business trip, and so it makes little difference if these flights were moved to the weekend.

- Morale

In terms of morale though, many people state that it helps prevent burnout from non-stop work and makes them happier. This translates to better quality work.

First up is employee satisfaction in their quality of life. In general, business travel is now seen as a perk, but it seems that when leisure elements are then brought in, the impact is increased.

When asked about their quality of life, those who have bleisure traveled were more likely to be satisfied – about 93% compared to 75% of those who have not done so. [2]

- Work/life balance

As mentioned, the rise in bleisure travel comes at a time where the work and personal lives of employees are starting to blur together. Many more people are now working from their homes, bringing work into their personal spaces unlike anything experienced before.

It seems that combining business and leisure when traveling really helped with this. This same report found that these travelers were more satisfied with their work/life balance (87%) against others (64%). [2]

Many businesses are more than accommodating for this, even to the point that they allow business travelers to bring along their family. This is usually at their own cost, though.

- Empowerment

Another argument for this is how it empowers traveling employees. It provides them with the ability to independently plan and organize elements of their journey around their desires.

This of course depends how it is implemented in the travel policy, but still goes a long way in handing over some responsibility and independence.

- Cultural understanding

The ability to explore a location can also enable more cultural understanding. Travel is a great way to experience local customs and gain a deeper understanding of local culture, which can then be applied to business relationships. That is to say, it helps to strengthen the relationship the travelers have with partners and clients located there.

- Sustainability

This is all not to mention the potential reduction of carbon footprint. Sustainability is a big topic right now for businesses but comes at a cost. But, by enabling business travelers to spend time exploring while already there, it makes them less likely to travel there themselves, as they can see many of the sights during the business trip.

This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that business trip itineraries are becoming busier as businesses try to increase the value of each travel and reduce their carbon footprint.

All of this is probably why businesses are so receptive – it increases the satisfaction of employees and looks good on a job description, helping to attract more talent. And that isn’t all.

Potential issues of bleisure travel

Due to the nature of bleisure travel, things can get complicated when it comes to separating the business from the private.

- Travel policy

Of course, travel policies would need to be reworked to allow for this new dynamic. New rules and guidelines will have to be written up and the boundaries of duty of care will need to be determined.

This means that there is a further need to educate and ensure compliance which could potentially prove to be a problem as travelers enter ‘leisure mode’.

- Legal and insurance

This is also important as legal and insurance issues can cause headaches, making these boundaries difficult to define. Ultimately, around 31% of businesses don’t extend their corporate travel risk policy to extra days or leisure time, leaving travelers on the hook. [3]

- Visas

When traveling abroad, it also becomes more important to double check that the appropriate visa is obtained where needed and that it allows for any activities that are planned for both aspects of the trip.

- Expenses

Likewise, it is important that expenses for business are properly separated from leisure expenses, both for settlement purposes and potentially taxes. The fact is that only 4% of surveyed business travel managers stated that bleisure activities would be covered by their company – outside the inbound and outbound flights. [4]

- Security

Another more practical concern for businesses may be the potential data security risks posed by traveling around with business equipment.

It's also worth pointing out that some people don't like the concept of a workation – it can be an odd feeling. In fact, this can really hamper the experience for travelers and make it less enjoyable.

As you can see, there is quite a bit to overcome to make bleisure travel a reality and so businesses need to be on board. Is that likely to happen?

Are businesses on board?

Right from the get-go, it seems that they are indeed on board. Let's take a look at what the statistics say about bleisure travel:

By 2018, 60% of business trips in the US incorporated some sort of leisure component. [5]

We can see the same trend in the EU too. Based on our own data from our core EU markets, we have found that the share of business trips that started on a weekend – which signifies that some non-work time has been allocated – stood at 16.1% in 2022. This is up from 2019, where the proportion was 13.4%. [6]

This trend looks to grow further too.

One study asked travelers whether they had taken part in bleisure travel in the last year. At 80% and 81% respectively, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are already well on-board with the movement [2]. This grows to 90% for millennials.

But what’s the point? What incentive do businesses have to offer this? Well, it’s because businesses are gearing up for the fight for skilled workers that is expected to take place.

