Does Bleisure Travel Make Business Sense?
Filed under strange new 21st century words – like phablet, listicle, and podcast – is bleisure; the somewhat awkward portmanteau of business and leisure.
It’s a fairly new word, but not such a new concept. Mixing business with leisure is practically unavoidable, because employees and executives should rightly have free time outside of their working periods, even when travelling. Bleisure travel just takes this notion a little further.
Still, the trend has positively exploded since the lifting of covid lockdowns. And that’s great news for hotels, TMCs and agents, who enjoy the extra income from elongated stays.
But does it make business sense, from the corporate client’s point of view? Or is bleisure travel simply a perk that only really benefits the people travelling? That’s what we’re here to find out, because the future of it ultimately depends on whether it makes good business sense.
First, let’s take a look at what counts as bleisure today.
What counts as bleisure?
Bleisure travel comes in two main types:
- Solo or group business travel that has a leisure component tacked on to the start, middle, or end of the trip
- Business trips taken with friends and family
So, a common example would be an executive travelling from London to Rome for a series of business meetings with clients in the city. On the days between meetings, they visit the Colosseum, Vatican City – and numerous other famous landmarks, soaking up the history (as well as the food and wine) along the way.
There’s nothing new about that, and business travellers have been doing it since the stream age. What is new is that the additional leisure component is being facilitated and subsidised by the traveller’s company.
And there’s a reason for this.
Blurring lines between work and personal lives
Remote work during lockdown blurred the lines between our professional and personal lives. Work came into our homes. Dining tables became offices. Our personal devices were used for Zoom meetings, and the constant “ping” of notification after notification became the incessant background noise in our already tattered minds.
For all the benefits of home working – no commute, more personal time, and more flexibility – it’s hard to deny that it was incredibly intrusive.
For some, it was too much. The Great Resignation, a phenomenon largely linked to the pandemic, could have been triggered by burnout, and the “always on” culture of pandemic working.
For some corporates, bleisure travel seems to be the remedy for this: let travelling workers enjoy some recreational time on the company’s dime (partly), to improve their morale, increase engagement, productivity – and tenure.
In a world where the average cost of filling an executive position is £12,178 ($14,936) and can take up to 94 days, adding a leisure element to a business trip is a comparatively tiny price to pay.
So, on the face of it – bleisure travel does make good business sense. Relaxed employees, benefiting from burnout relief on company time, and doing a good job while they’re at it.
But there’s a flipside to all this.
Businesses will have to adapt – and so will travelling employees. Travel policies will need to be rewritten for bleisure travel, and insurance liability for personal or activity components will need to be considered (can the client cover a trip to a mountain bike park, or a ski resort between meetings?).
And of course, there are costs in doing this, both to the client and the employee. It’s not a free holiday: it’s work with extra free time, in a different place. This is where those blurring lines can appear once again – and the potential for abuse of the system has to be noted.
Can bleisure travel be abused?
By employees? Very unlikely.
Travel policies, written correctly, shouldn’t allow for it. Any bleisure travel that gets signed off will have to be in-policy, so the opportunity and scope for travelling employees to take unfair advantage is a non-issue. If the employee breaches the terms, it’s on them.
But can it be abused by companies? Yes.
Whether or not it will is entirely dependent on the underlying culture of the company.
Bleisure could be viewed as another opportunity to capitalise on the leisure time of employees, further eating into their personal lives. We’re talking once again about the invasion of work into leisure; the blurred lines between professional and personal time.
Like when a trip to the waterpark gets cut short for the company standup meeting, or breakfast with your family is interrupted for “just a quick catch up”.
When the time zone isn’t even considered, and “we need this done by close of business” comes in at bed time.
When you’re expected to have your work phone on at all times.
A holiday used to mean leaving work behind altogether – but now, bleisure travel runs the risk of making the separation between the self and the job even less defined.
It is possibly the single biggest issue of bleisure travel, because it can have the opposite effect of alleviating burnout, and contribute further to it. TMCs’ clients need to be aware of this, to avoid the failure of their bleisure incentives.
What do businesses think?
From the available data, it seems that businesses love bleisure travel.
In 2018, 60% of business trips in the USA were considered bleisure travel. In the EMEA region, YoY bleisure travel has steadily increased since 2016, and employees in the APAC area are among the most likely to have a leisure component added to their trip (44%).
A 2019 study revealed that bleisure travel was highest among millennials, with 90% reporting having engaged in bleisure travel in the past year.
And we strongly suspect that it’s going to rise further, among all age brackets.
That’s because there’s a real war for talent being fought across the labour market. Bleisure travel is a major perk, when done correctly, and major businesses will be keen to make it a feature in compensation packages.
Companies are focusing more than ever on the employee experience – and bleisure travellers are more likely to be satisfied with their roles than non-travelling workers.
But it also has other benefits to companies, chiefly for sustainability and company branding.
Bleisure is a carbon emission-reducing measure because, by enabling business travellers to spend time exploring and vacationing with their family alongside their work, it reduces the environmental impact of holidays and flights that would otherwise be taken. It’s a good look that adds to the overall appeal of a company for talent acquisition, and for their customers.
So, with businesses keen on bleisure, it’s up to TMCs to accommodate it.
It could get pretty messy with all those blurred lines – but when it comes to booking hotels for multiple legs on complex itineraries, there’s one tool you’ll definitely want to have in your toolkit: HotelHub.
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