We now know for certain why the glittering city of Las Vegas curiously hosts so many business conventions every year: It's a great place to network, make deals, and meet important people in your industry. But the entire city, with the exception of its conference rooms and exhibition halls, is one big, family-friendly playground. It makes combining business and a family vacation extremely easy. Las Vegas as a destination embodies what is known in the hospitality sector to be an emerging trend: Bleisure travel.
Where and when did the term "bleisure" first appear? Perhaps one of your "frenemies" coined it. The research firm Bridgestreet Global Hospitality used it as far back as 2014 in a report on the emerging topic. Some 640 respondents said that they were 60 percent more likely to mix business travel with recreation than they were in 2009, five years before the report first appeared.
The lingering global economic crisis has taken its toll on nearly every industry and global unemployment rates are staggering. Business travelers have less discretionary time to go on traditional vacations. As a result, the hospitality sector is trying to find new ways to bolster an industry that has been rocked by the aforementioned economic crisis. Interestingly, although effects of the economic crisis continue to linger in many countries, they have given birth to the so-called sharing economy where individuals are doing different and (in some cases) desperate things to cope with the "new normal." Can you imagine renting your bed to complete strangers when you're not at home? That's the off-beat business model behind Airbnb, borne out of economic desperation, and now disrupting the entire traditional hospitality sector. Indeed, the sharing economy has become a trend in which companies such as AirBnB and Uber are helping bleisure activities to grow.
Combined with the ever-evolving mobile workforce, you can count on the market for bleisure travel to blossom. Take a financial trader, for instance. He could tack on a few days after attending a business conference in, say, Los Angeles and have his wife and children join him for some well-earned fun in the sun. The survey reports that more than half of travelers that take bleisure trips bring their family members with them – yet another sign of a lingering economic slump.
Digitization is also bolstering bleisure travel. Let's take that case of the financial trader again. He could remain in constant contact with his office and top clients, leveraging the connected world without actually being in the office. Suppose one of his biggest clients, an institutional investor that manages the pension fund for millions of retirees, needs to make some enormous trades. This trader could conceivably buy or sell millions of shares of stock from his mobile device as he watches his daughter take surfing lessons on a sunny beach in southern California. There are plenty of cool new applications that have emerged such as FourSquare, TripIt, and Hipmunk that can make it easy to plan a leisure trip on short notice, buy an excursion ticket, book a hot restaurant, see a baseball game in St. Louis or a Broadway show in New York. The options are limitless.
According to TripIt.com, even though frequent flyer and hotel points are benefits of business travel, a businessman can use such rewards for personal use. The travel Web site recommends signing up for all programs possible. The point is that future business travel plans are sometimes unpredictable, so being in all the programs will pay off in the long term.
Along the same lines, TripIt.com also suggests using personal credit cards for business travel if possible. That way a business traveler can earn miles and other travel loyalty rewards from corporate travel that can be used for personal travel. When a digitally savvy professional combines business travel and leisure travel, he can limit his exposure to long, meandering lines at the airport. And he will never miss a beat from what is going on in the office. Hospitality industry analysts say that the corporate world is quite understanding of the bleisure trend. Who wouldn't be?
Hoteliers are increasingly configuring their lobbies to cater to travelers who don't have a lot of time to linger over breakfast. When you think about it, if a business traveler tacks on three or four days of holiday time to his business trip, he's probably going to want to pack in as much site-seeing or relaxation by the pool rather than sitting in a hotel lobby. Yet if the business traveler is there with her family, then she can use the opportunity to tack on a few value-added services from the hotel and help them generate additional revenue. Hotels are also quick to respond to the changing needs of business travelers with concierge services that can tailor add-on excursions for their guests when their conventions are over. Hotels are designed to incorporate meeting rooms and business amenities that are a stone's throw from the pool where a businessman's children might be swimming.
What is perhaps most striking about the Bridgestreet survey is that 73 percent of travelers think bleisure opportunities benefit them as employees. Companies talk a lot of so-called work/life balance, and bleisure certainly seems to be an opportunity to take advantage of that phenomenon. In the survey, 78 percent of respondents agree that adding leisure days to business travel adds value to work assignments. Indeed, getting out of a conference room for even a few hours to explore some city blocks and learn about the culture of the people with which you're doing business can cement business relationships.
Because we live in a world that is increasingly connected digitally, having that extra cultural knowledge is a valuable differentiator. But there are other benefits to bleisure travel as well: For senior executives of companies who worry about rising attrition rates and loss of knowledge among their employees, bleisure not only reduces workforce churn; it also makes workers happier and more productive.
Although the online publication Fusion points out how recent is the bleisure trend, nevertheless about one in seven companies already have policies covering bleisure travel. So the hospitality industry might now be catching up with what the corporate world has known for a while. Indeed, the travel Web site Skift pointed out in a report last year that because of the advantages of digital connectivity, traveling for work has become more of a "lifestyle than a necessity" for many business people.
We are all connected, all the time, so traveling to locations other than your office is perceived by many people to be an opportunity to "re-charge" before heading back to your desk. The best thing about bleisure travel is that companies are increasingly viewing the trend as a quality of life issue that their workers deem important.