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Business travel is back, with many formerly homebound remote employees returning to in-person industry conferences to network and discuss trends in their given fields.
As the lines between work and personal life began to blur as people worked from home during the pandemic, they continue to blur as people mix business and leisure travel.
This new trend -- bleisure travel -- lets people piggyback a personal vacation on the company travel dime.
What is bleisure travel?
Bleisure travel is a term used to describe business travel mixed with leisure travel. It typically involves business travelers extending their trip to include leisure activities. Other bleisure travel terms include "bizcation," "workcation" or "blended travel."
According to Expedia's 2022 Q4 Traveler Insights Report, among those surveyed taking business trips, 76% said they planned to take a bleisure trip.
Bleisure travel should not be confused with a flexcation, which combines remote work with leisure travel. According to Expedia's 2023 Traveler Value Index, 28% of people surveyed said they expect to take a flexcation trip in the next 12 months.
Why is bleisure travel popular?
The biggest perk for adding a leisure component to corporate travel is being able to visit a destination at a lower price point. If an employee goes to a conference, they will save on airfare, hotel rooms, car rental and food because the company will pay for it while they're on business. Then if the employee decides to tack a few vacation days on to the trip, they may get hotel and car rental discounts for being a business traveler.
Other popular reasons include the following:
- Reduced carbon footprint. For travelers concerned about carbon emissions, combining business with leisure prevents additional air travel to their selected locale.
- Opportunity to see new places. Business trips often take people to cities they may not have otherwise visited. Adding a few extra days to a trip allows for time to explore the surrounding area and not be stuck in one area of the city.
- Opportunity to recharge. Business travel can often be stressful. An extra couple of days tacked on to the end of a trip to help employees relax so they can be more productive when returning to the office.
- Less time away from loved ones. Many travelers are bringing their families and friends on business trips, letting them spend time and enjoy a trip together after the work is done.
What makes a good bleisure travel destination?
There are many factors in choosing to extend a business trip into a leisure. Some of the top factors include the following:
- Bucket list location. This may be a far-flung locale that a traveler would otherwise never see.
- Easy-to-navigate city. This includes access to subways, buses, ride shares and car rentals as well as its walkability.
- Variety of restaurants. This is especially important for travelers who are food lovers.
- Variety of activities. This includes museums, historical attractions, outdoor shopping and other entertainment.
- Safety and security. Destinations with low crime rates are important, especially to solo travelers.
- Affordability. Locations need to have lodging, restaurants and activities at several different price points.
Beyond destination perks, there are other factors that travelers must consider. That includes additional personal costs, how close it is to the weekend and whether friends and family can go.
According to Quintessentially Travel, some popular bleisure travel destinations that the meet the above criteria include the following:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hong Kong, China
- Melbourne, Australia
- San Francisco
- Tokyo, Japan
What effect does bleisure travel have on the hospitality industry?
Bleisure travel affects the hospitality industry by increasing hotel occupancy rates and average daily rates. Hotel rates are based on supply and demand -- prices increase as rooms sell out. Restaurant food and beverage sales can also increase.
Other ways bleisure travel affects the hospitality industry includes the following:
- Increased demand for additional services. Business travelers and their companions may be more likely to book spa services and sightseeing tours. These additional services are integral for relaxation before employees return to work. Travelers are more willing to pay for them when their company covers the cost of airfare and hotel. They also fill up downtime for traveling companions while the employee is conducting business.
- Increased customer loyalty. When people choose hotels, airlines and car rental agencies, they often choose brands they've done business with before. The more positive exposure travelers have with a brand, the more likely they are to become loyal customers. Brands also often loyalty programs with perks for frequent travelers. As travelers collect points, they can earn free flights, free hotel stays and gift cards.
- Combining workspaces and relaxation. Bleisure travelers need a place to work and play, and hotels are answering. Hotels offer meeting spaces and in-room workstations with desks, wi-fi and smart speakers for travelers to do their work. They also offer fitness centers, pools, hot tubs and bars to unwind and disconnect from work at the end of the day.
Bleisure traveler vs. digital nomad
Bleisure travelers and digital nomads both travel for work. But their lifestyles are completely different.
Bleisure travelers combine business trips with leisure travel. Digital nomads work remotely and travel full time. Other differences between the two include the following:
- Has a single home base but travels for work.
- Enjoys business traveler discounts on the road.
- Typically has a traditional office job.
- Social with friends, family, colleagues and locals.
- Chooses where to live and work.
- Pays their own way on the road.
- Typically a freelancer or self-employed.
- More isolated than bleisure counterparts.
Bleisure travel challenges
While bleisure travel is a great way to see the world on a dime, it does come with its challenges:
- Communication. It's easy to ignore voicemail and email when away from the office. Travelers should be sure to check messages regularly and let colleagues and customers know they will be unavailable at certain times.
- Cybersecurity. Keeping devices safe from would-be hackers on the road can be a little trickier than in the office. Some cybersecurity tips for business travelers include disabling Bluetooth, avoiding public charging stations and disabling automatic connections to Wi-Fi.
- Expense management. Bleisure travelers must be able to separate their business expenses from personal expenses, as companies will only pay for what is related to work. Business expense management software such as SAP Concur, Navan and Expensify can sort this out after a trip.
- Distractions. When there's so much to see and do in a new city, it might be difficult for travelers to focus on the first reason they're there: work. Set a schedule and be sure to set aside time for both work and leisure.
Learn more about digital nomads and other HR buzzwords here.