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Is bleisure travel a pandemic trend or is it here to stay?

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7 mins

We grew up eating with sporks (spoon + fork), learning about new products from infomercials (Information + commercial), and watching romcoms (romance + comedy). You’re undoubtedly familiar with each of these.

But are you familiar with “bleisure” travel? It’s a term that’s becoming increasingly popular after taking a brief hiatus for a couple of years due to COVID-19. Business travelers are big fans of it, and hoteliers, travel agencies, and restaurants count on it to pad their bottom lines.

So, what exactly is bleisure? Why is it so popular, and is it here to stay? Let’s look at it in detail and hopefully give you some food for thought on how you can enjoy its benefits.

Bleisure travel definition

Bleisure travel is the combination of business travel and leisure travel. It’s a novel way of saying “extending a business trip.” Business travelers have been doing it for years, tacking on a day or three on either side of a work trip to enjoy the locality they traveled to for meetings, trade shows, training, etc. It became increasingly popular between 2016 and 2020 until the pandemic brought travel for all of us to a grinding halt.

When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, business professionals who traveled extensively for work (also known as road warriors) were pulled off the road and out of the airports by government mandates and corporate concern for their well-being. Face-to-face meetings with clients and co-workers were replaced with Skype and Zoom calls.

It was a major shock to their system for many business travelers. Hustling through the airport to make their connections and waking up in a distant city were replaced by a commute from their bedroom to their home office/kitchen table. Being that it was novel, it was embraced by many at first, but it gave way to cabin fever as the months rolled by.

After several years of dealing with the coronavirus and its variants, business travelers are once again taking trains, planes, and automobiles and traveling to corporate headquarters, seeing clients, and wooing potential clients in person. Thanks to the rise in bleisure travel, hotels are filling up, and restaurant reservations in popular destinations are becoming increasingly difficult to come by.

[ Related: 5 fortunate industries with the most pandemic-proof businesses ]

Why bleisure travel is on the rise

Observers point to the combination of pent-up demand for travel and the advent of a more flexible work environment as primary drivers behind the resurgence of bleisure travel.

The shift away from the traditional office environment to remote working patterns allows workers more flexibility to extend their business trips for personal pleasure. In addition, experience with “work from anywhere” has shown them how to mix personal time with work that needs to be done and deadlines that need to be met.

Employees are also adding a leisure component to their trips more often because more employers are now more supportive of bleisure travel since the lines between work and personal life have blurred.

Many companies and managers have become increasingly comfortable with their employees remaining productive working outside of the office. They recognize that bleisure can make a business trip much less stressful for an employee, positively impacting job satisfaction, workers’ mental health, and employee retention.

[ Related: 7 healthy work-life balance tips to follow throughout your career ]

The benefits of bleisure travel

Ask someone who frequently travels on business, and they’ll gladly tell you how demanding it can be on a person’s work-life balance. Being on the road separates them from their families and loved ones for days or weeks at a time. As a result, they often miss important events in their children's lives and important milestones, like birthdays and anniversaries.

Bleisure travel saves employees some of those lost moments. Being able to take kids and family along on business trips and spending time together enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of a new city or country can’t replace missed dance recitals and Little League games, but it can create enjoyable memories that will last a lifetime.

Employees’ mental health is also positively impacted by bleisure. Pandemic fatigue has created untold mental health issues for American workers who were ill-prepared to work from home. Being able to travel again and combine it with personal and family fun is a stress-reliever that positively impacts employees’ mental well-being and job satisfaction.

Employers, not just employees, benefit from bleisure opportunities. Companies' acceptance and promotion of bleisure travel helps bring talented new employees into the fold. As a result, a perk that was once enjoyed almost exclusively by senior employees has expanded to workers throughout organizations, including younger generations who value non-traditional modes of productivity.

The third beneficiary of bleisure travel is the travel industry, including hotels and destinations. They’re becoming less dependent on the traditional peak travel periods of holidays and school vacation weeks/months.

Not only are hoteliers and co-hosts booking bleisure travelers more frequently, but the length of traveler's stays is getting longer. According to Airbnb, almost half of the stays booked on its platform in the third quarter of 2021 were for at least seven days, up from 44% in 2019.

[ Related: Is remote work from home right for you? ]

How to make the most of bleisure travel

Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity in the not too distant future to enjoy some bleisure travel, whether it be to make a sales pitch, attend a trade show (in person, again), or benefit from some corporate training. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your next bleisure experience.

Enjoy your time with family or friends

Ideally, you’ll be able to bring along a significant other and/or the kids with you on your trip, but be creative if you can’t. If you have relatives, friends, or acquaintances in the city or region you’re visiting, call them up ahead of time so you’ll have someone to enjoy a drink or meal with after the day is done, or play local tour guide for the weekend.

Don’t know anyone in town? Check out local sporting events and music venues when you’re on your own. You can find something that interests you and keeps you off of your phone in every locale if you look for it.

Treat yourself

Now that the company has covered the major expenses like flights, hotel costs, and most of your meals, you might have some extra cash in your pocket when you arrive. Invest these savings in your leisure activities and enjoy some luxuries you usually wouldn’t without having to spend more than you would for a regular vacation.

Make your trips count

Not every business trip can turn into a bleisure experience, so be selective. For example, if you’re a history buff, try pairing business and leisure on a trip to Washington, D.C. to explore the Smithsonian, or wander the Freedom Trail with your family when you have meetings in Boston.

The bottom line

Increased awareness of work-life balance and the importance of their employees' good mental/emotional health has paved the way for progressive companies to encourage workers to enjoy the bleisure travel trend. Whether or not too many people take advantage of it and ruin the fun for everyone else remains to be seen.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published February 18, 2022
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