Industries in Depth

Are you a 'bleisure' traveller?

A commuter yawns on a Circular Quay-bound inner-harbour ferry as the Manly Ferry 'Freshwater' is reflected while it passes by the Sydney Opera House, November 24, 2015.

The line between our professional and personal lives is becoming increasingly blurry. Image: REUTERS/Jason Reed

Tiffany Misrahi
Vice-President of Policy, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)
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While the term “bleisure” really doesn’t sound appealing, the concept - it's a combination of 'business' and 'leisure' - may be of more interest. It's about taking some time off to enjoy yourself while on the road with work.

Whether it is truly a new and exciting trend or has in fact been taking place for quite some time, it highlights the blurring of people’s professional and personal lives in the modern world.

Many business executives will tell you they dislike business travel. It was stimulating at the beginning of their career, but after years on the road, the novelty has worn off. And while there has always been a section of business travelers who have been lucky enough to be able to combine business and leisure, most of us don’t. However, this demographic appears to be growing.

Interestingly, research reveals that the group that is taking the most "bleisure" trips is Millennials, who seem to be most comfortable with the hazy line between work and play. Millenials are shaking up the traditional 9-to-5 workday and in turn enabling greater fluidity and a better work-life balance. They prioritize experience and value, and use this same approach when it comes to business travel: they want the whole trip to be a fun experience.

According to a survey by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, 60% of people (out of 640 surveyed) said they were more likely to take a bleisure trip today than they were five years ago. Similarly, approximately 60% of people interviewed stated they have taken such trips, with 30% of these saying that they added as many as two vacation days to their business trip.

Business travelers don’t just use these piggybacked vacation days to travel solo, but often visit friends or even bring their families along with them. Research from Orbitz revealed that of the 72% of 600 American business travelers that extended their trips, 43% had a significant other join them.

This is a unique opportunity, especially given that over 52% of Americans do not use up all their vacation days (leaving an average 7.2 days unused), unlike their European counterparts. Wouldn’t you want to extend your business trip to Paris with a weekend in Rome or go to New York for the weekend after travelling on businesss to Philadelphia? Wouldn’t you want to discover a new city, sightsee, eat local delicacies and discover a destination’s cultural and natural heritage?

While the answer may seem obvious, many people don’t have that kind of flexibility. You may need to get back to the office, not be able to afford it or may simply have personal commitments that don’t allow you to spend an extra day in Honk Kong or San Francisco.

The corporate world is taking note of this trend, yet only one in seven companies have a corporate policy which allows for “bleisure” or “bleisure-like” travel. These types of policies allow employees to take time off, whilst significantly reducing the cost of the trip, as the air-fare is already paid for. At the same time, it enables employees to add on some holidays to their business trip which can be extremely motivating and increase satisfaction, in turn making them more productive, creative and giving them an improved work-life balance. It is a low-cost but effective solution for companies to show its employees it cares, whilst increasing employee loyalty.

This provides an interesting opportunity for the travel and tourism industry to retain these bleisure travelers once they have completed the business portion of their trip. Whether it is through post-stay leisure packages or an exclusive discount for people coming to a certain conference, hospitality companies need to establish how to attract these travelers to stay in their hotel for the “fun” part of their trip.

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