The travel industry is constantly changing, and one of the latest trends bringing new light to business trips is bleisure travel. A testament to how our working habits have evolved and our wanderlust has grown, bleisure travel has a large appeal amongst working professionals and their families.
Let’s learn more about this new way of travel, how you can benefit from it, and what hospitality businesses are doing to accommodate the rising bleisure travel trend in 2024.
What Is Bleisure Travel?
Bleisure travel is a business trip extended into a holiday, where work and fun blend together, emphasising wellness and sustainability. As the name suggests, bleisure tourism combines business travel and leisure time.
The purpose of bleisure travel is to revolutionise how we conduct our business trips with the possibility to extend them and include some downtime. As the English historian and philosopher Arnold J. Toynbee says, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play”. Bleisure provides the ultimate opportunity to fuse productivity with relaxation, resulting in the perfect work-life balance.
Some of the most common ways of turning your business trip into a bleisure one are by adding holiday time either before, during, or after your work event. The leisure time can vary from a few days to even a few weeks. And while certain bleisure travellers like to voyage on their own, others see it as an opportunity to spend more time with their family.
Companies are also coming more on-board with the idea of bleisure travel. Frosch, a US-based company that provides leisure options to corporate clients, had a client who modified its travel policy to allow employees to extend their holiday with two or three weeks and work remotely. This has allowed for even more elaborate bleisure trips, giving green light to the work-life balance.
“This shows us that companies today are keen to ensure the well-being of their employees and adjust to account for the changing needs of the workplace. Bleisure is being driven by the holiday versus the business trip in this scenario,” Frosch executive vice president Lara Leibman said.
Bleisure travel is not to be confused with digital nomadism. While both are centred around work, digital nomads travel from one destination to another, each becoming their temporary office. Bleisure travellers, on the other hand, indulge in the work and travel combo only when they have a business event to schedule their holidays around.
Bleisure Tourism: An Echo of the Pandemic
The pandemic has introduced many changes to our approach to work, including the notion that the workplace is flexible. Moving beyond the home office, and once the word travel entered our vocabulary again after a shutdown, bleisure travel has become the norm for many business professionals.
It is more popular now than ever, with 65% of business travellers who took part in the Global Rescue Spring 2023 Travelers Sentiment and Safety Survey saying that they will turn their business travels into bleisure trips.
And while taking a business trip might not have been a priority for employees before the pandemic, it is now a desired experience. We’ve been made to rethink our approach to wellbeing, especially regarding our relationship with work, hence the desire to seek a healthier work-life balance. Even employers are encouraging their workforce to take advantage of bleisure travel by simply realising the importance of a reset and its effects on productivity.
The Benefits of Bleisure Travel
Bleisure travel is like a magic holiday package for both employers and employees, and it has plenty of benefits for both. It’s the new approach to work-life balance where productivity meets wellbeing meets sustainability.
- A chance to recharge
Living in the hustle and bustle of the city can be draining. Attending daily business meetings in cramped-up offices and being deprived of natural lighting and ventilation can negatively affect our physical and mental wellbeing.
That’s why, getting away from your usual work setting, filling in on the excitement of travel and exploring new places, and matched with the knowing that after your work duty comes some leisure time, can be a rejuvenating experience.
In recent years, a strong emphasis has been put on mental health, with more and more people struggling with burnout. According to new research by Future Forum that surveyed 10,243 full-time desk-based workers in six countries, including the UK, 42% of the respondents reported experiencing burnout in the last quarter of 2022. Intriguingly, Gen Z and young millennials were the most affected by it, and they are also the groups most likely to indulge in bleisure.
Another key finding of the survey is that those who don’t feel satisfied with the flexibility their workplace offers them, are more inclined to experience burnout. A bleisure trip offers a break from the routine and an opportunity to boost one’s wellbeing.
- Increased productivity
A natural ‘side effect’ of some recharge time is increased productivity. According to a survey conducted by Booking.com, 59% of employed people agreed that traveling and exploring new places motivated them to be more productive with their work.
“I found that the main benefit is that everyone thinks better and comes up with great ideas when in low-stress situations. If we call a board meeting in the office, or via Zoom, we can be productive, but it’s a different tone. Bleisure travel allows your team to unwind so they’re free to be creative when the moment strikes. Not when a meeting is called,” siad Nellie Akalp, CEO and co-founder of CorpNet.com, who recently organised a leadership corporate retreat to unite her remote workforce. The retreat included a fusion of yoga classes, seminars, and time at the pool/beach, with families welcomed. She noted that while everyone enjoyed their time, they were also “amazingly productive”.
Moreover, one might find that they’re more work efficient while nestled in the beautiful countryside of Italy, especially if they’re in the creative field, or that someone working at an architectural firm gets new inspiration from the innovative buildings at a place like Tokyo.
Alongside increased mental clarity and creativity, bleisure is a way to increase employee engagement, which again translates as greater productivity. If your company allows you to take a few extra days as a holiday during your business trip, you will feel grateful for this opportunity to your employer, hence be more motivated to contribute to the company’s growth.
“Bleisure is becoming more popular as the workplace continues to progress towards a more flexible and personalised business model that cultivates a motivational workplace culture,” said Rebecca Ahmed, a speaker, business consultant, and Energy Leadership Index™ Master Practitioner (ELI-MP).
- Team-building and better mental health
Many employers have taken bleisure travel a step further by organising corporate retreats, which combine business conferences and skills building with wellbeing practices. This is a chance for the team to bond, hence building more positive relationships at work and fostering a happier workforce.