In another study of ours, it became clear that businesses will be battling it out to attract and retain skilled workers. [7]

Therefore, employee satisfaction will be a major focus in the coming months. Many people regard business travel and more so the opportunity to bleisure travel as a benefit or job perk.

It’s getting easier to combine business and leisure travel

Seeing the changing tides, companies serving the business travel industry have started to cater to this change.

As mentioned, one of the biggest barriers to bleisure travel is the logistics. While employers are more willing to offer employees to enjoy leisure time while out on business, they probably are not so willing to pay for it. This includes things such as hotel and transport.

So, what are companies doing to cater for this?

Mobility as a Service or ‘MaaS’ is a model that is slowly reshaping transport. One of the main hallmarks of MaaS is how it places usability and user-friendliness at the forefront of the experience by making it more accessible in terms of design as well as integrating multiple forms of transport into one place.

Brands are adjusting for bleisure

As you can imagine, this makes it easier to organize business/leisure travel. There are a few examples of some different brands adapting their platforms for this, too.

Avis Car Rental is one such example. It is now offering a bill splitting feature in its mobile app that enables customers to divide payment between corporate and personal credit cards or other forms of payment. [8]

Users are able to split their payments in a number of different ways based on the needs, such as by the total bill amount or by rental days. The cost of vehicle upgrades can also be placed on a second form of payment during a single rental period.

This kind of flexibility makes it much easier to delineate the boundaries between work and leisure time whether an extra day is added or for individual trips.

Marriott is another example. CEO Tony Capuano has made note of this change, with the company adjusting its marketing accordingly. The company will also be adjusting its hotels to fit the bleisure traveler clientele, where the hotel itself becomes part of the destination and where additional services that complement the lifestyle are made available. [9]

As these examples illustrate, the movement of the market is pushing service providers to adapt and reshape their model around business-leisure travel.

Whether that involves making the separation of payments easier or offering services tailored to the bleisure traveler’s needs, more and more companies are coming on board.

The Oktoberfest effect

bleisure-travel-oktoberfest

Every year in late September, Munich welcomes millions of travelers around the globe for Oktoberfest, a festival showcasing Bavarian culture.

What makes it interesting for our topic today is the affect it has on business travel. Munich is the top destination in Germany for business travelers. But during Oktoberfest, the daily rate of airline tickets destined for Munich increases by 50%. [10]

It seems clear that the festival plays a role in this jump, and that the intention for these business travelers is to take part in the festivities.

It is likely that business trips are purposefully planned during the event period as a perk for business travelers who may otherwise not be able to attend. On the other hand, the clients or partners may also enable this as a way of strengthening their relationship with the traveler.

Whatever the reason, this is a fascinating look at how bleisure travel can shape broader travel trends.

Focusing on the employees

If managed properly and accounted for in the planning to some extent, bleisure travel looks to be a very positive change. Sure, there blurring of work and life can be worrisome and cause conflict, but it also offers new opportunities to the travelers.

They can get more out of their travel and go so far as to increase their satisfaction in their quality of life. This means better morale and productivity for the business at little to no extra cost.

It will only get easier too as new solutions come into play that better facilitate the separation of payment for business and leisure, whether that be an extra day at the hotel or a couple extra journeys.

There is even the eco-friendly angle too, as travelers will not need to make a return trip somewhere as they didn’t get to see or do something while out on work there. In any case, this seems to be a manifestation of the more employee-focused outlook businesses are taking.

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Banner photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

Photo by DocuSign on Unsplash

Photo by Manuel Joseph on Pexels

 

[1] Preferred work-life balance support measures of business travelers worldwide | Statista

[2] National Car Rental 2019 State of Business Travel Survey Fact Sheet | Nationalcar

[3] Bills, Borders and Bleisure - the fast changing world of business travel | Collinsongroup

[4] Readiness of companies to reimburse for business trips combining leisure activities worldwide | Statista

[5] New Research: Business and Leisure Travel are Becoming Increasingly Blurred | Skift

[6] AirPlus reveals business travel trends for 2023 | AirPlus.com

[7] Companies will continue to rely on remote working | AirPlus.com

[8] Avis courts bleisure travelers with new payment-splitting option | Phocuswire

[9] Marriott Bets on the ‘Bleisure’ Lifestyle | WSJ

[10] Oktoberfest 2023: Bleisure trips on the rise | AirPlus


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