In recent years, the concept of “bleisure” travel has gained popularity, driven by a desire to make the most of travel opportunities, even while on business trips. Bleisure, a portmanteau of “business” and “leisure,” refers to the intentional combination of work and play during corporate travel. This trend has emerged partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted traditional travel patterns and emphasized the importance of work-life balance. As companies gradually return to business travel, many are incentivizing corporate trips to foster in-person communication and team building. At the same time, employees are seizing the opportunity to incorporate relaxation and adventure into their work commitments.
The Rise of Bleisure Travel:
Business travelers around the world are increasingly embracing bleisure travel by extending their work trips to add time for leisure. A survey conducted in 2021 and 2022 revealed that the enthusiasm for this idea increased globally by an average of 9% between the two years. Employees are willing to use their holiday time to explore destinations at their leisure, creating an ideal balance between work obligations and personal time.
Countries that are leading in extending work trips for leisure experiences include New Zealand, with a 159% increase in people planning to use their time off in 2023 versus 2022. Argentina followed closely with a 136% increase, and Australia showed a 48% rise in people opting to take advantage of holidays while traveling for work. The UK, on the other hand, displayed a consistent stance over the two years, with the same percentage of people responding positively to the idea of extending work trips for leisure. This could be attributed to the UK’s reduced expectations of returning to pre-pandemic business travel levels, as many workers do not anticipate resuming frequent business trips.
What Business Travelers Want from Corporate Travel and Leisure Combinations:
Corporate travel and flexible working arrangements offer various advantages for travelers. Being able to extend work trips allows employees to fully experience a destination and explore attractions during optimal times. A survey revealed that the highest percentage of all employed people agreed that traveling and exploring new places inspired them to be more productive in their work (59%). However, only 47% of flexible workers felt the same way, indicating that different workers find inspiration and productivity in various ways.
For business travelers seeking a productive yet relaxing environment, the idea of booking accommodations with co-working spaces appealed to nearly half (47%) of employed individuals and 55% of flexible workers. Having a dedicated workspace allows employees to draw clear lines between work and leisure, enhancing focus and productivity. This approach also enables them to make the most of their time, such as visiting tourist attractions during off-peak hours to avoid crowds.
The Desire for Strictly Work-Free Vacations:
While bleisure travel has its appeal, there are also business travelers who prefer their vacations to be entirely work-free. A survey conducted in 2022 and 2023 showed an overall average percentage increase of 19% across all countries in 2023, indicating a growing desire for work-free vacations. New Zealand displayed the most significant change in opinion, with a 218% increase in the number of people wanting a vacation completely free of work responsibilities. Argentina also saw a notable increase of 154%, while the US had a smaller increase of only 7%. On the other hand, Hong Kong saw a drop of -132% in people wanting to separate vacation and work entirely, potentially driven by a preference for remote work and increased flexibility.
Desired Travel Breaks in 2023:
The travel preferences of business travelers in 2023 indicate a diverse range of interests. The most popular suggestion among respondents was to visit sentimental locations, seeking the nostalgia factor of places that hold personal significance. This emotional connection to travel highlights the desire for breaks that not only offer physical escape but also mental rejuvenation.
Additionally, a considerable percentage of employees (78%) expressed a desire for travel experiences that take them outside of their comfort zone, with 74% specifically interested in adventurous backpacking. Combining business trips with adventure travel, or bleisure, provides an opportunity to explore a country more extensively and cater to employees’ need for escape.
Flexible Working and Remote Work Around the World:
The rise of flexible and remote working arrangements has been instrumental in enabling bleisure travel. Across the globe, the trend of remote work has been on the rise, with an increasing number of employees embracing the freedom and flexibility it offers. In the United States, approximately 50% of employees have the option to work flexibly or remotely, with this trend expected to continue. Comparatively, European countries reported lower percentages of remote workers, with Italy having the fewest employees currently able to work remotely. The rise of remote work has also influenced the length of international business trips, with the average duration being 5-6 days. As more employees embrace remote work and flexible arrangements, the desire for bleisure experiences is likely to grow.
Generations Embracing Flexible Travel:
The shift towards flexible and remote work is most prominent among Millennials and Gen X workers, representing individuals aged between 25 and 56. These generations constitute a significant portion of the workforce, leading the charge in embracing flexible working arrangements. A survey revealed that 68% of Millennials and 54% of Gen Xers agreed that they can work remotely without location constraints. In contrast, Gen Z workers, aged between 18 and 24, are more likely to seek in-person work, with less than half (48%) currently working remotely.
Bleisure travel has become increasingly feasible with the rise of remote work and flexible working arrangements. Employers and employees are recognizing the benefits of combining business trips with leisure experiences, leading to a greater focus on work-life balance. As businesses resume corporate travel, the demand for bleisure opportunities is expected to grow. By embracing the freedom of flexible work arrangements, business travelers can enhance their work experiences with leisure activities, ultimately leading to greater job satisfaction and productivity. The integration of work, travel, and recreation offers a win-win situation for both employees and employers, fostering a positive work environment and enriching travel experiences.