Have you ever been on a work trip and wished you had more time to explore the city’s museums or take a hike in the nearby mountains? Unfortunately, for many of us, the only sightseeing we do when traveling for business is finding a conference center’s best coffee or exploring the many meeting rooms of an office building.
However, according to new SAP Concur travel and expense data gathered between January 2017 and December 2017 there’s an increasing trend to break out of the confines of a typical business trip. In fact, “bleisure” trips, as we’ve come to know them, where a traveler combines business travel and leisure travel into one trip, increased by 20% from 2016 to 2017. And during this time, more than 2.2 million bleisure trips were taken by business travelers around the globe, making up 10% of total business trips. This trend is also popular for small businesses – since launching in September 2017 our Concur Hipmunk data shows that 16% of business trip hotel bookings included a Saturday night stay.
Believe it or not, bleisure travel isn’t just a millennial trend. While on average the percentage of bleisure travel is slightly higher for millennials, according to our data, the entire workforce, from Generation X to baby boomers is tacking on leisure days to their business trips in droves. Why? It’s convenient, efficient, cost-effective and let’s face it, a way to make work trips more fun. This likely adds up to happier, re-energized employees, who in turn are more productive and satisfied when they return to the office.
But while bleisure travel is becoming increasingly common, the way we decipher when work travel stops and personal travel begins isn’t always the same. To explore this growing trend further, we defined a bleisure trip as including a Saturday night stay. By looking at the data through this lens, we found four unique insights that give us a new view into this new norm.
It’s not just a millennial thing – all generations are picking up on the trend across the globe
On average, millennials make up the largest share of bleisure travelers in the world, accounting for 38% of all bleisure trips in the Americas region in 2017, however Generation X (31%) and baby boomers (31%) are not far behind! This trend holds true across the globe with millennials, Generation X and Y and baby boomers extending a similar number of trips to include a Saturday night stay. Generation Z is not yet showing up in any significant way when it comes to business travel.
Bleisure travel is growing around the world
From 2016 to 2017, the number of bleisure trips taken increased in all regions worldwide, with a 46% jump in EMEA, 45% in APAC and 19% in the Americas.
Where exactly are these bleisure travelers going? In the Americas the top destinations are NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles; in EMEA, Tel Aviv, London and Paris; and in APAC, Tokyo, Singapore and Shanghai. We compared this to our Hipmunk data which tracks non-business travel. Each of these top bleisure cities are also amongst the top 20 travel destinations for each region – a real testament to the reason folks tend to want to stay an extra couple of days in these cities!
Airbnb provides respite for business and bleisure travelers
In addition to hotels, Airbnb is an increasingly important supplier of accommodations for business travelers in many scenarios including sold out or expensive hotel reservations during a busy trade show, when multiple travelers need to stay together in the same property, or bleisure trips.
According to expense data from SAP Concur, 70% of trips using Airbnb lodging include a Saturday night stay – a fairly significant number compared to just 10% of trips with hotel bookings.And, in cities and times where we see a spike in alternative lodging bookings, we found that the average daily rate of traditional hotels is 16% higher than normal, likely spurring a traveler to seek out other options.
Also according to expense data from SAP Concur, specific to bleisure trips when the traveler stayed at an Airbnb property, 76% of bookings were made by millennials, compared to just 6% made by baby boomers.
Cost and length of bleisure trips follow distinct trends globally, but can vary by industry
Globally, September and October are the peak months for bleisure, with 15% and 18% more bleisure trips than the average, respectively. So, which industries are bleisuring the most and for how long?
- Manufacturing, tech and financial services are the top three industries for bleisure trips, accounting for 40% of all bleisure trips in 2017.
- On average, the length of a bleisure trip is extended roughly two days longer than non-bleisure trips, unless you’re a government contractor, in which case that average extension length is one day longer than travelers from other industries.
Check your policy – at your bleisure!
This growing group of bleisure travelers is compelling companies to take a closer look at how they address travel and expense policies, while also providing opportunities for fun travel experiences for their employees.
Whether you’re a traveler looking to take a bleisure trip, or a company ready to bring your travel policy up to bleisure code, here are some things to consider:
- Travel Managers:
o Are you covered? Is blended travel already included in your policy, and is there broader employee awareness of the policy? Make plans to communicate the details sooner than later, since it’s likely travelers are already blending their business and leisure trips without direct knowledge of the policy terms.
o Do you know where your employees are? Clear traveler safety and duty of care policies become increasingly important during bleisure trips, so determine and clearly define what portion of employee trips will be covered by the company’s travel insurance.
o Who picks up the tab? Who pays for what – and how? It’s common for companies to cover all costs for the days their travelers are there for business as well as the round-trip flight, while the employee foots the bill for anything associated with their personal time off. Expense reporting can get tricky, though, if you don’t define when business ends and leisure begins and establish clear processes to separate the two.
o Who books what? Decide whether employees will be allowed to book bleisure trips through your company’s OBT. According to a recent SAP Concur GBTA survey, 78% of companies said they sometimes or always allow bleisure travelers to book the leisure component of their trip through company channels, but it’s up to the discretion of the travel managers if this is something you’ll offer.
o Smart scheduling: Where possible, schedule your business meetings on Mondays and Fridays so you have a convenient way to extend your trip and enjoy your destination without using up any vacation days or extra travel time during the work week.
o Reap the benefits: If your company allows it, book all the nights for your stay together as you may be able to take advantage of your company’s negotiated travel rates for even more cost savings – 84% of companies said they sometimes or always allow bleisure travelers to use these rates.
o Know before you go: Get familiar with your company’s travel policy before you go. Some companies have more robust bleisure policies than others, so knowing what’s covered and what’s not as it relates to expenses and traveler safety will make the whole process easier and safer for both you and your travel manager.
Accommodating bleisure travel in travel policies can offer a way to demonstrate to employees that a company values their travelers’ well-being and work-life balance. In turn, employees feel more job satisfaction, leading to higher productivity and talent retention.
Note: Tim MacDonald is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at SAP Concur.