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.
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.
Bleisure travel in a nutshell [Infographic]
Here's a quick look at everything you need to know about bleisure:
Examples of 'bleisure'
Looking at things broadly, bleisure can come in numerous different forms. You remember that ping pong table at your office? That is 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 being facilitated by the company. But why is that?
The impact on work/life balance
The rise in bleisure travel comes at a time where the work and personal lives of employees are starting to blur together. The rise of virtual meetings has played a major role in that.
Basically, many more people are now working from their homes, bringing work into their personal spaces unlike anything experienced before.
This can be seen as a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, working from home affords employees many benefits such as removing the need to commute. However, it can become very intrusive.
It seems that ‘burn out’ among employees, especially the younger generations, is a growing problem too. The skewing of the work/life balance towards work likely plays a part in that.
The blurring of business and leisure in travel
This blurring also occurs when traveling on business. 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, the bleisure travel came out on top. 
Once you finish that meeting or meal 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.
However, there are a few barriers that need to be overcome.
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. 
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.
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. 
Another more practical concern for businesses may be the potential data security risks posed by traveling around with business equipment.
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. 
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%. 
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 . 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. 
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.
But why are employees so keen?
Why is bleisure travel popular?
One of the obvious benefits is how the traveler can get some leisure time in the location, usually at a reduced cost than they otherwise could.
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. 
- Work/life balance
Coming back to the topic of balancing personal and work life, 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%).
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.
Another argument for this is how it further empowers employees. It provides them with the ability to independently plan and organize elements of their journey.
This of course depends how it is implemented in the travel policy, but still goes a long way in handing over some responsibility.
- Cultural understanding
Likewise, you could also say that exploring the area and experiencing the local culture will strengthen the relationship with clients located there.
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, at least to some extent.
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.
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. 
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. 
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.
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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