The Rise of Bleisure
I know what you’re thinking; what on earth is ‘Bleisure’ and why on earth is it relevant to travel management? You might also be thinking that it’s an incredibly ugly and frustrating word, along with 99% of the population thinking the same thing. If you prefer, you can also call it ‘bizcation’; another industry buzz word. Bleisure is a combination of Business and Leisure and is used to describe a new trend within the corporate industry; individuals who make time for leisure travel whilst on the road for business; and it’s becoming increasingly popular. In 2015, according to research from BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, six out of ten travellers are more likely to take a bleisure trip today than five years ago. If you type ‘bleisure’ into Google and search for images, you’ll be greeted with a host of men and women in office attire lounging by a pool, working on their laptops and sipping a cocktail. Whilst that’s probably not quite what happens on a bleisure trip, it does set the scene pretty well.
Obviously there are elements of flexibility involved in being able to add a few days holiday onto the end of your business trip, and many job sectors simply do not have the means of extending their stay; a salesperson who has just closed an important deal may need to be back in the office with 24 hours to finalise the paperwork, or often there are other professional commitments in place that can’t be avoided.
However, there are a number of benefits in opting for bleisure travel over the traditional business trip; 83% of travellers say they use their free time to explore their new city, and interestingly, 54% of travellers said they have taken members of their family with them. This may seem odd at first, as when one pictures a business trip, they’re usually filled with images of presentations, meetings and conferences; not playing with the children around the pool. However, financially, it does make sense. As long as the employee is not adding to the financial cost of travel for the company, then it’s essentially a cost and time-effective way to have a mini -family break and take the opportunity to explore a new environment. It’s works quite well; you’re sent off for a two -day business trip to Berlin, your accommodation and your flight is paid for, you simply add two days of annual leave onto the end of your trip, invite your significant other to join you and pay for the extended stay at the hotel – a smart way to spend time together, particularly in an era where being away from loved ones is many a business travellers’ main concern. There are many who would argue that in today’s economic climate, time is becoming increasingly precious. We’re expected to work harder, spend more time in the office and thrive in a competitive environment; and consequently, quality time spent with family and friends is decreasing. Coupled with the financial cost of a leisure break in a foreign city, it actually makes good sense to combine any travel opportunity that arises as a means to maximise your leisure time.
Loyalty schemes play a large part in the rise of bleisure travel as travellers will often continue to stay with brands to which their company is aligned, in order to receive personal miles, points or discounted rates. They can then use those airmiles or points to fly their partner to join them or have an extended hotel stay. Whilst it’s no financial cost to the company to do this, there are elements of business travel policies that play a part in travellers being able to use these loyalty schemes for personal use.
However, inviting family members along on a business trip, despite the lack of financial cost to the company, is somewhat of a grey area. When asked if their company had a policy for bleisure travel, 27% of companies surveyed were unsure, 59% said no, and only 14% said yes. These figures aren’t particularly surprising, as bleisure trips are a relatively new trend and many companies are unsure how to respond; is it for each department or line manager to approve accordingly, is it the function of the travel policy to cement rules in place, or is it simply a ‘don’t ask’ kind of question?
A spokesperson for BridgeStreet strongly believes that companies need to start ‘having an open dialogue about it, as it’s an opportunity to embrace a new trend and create shared interest for business travellers’. In their recent report, 78% of travellers said that taking one or two days annual leave at the end of the business trip, actually makes the experience more productive. Perhaps the typical ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy kicking in, knowing that there’s time to relax just around the corner. Either way, it might be worth assessing the need to address the bleisure trend within your organisation, as it’s growing by the day.
It’s naturally all dependent on your company culture and what would be right for you, but Business Travel Direct believes that; providing there’s a clear line between business and pleasure, and from a financial/time-productivity perspective the company is in no way affected; the hard-working business traveller should indeed take a well-earned break every now and then, and make the most out of every travel opportunity that arises.