- Reduced carbon footprint
According to the World Economic Forum, business trips are one of the world’s largest contributors to carbon emissions. That’s due to the use of air and car transportation, the greater frequency of trips compared to the standard vacationer, and the CO2 footprint of first-class seats, which is about four times as much as the economy. A report by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) shows that companies are committing to facilitating more sustainable business travel post-pandemic, and bleisure trips are a major part of that.
Combining a business trip with a leisure one means that the frequency of travel is reduced, thus minimising individuals’ carbon footprint.
Moreover, conference organisers are looking at implementing sustainability practices in bleisure trips, including eco-friendly accommodations such as sustainable retreats, less CO2-producing transportation, and responsible tourism activities.
How is the travel industry accommodating bleisure travel?
With the rise of the bleisure traveller, hospitality establishments are also changing how they operate to accommodate the rising bleisure lifestyle.
As the line between business travellers and vacationers blurs, hotel organisers are starting to treat ‘bleisurers’ as guests who can enjoy the whole package of a leisure holiday, including providing custom recommendations.
Regarding the facilities and the organisation of the space, hotels and retreats prioritise quiet workspaces, meeting rooms, and co-working spaces, together with a strong Wi-Fi connection. Areas for relaxation, such as lounges and pools and leisure activities, such as spa, massages, and sightseeing trips are also considered. MMGY Global’s “Portrait of European Meeting & Convention Travel” study shows that for 42% of bleisure travel attendees, access to quiet spaces and time-out options play a key role in their decision to attend a meeting or an event.
Moreover, having a range of kid-friendly amenities and entertainment along with suitable accommodation for the whole family can be a deciding factor for potential bleisure travellers.
Another key aspect of the bleisure experience is the availability of various wellness options. According to MMGY Global’s study, 20% of business travel planners said that wellness options are now a part of most requests. These include yoga, walking, stretching, or running, retreats, and regional food availability.
How to Decide Whether to Take a Bleisure Trip
Deciding whether to turn your business trip into a bleisure one largely depends on the location of your work event. If it’s a place you like and want to spend more time exploring it, then you’re more likely to hop on a bleisure adventure.
Generally, what makes a really good bleisure trip is having a variety of amenities to enjoy and activities to do, such as restaurants offering local food and a selection of museums and sightseeing attractions to satisfy your cultural thirst and that of your family while you’re in a meeting.
Nevertheless, safety and security along with affordability, are also important factors in your decision-making. It might also be worth considering how easy the city is to navigate, especially if you have to attend conferences and have your family wander around the city simultaneously. And for the true adventure-seekers, turning your bucket-list location, which you probably wouldn’t otherwise see if it’s not for the work trip, can be an experience of a lifetime.
How to Plan a Successful Bleisure Trip
As bleisure travel is a relatively new concept introduced by employers to improve their workforce’s wellbeing, it’s still quite unfamiliar. Here are the top tips to help you plan a successful bleisure trip.
- Understand your company’s travel policy. Before planning your bleisure trip, it’s best to check your company policy or speak with the HR department to familiarize yourself with their leisure extension rules. It’s important to know what aspects of the trip your company will reimburse you for and how to keep track of them. Make sure you check the duty of care obligations too.
- Business first. Remember that during a bleisure trip, the business aspect comes before the leisure one. That means you must respect your work event, colleagues, and business needs, and plan your leisure trip around it, not the other way around. For example, if you’re attending a kick-off meeting with a new client that you know has a tight deadline and you will need to start working on it immediately, it might not be the best idea to plan a week-long holiday after the meeting.
- Make use of weekends and bank holidays. We all know how precious our paid holidays are, and a bleisure trip allows you to be smart around planning. If your work event falls on a Monday or ends on a Friday, you can book your leisure trip on the weekend. Planning your time away around a bank holiday is also a great way not to use up your paid holidays.
- Go for the long haul. If you have the opportunity to go on a business trip overseas, make use of the occasion and turn it into a bleisure holiday. That way you’re seeing a bucket-list destination and cutting costs since your company covers at least part of the flights.
- Pack smartly. What was supposed to be a two-day business trip has suddenly turned into a week-long bleisure holiday. Here comes the question of whether to travel with only a carry-on or upgrade your luggage allowance. If you want to travel more budget-friendly and hands-free, consider packing smartly. Bring along wardrobe staples that can easily be dressed up with heels or smart shoes for a business event or dressed down for a casual dinner. That way, you can save some luggage space.
Bleisure Travel Limitations
While bleisure travel has many benefits for both travellers and employers, there are certain limitations you need to consider before planning your trip.
Bleisure travel aims to promote work-life balance. Nevertheless, finding the middle ground between work and fun can be tricky, especially when the two occur right after each other. Experiencing stress around your work event and feeling like you don’t have enough time to prepare or follow up after it can also cause some anxiety. That’s why it’s best to evaluate the work-related stress factors before embarking on your bleisure holiday.
Moreover, navigating the administration side of things can also be daunting. You must ensure you’ve read your company policy carefully and document all your expenses to be reimbursed later on.
And since bleisure is a relatively new concept and not all companies are fully on board with it, it might cause tension regarding communicating your plans with your employers and colleagues. To alleviate this, try and be as transparent as possible for your own peace of mind.
Bleisure travel is revolutionising how we travel for business and offers us a great opportunity to improve our wellbeing and work-life balance while promoting sustainability. While some companies might still be testing the waters around business and leisure trips, the trend is here to stay.
If you’re considering taking one, hopefully, this guide will help you clear your mind around it. And if you’re an employer, organising a corporate retreat might be the next best option for your employees’ welfare.