Workplaces, hotels see bleisure as a growing norm for business travel
Combining a leisure excursion with business travel, also known as “bleisure,” is growing in popularity among corporate travelers, and while the trend was pioneered by millennials as a way to save money on their short vacations, the majority of corporate travelers among baby boomers and Generation X are catching on. In fact, nearly 80% of executives add leisure travel onto their business trips, according to a survey of over 3,000 director-level and above business professionals conducted by SmartBrief in 2017.
As more employees are seeing the opportunity for bleisure travel as a perk, companies – and hotels – are acknowledging the unofficial benefit as a trend that helps provide employees with greater job satisfaction and overall happiness as it allows for a balance of work and play.
Workplaces on board
Companies appear supportive of the new trend, allowing staff members to add leisure time to business trips, especially if the employee offers to pay for the extra lodging and expenses. Though in many cases, a company may pick up the tab for weekend travel, if it will make the work week more productive and successful.
Danielle Schlowow, senior growth strategist at Multiplica, a digital agency, travels internationally for work and says that while her business pays for her entire work trip, she will up-sell it as an opportunity to connect with the people she met at a work event.
“I let them know I’m having coffee with this guy, lunch with this guy and dinner with so and so,” she explains, adding that this is a great way to expand her network and connect with people she otherwise would not have had time to converse with.
While some millennials prefer to keep their bleisure travel days a secret out of fear of looking unprofessional, those vacation days are frequently encouraged by employers. “We have seen bleisure travel grow mainly because more corporations are not only allowing it, but are also embracing it,” says Dave Hershberger, president of Prestige Travel Leaders in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In the US, business travelers are tacking on leisure in major cities such as San Diego, Seattle, Boston and Minneapolis. Overseas, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney are the top hot spots for bleisure travel. Hong Kong and Melbourne are rated as the top quality destinations by corporate travelers, mostly due to the transportation systems, sense of safety and dining options.
Hotels are appealing to bleisure travelers by offering co-working spaces that go beyond the traditional business centers.
In the US, the Ace Hotel in New York City features a lobby with communal tables and plenty of electrical outlets, and the Virgin Hotel in Chicago has its Virgin Commons Club, a co-working space with a monthly membership. The Hutton Hotel in Nashville offers writers studios and close proximity to the vibrant Music City attractions.
Abroad, Hobo Hotel in Stockholm advertises itself as “a meeting point, a workplace, an office or just a nice place to visit and hang out.” Tobacco Caye Paradise in Belize offers an overwater bungalow co-working space.
“The Belizean tourism industry is fully committed to accommodating the needs of our guests, whether they're seeking a rainforest adventure, world-class scuba diving along the Belize Barrier Reef or a relaxing overwater bungalow to finish laying out the last slides of a presentation…if you must,” says Karen Bevans, director of tourism at the Belize Tourism Board.
Experts say bringing the family along when traveling for business relieves stress because travelers can “avoid the distraction of missing loved ones and focus better during meetings.” Modern travel solutions, such as Freebird, likewise seek to reduce stress on travelers by taking care of ticket bookings after a missed flight or cancelation. These easy solutions and convenient apps are massively popular with frequent travelers, as business travelers typically have 3.1 travel apps.
Mart Tucci of Naya Traveler says participating in bleisure travel allows people to “disconnect from the stresses of business travel, really switch off and explore a new destination.”
A guide to bleisure travel
To take full advantage of these relaxing travel days, meetings scheduled for the beginning or end of the work week are recommended, as they provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy a city over a weekend without losing any vacation days. If an employee is looking to save money during this time, perhaps ask the employer if it’s possible to use their lodging rate at a hotel, which is typically cheaper than a hotel’s standard nightly rate. Employees should be prepared, however, to possibly pay for their own meals and hotel room once the work portion of a trip has ended.
Typically following the end of summers, there is a large surge in bleisure travel. September sees a 15% rise in bleisure trips, while October sees an 18% boost, according to Forbes.
“If you want to immerse into a unique culture and lifestyle, it’s worth investing in a travel planner that can tailor your itinerary around your preferences and time constraints,” Tucci suggests.
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