Bleisure – the answer to business travel?

As moderator at this year’s Arabian Travel Market, I will be interviewing a panel of speakers on business trends. The panel includes Craig Constable from dnata Corporate Travel, Rabih Saab – President & MD of Travelport Africa, Middle East & Asia, David Henry – Vice President Sales, Marketing, & Distribution of Accor Hotels ME, and Ahmed Bakr, an analyst from Euromonitor International. As well as local and international business trends, we will talk to the experts about the ‘bleisure’ concept – whereby corporate travellers are making the most of their downtime during business trips to enjoy leisure activities.

According to a 2015 report by travel website Skift, work travel is emerging as a lifestyle rather than a necessity. With a cheerful wave goodbye to tiring domestic and international business trips, corporate travellers the world over are happily embracing the latest trend to hit business travel circles – the ‘bleisure’ concept.

An obvious combination of business and pleasure, ‘bleisure’ combines two completely opposite activities, and therein, lies its appeal. A theme created with the frequent business professional in mind, the bleisure traveller is predominantly seen as part of the millennial workforce, making the most of downtime during business trips, successfully mixing work and play.

How it started

The trend gained momentum in recent times as corporate travellers opted to get more out of frequent business trips, moving away from the stress and tiring schedules such travel is known for. By adding a few days extra to their trip, they were not only able to be rested and focused for the actual business component of their travel requirement, but also had the time to get to know their markets of operation on a cultural and local level. With more time at their disposal, bleisure travellers could afford a relaxed, fruitful travel experience.

How it works

When employees are required to take two/three day trips for business, they opt to add on vacation days or combine them with weekends to get in some relaxation time as well. The Skift report stated 83% of respondents use time on business trips to explore the city they’re visiting, often opting to travel with partners and families, converting a single trip into an opportunity for a short holiday.

Why businesses endorse it

With the general working population more concerned about health, businesses stand to gain when their travelling professionals are in the right frame of mind i.e. peaceful, rested, and focused for business requirements. Studies showed that approximately 1 in 7 companies already have policies covering bleisure or bleisure-like travel – adding the pleasure element makes business trips instantly more appealing to staff keen on maintaining a work-life balance and avoiding the now common occurrence of professional burnout. Another study showed 78% of employees felt adding leisure days to business travel added value to work assignments, while 73% believed it benefitted them as employees, not only improving job satisfaction but also boosting employee loyalty.

The grey area

While this seems to be a win-win concept for all parties involved, bleisure does further blur the lines between a personal and work-life balance. Employees may take an additional day here and there with random business trips, but this does not necessarily mean they switch off from business mode, nor does it serve the purpose of vacation-time – meant to give the employee sufficient time to recharge and relax. On the flip side, an added day or two off is always welcome, especially considering current working trends.

60% of respondents in the Skift study said they were more likely to take bleisure trips now than they were five years ago, and the bleisure trend looks set to stay. The BridgeStreet Global Hospitality survey shows the U.S.A leads the way in terms of the highest percentage of bleisure travellers, while professionals from Saudi Arabia take the most trips ranging between the 5 to 7 day period. Having been recognized as the second most recommended country for business trips, the U.A.E. holds tremendous potential with shopping, leisure and family activities available throughout the year. All that remains is for the market to jump on the bleisure bandwagon and make the mechanics of this phenomenon work to its advantage.

To learn more about business trends and the ‘bleisure’ phenomenon, Karen Osman will be moderating a seminar of this topic at this year’s Arabian Travel Market on Wednesday, 27 April 2016 at 1:15 pm. Click here to learn more.

Karen Osman
Karen Osman
Originally from England, Karen has lived the ex-pat life for the last 15 years across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. After completing a B.A. in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Durham, a two year period teaching in Tokyo was the start of a career that combined her two great loves; travel and the English language. Moving to Dubai in 2004, Karen engaged in a sales, marketing and public relations role for a luxury hospitality company. It was a great opportunity to develop communication for luxury brands, gaining experience in writing and adapting copy for both off-line and on-line channels. After identifying a gap in the market for specialised writing services for the travel, tourism and hospitality sector, Karen set up Travel Ink in 2011, steadily building the business to include some of the most high-profile hotels, airlines and tourism establishments in the region. In addition to her role as Managing Director, Karen is also the Travel and Tourism Chair Person for the British Business Group and a committee member of Business Network International.

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