Alexandria, VA - In the past year, over one-third (37 percent) of North American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure, according to a new study released by the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association. Millennials (48 percent) did so at a much higher rate than Gen-X travelers (33 percent) and Baby Boomers (23 percent).
The study, Extending Business Travel into Leisure Time – Bleisure Study, conducted in partnership with Hilton identified who takes bleisure trips, why they do and what this means for managed travel programs, as well as the types of accommodations they use throughout their trip.
“This study highlights a variety of ways in which companies can improve the bleisure travel experience for their employees, while also aligning bleisure travel with their own goals,” said Monica Sanchez, GBTA Foundation Director of Research. “Some of these ways include establishing clear rules for reimbursing expenses incurred by non-employees, helping travelers understand the resources available to them on the leisure portion of their trip and developing a policy regarding preferred suppliers and booking channels.”
“Business travel is a lifestyle for many of our guests and we’re seeing a growing desire by these travelers to add a leisure component to their trip and experience the destination beyond the meeting room,” said Kelly Phillips, SVP Global Engagement & Strategic Accounts, Hilton.
Identifying the Bleisure Travelers
Business travelers who have taken at least one leisure trip in the past year are a diverse group spread across the United States and Canada. On average, these travelers took seven work trips in the past year, earn $79,000 annually and work at companies with 950 employees. They hold middle management positions (42 percent) at a slightly higher rate than entry-level (27 percent) and senior leadership/C-level positions (31 percent). Additionally, almost three in five (58 percent) have children at home and 44 percent traveled with someone else for the leisure portion of their trip.
Business travelers who do take bleisure trips most typically extend them for a short period of time. While 90 percent do so from more than one day, only one-quarter (23 percent) do so for more than three days. On average, travelers typically extend their trips for three days.
What Drives Business Travelers to Extend their Trips for Leisure Purposes?
Business travelers are much more likely to take a bleisure trip in the future when they have taken one in the recent past. The most common reasons business travelers identify for taking bleisure trips are to visit a destination where they like to spend their time (43 percent) or visit a new destination they wanted to see (38 percent). Not far behind are a less expensive way to take a vacation (34 percent) or needing time away from home and work (34 percent).
For business travelers who have chosen not to take bleisure trips, it is rarely because they cannot afford to or do not want to explore the destination they are visiting for work. The most common reason given is lack of time (58 percent). Less common explanations include company policy (18 percent), undesirable location (17 percent) and cost (14 percent).
Bleisure’s Impact on Managed Travel Programs
When taking bleisure trips, travelers frequently incur additional transportation costs. On their last bleisure trip, 39 percent of business travelers paid the difference in air/train travel costs for extending their business trip into personal time off, one-quarter (27 percent) did not and another quarter (26 percent) indicate there was no difference. This presents several challenges for managed travel programs including how to estimate the additional costs stemming from bleisure travel, distinguishing between business and leisure costs and how to address these issues in company travel policy.
Another major area of travel policy that comes into play is duty of care. On their last bleisure trip, 12 percent of travelers experienced an issue where they needed assistance from their company or the person who arranged the travel. This begs the question of when does a company’s liability and obligation to help their traveler begin and end.
When business travelers choose to extend a work trip for leisure, they generally search for accommodations through a third-party site or a hotel’s website or mobile app, meaning it is possible that bleisure travel may incentivize travelers to book outside of their company’s channels. To encourage travelers to stay within the program, companies might make a greater effort to help travelers receive the corporate discount for the leisure portion of their trip.
When taking bleisure trips, travelers overwhelmingly stay at hotels for both the business and leisure segments of their trips with 91 percent staying at a traditional or extended stay hotel for the business portion, while 81 percent stayed at a hotel for the leisure portion. Additionally, 82 percent of business travelers stayed at the same place for both the business and leisure portion of their trip on their most recent bleisure trip.
Gen-X and Baby Boomer travelers are more likely to stay at the same place for both portions of the trip than Millennials as are high-frequency travelers. The most common reason for staying at the same place is convenience (71 percent), followed by location (57 percent) and price (48 percent). For those who chose to change locations, the top reasons were the same, but in a different order: location (49 percent), price (42 percent) and convenience (38 percent).