This story originally ran in the October 25, 2018 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.
TORONTO — Six out of 10 business trips are now ‘bleisure’ trips with vacation days added on. With all those extra vacation days tacked on here and there, are clients starting to cut back on bookings for longer, traditional getaways – the kind that keep leisure-focused travel agencies in business?
Thankfully, no. At least not so far. In our travel-obsessed times, it seems, the more travel days, the better.
Bleisure – it’s an unwieldy name for a simple concept, combining leisure travel time with business travel – has been a growing trend for a few years and now studies are rolling in showing just how popular it is.
Not only do 60% of corporate travel bookings now include a leisure component, the growth is double-digit year over year, according to Expedia Group Media Solutions metrics. The study surveyed travellers in the U.S., UK, Germany, India and China.
Even if we try not to, many of us check work emails on our phones while we’re on vacation. We work when we’re on vacation – so maybe it’s not so surprising that we also want to vacation when we work.
“Let’s be honest, with our always on mobile lifestyles, it is no longer about ‘work-life balance,’ it’s about work-life integration,” says Wendy White, Vice President of Marketing, Egencia, Expedia’s business travel division.
“The growth in bleisure is just another extension of that trend.”
Nearly 68% of business travellers add on bleisure travel one to three times a year, according the survey. The data shows location (25%) and a business trip falling close to a weekend (22%) as the top indicators prompting clients to add a bleisure component.
Booking.com has looked into the bleisure trend too, drilling down to Canadian traveller stats. The company’s Canadian data shows that while bleisure travel is up, Canadian travellers are still opting for longer, more relaxed trips, says Nuno Guerreiro, Regional Manager, Canada for Booking.com.
“We found that while 44% of travellers would rather take multiple affordable trips than one big expensive one, 35% prefer to travel less frequently, so they can spend more when they do go somewhere,” says Guerreiro.
Long vacations, including sabbaticals, still seem to be as popular as ever, he adds. “In our research last year on 2018 travel predictions, we found that 45% of travellers have a travel bucket list in mind and the majority of those (82%) had aimed to tick one or more destinations off their list in 2018. Those with lofty travel goals in mind are usually going to give themselves ample time to experience their bucket list destinations, which again, would tell us that longer, epic vacations are still very popular.”
It’s not so much that one-off bleisure travel is happening at the expense of longer trips, but that Millennials – they fuel just about every travel trend these days – have created the bleisure niche out of sheer necessity. As young people coming into the workforce, Millennials found themselves in entry-level jobs with few vacation days.
“One reason Millennials may be pro-bleisure is they’re often just starting out in their careers and haven’t accrued much vacation yet,” says Egencia’s White. “Sixty-two percent of Millennials say they’re vacation deprived because they can’t afford it (43%), don’t want to use up their days off (30%) and can’t get away from work (22%). Bleisure solves all three of those problems – you can save money on airfare, you don’t lose a day travelling and you’re already out of the office.”
Millennials are already invested in business travel, adds Booking.com’s Guerreiro. To them, adding a leisure component is a bonus. “Business travel is even more of a motivator for the Millennial employee – 46% would pursue a new job for more travel and 37% accepted their job because of it,” he says. “With an eye to the future, flexible corporate travel policies will be more crucial than ever as a workplace benefit, as the millennial generation come to represent the majority of the workforce. In this way, employers will do well to mirror the millennial mind-set – seeing travel as essential to professional success.”
Between airport security lineups, flight delays and cancellations and time away from home, travelling for work can be a grind and no doubt some Millennials will find business trips lose their charm as they climb the corporate ladder.
But not yet, says Guerreiro. “No longer seen as lost time or a career inconvenience, business travel is increasingly seen as an opportunity to expand horizons, find inspiration and progress in a career. Today’s ‘laptop and latte’ breed of employee is increasingly mobile and fluid with their travel plans, looking to strike a balance between business and leisure travel – bleisure.”