Why is There a Boom in Business Leisure?

Globally, organisations devote significant sums to business travel every year – over $1.3 trillion (£1.01 trillion) in 2017 in fact.[1]

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts this will grow in the coming years, thanks to an improving economic landscape worldwide and the increasingly diverse demographic taking to the skies on behalf of their company.

While more of the workforce may be on the move, there’s another key factor showing signs of transforming the business travel landscape. Bleisure. Andy Besant, Director of Travel Experiences at Priority Pass, a Collinson company, explains why bleisure is on the up.

Why bleisure?

The trend for combining business trips with holiday is becoming an increasingly common practice, with many travel sites reporting a hike in these types of bookings in recent years. And there could be a number of reasons for this growing trend.

Airline fares have fallen substantially in the last decade, making it easier for business travellers to take a companion with them on trips. For those with the travel bug who want to save on air fares – tacking on a few extra days post-business engagement is a cost-effective way of booking a break.

There are benefits for companies too. It can be expensive to pay for employees to travel at peak times after their meetings. Allowing them to add some leisure days to the trip could lower the cost of return travel.

The Culture of Experience

 But new Priority Pass research, conducted by YouGov, suggests the reasons for a boom in bleisure run deeper and could provide real opportunities for companies looking to capitalise on this new corner of the market.

In a Global Barometer of the activities we value the most, it was experiences like holidays, going out for meals and trips to the cinema that topped the table. In fact, when asked what they most enjoyed doing, one in five people said it was exploring other cultures abroad – the most popular answer by some way. Conversely, just 3% of people said buying luxury items was their favourite activity.

This sentiment was broadly the same regardless of gender, geography or age, demonstrating the worldwide appetite for ‘doing’ rather than ‘owning’. Perhaps the rise of bleisure breaks reflects this demand. If the modern business traveller is starting to better represent the global consumer base, it stands to reason that they will correspondingly seek opportunities to combine corporate excursions with leisure experiences that can be shared with friends and family.

According to the Next Big Thing consumer futurist, Will Higham, the desire to reduce carbon footprints could also have an impact in the future. It’ll make people more likely to bookend business travel with personal, and even family, holiday time. He also predicts the growth of the ‘Health Club Class’ – wellness-focused business travellers with a desire to maintain personal health across the whole travel experience – from the calories they eat, to the air quality of hotel rooms.

Full steam ahead for the future

It seems bleisure is set to flourish. Business travellers want choice in how they spend their time. And they’re willing to pay for it.

Figures show that the higher the household income, the higher the spending on overseas business travel. Those bringing in between c. $130,000 (£100,000) to $190,00 (£150,000) spend on average $1,340 (£1,046) when travelling overseas for business. While those with incomes over $190,000 (£150,000) spent $1,492 (£1,164) – notably higher than the global average $1,170 (£913). If experience is king, these figures could be representative of bleisure expenses – dining out, investing in one-off experiences or exploring the cultural highlights of their destination.

Beyond the consumer wallet, brands need to consider business travel spending and adapt products and services for both audiences. Whether it’s offering experiences tailored to the business traveller or diversifying their core offering to cater to the experience market, businesses that embrace this growing trend will encourage higher spending and secure greater customer loyalty.

[1] https://www.gbta.org/news-and-advocacy/newsroom/gbta-forecasts-seven-percent-growth-in-global-business-travel-spend-potentially-signifying-end-to-era-of-uncertainty

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