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3 weeks ago
 

Bleisure – a new travel category to crack

You find out the conference you’re going to in Vegas ends on a Friday and you decide to extend it through the weekend. Excuse for a long weekend away? That’s right, and you’re part of a travel movement called bleisure.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Charlene Leiss, president, corporate brands, Flight Centre Travel Group USA.

Bleisure is the conscious decision by business travelers to add days of leisure travel onto a business trip. According to Travel Weekly’s 2016 Consumer Trends report, the percentage of leisure trips that have a business component jumped to 17% in 2016, up 3% in just a year and making steady gains since the trend was first given a name in 2012.

The trend has implications across the travel ecosystem – from the travelers making the decision to turn their business trips into bleisure, the companies navigating employee policies on bleisure travel and the travel brands looking to cater to the needs of this new type of traveler.

Let’s take a look at who bleisure travelers are and how business and leisure agencies alike have an opportunity to capture this market segment.

Who is interested in bleisure travel?

When a business traveler is considering making a business trip into a bleisure trip, there are three main considerations:

  • The location of the business travel

The further people go, the more likely they are to extend the trip, especially if it is long-haul trip with only a few days of business obligations. The primary reason for bleisure travel amongst travelers under 35 is that they are in a city they have never been to before, according to a report from BridgeStreet Global Hospitality.

  • How close the end date of the business travel is to a weekend

Airline fare rules help drive bleisure as most long-haul flights get cheaper with a Saturday overnight, so turning a Monday to Friday work trip to London into a Monday to Sunday one, for example, may actually result in a lower airfare.  The cheaper airfares can then help offset the extra hotel costs.

  • The costs to extend the trip

The average business trip is three nights (according to Concur’s 2016 State of Business Travel Report), with the flight and some of the travel expenses are generally covered by the company.

For younger travelers, that have less time off, bleisure allows them to take a trip without using many vacation days, and at a lower cost than a normal leisure trip where flights and other components would be their responsibility.

For travelers with a family, there is an opportunity for a family vacation without the cost of a plane ticket for one of the family members. According to the BridgeStreet report, more than half of travelers (54%) taking bleisure trips bring family members or a significant other with them.

No matter how much someone travels for work, they will take 1.4 bleisure trips each year, according to Harvard Business Review. This means that business travelers taking only a few business trips each year are equally likely to capitalize on the opportunity of turning a business trip into bleisure as someone who travels for business weekly.

How do travel brands capitalize on bleisure travelers?

Leisure and business travel brands alike should be planning to capitalize on travelers in the bleisure market. The approach of two Flight Centre brands illustrate how best to approach this segment.

Leisure travel agency Travel Associates, which caters to the luxury and niche travel market, is engaging with business travelers with mid-week international business flight itineraries to inspire them about the opportunities to turn business travel into bleisure. In “Weekender guides,” business travelers are sent package offerings to encourage them to extend their trips through the weekend, outlining activities they can take part in and what they can experience.

Clients traveling to a city for the first time on business will often extend the trip in the same hotel and either explore on their own or do walking tours or purchase metro/museum passes, while frequent visitors to a city are more adventurous. Paris is a regular business destination for many, which means that the leisure trips added on are to Bruges and the Loire Valley, for example.

And if the work trip happens to be in the Caribbean, almost 100% of the time, the client will simply stay a few extra days in the same resort that the conference is in.

Travel Associates estimates that 20%-30% of the trips they are booking would be classified as bleisure travel.

Meanwhile, FCM Travel Solutions, a global travel management consultancy, provides leisure extension offers as part of its services for business travel. Travel agents are beginning to run events for staff to highlight leisure extensions as well.

If the business hotel’s location is convenient enough to serve as the base for the leisure portion of the trip, travelers tend to stay at the same hotel, which presents a variety of upselling options. Business agents with a streamlined booking experience  for both the business and leisure aspects of a trip can convert these opportunities better than those relying on different booking paths.

What does this mean for the employers of bleisure travelers?

Many people who work for travel firms are interested in travel, meaning there are many potential bleisure travelers in our industry. But is your company ready?

Less than 14% of companies, across all sectors, have a corporate bleisure policy in place, according to BridgeStreet’s report.

As you develop yours, here are the things you should consider including:

  • Days Off: Do employees need to take vacation time for the days they extend the trip by? If they are traveling for business on weekend days, do they get comp days to use?
  • Booking and Accommodation: Do they have to book the leisure part of their trip on their own? Do you encourage them to use your company’s suppliers? Will they book for other family members traveling with them? What if the type of accommodation required changes?
  • Points and Reward Travel: Can your employees use their accrued mileage/points from business travel for leisure travel, or are they required to use it for business travel?
  • Expense Management: What can they expense? Is the company willing to cover any non-travel day expenses if employees are traveling together as a bonus to the employee?
  • Insurance: Do employees need their own for the leisure portion of their trip?

For many employees bleisure feels like a job perk, even if they fund the non-business piece completely. At the same time, it often costs the company nothing. Between the potential for increased employee satisfaction, and the opportunities its presents for leisure and business travel companies alike, this is one opportunity you won’t want to let fly away.

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NB:
This is a viewpoint by Charlene Leiss, president, corporate brands, Flight Centre Travel Group USA. It appears here as part of Tnooz’s sponsored content initiative.

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