Business travel is coming back with added leisure as companies find new ways to help employees enjoy ‘bleisure’

October 3, 2022, 12:05 PM UTC
Workers want their business and leisure trips combined—otherwise known as bleisure.
Getty Images

COVID-19—and all of the disruptions to life that came with it—has brought into question the many ways we work, and business travel is no exception.

With companies bolstering their business travel spending as the world emerges from the pandemic, almost four-fifths of U.K. business travelers are demanding their company prioritize their well-being, new research from American Express has found.

Workers are demanding more combined business and leisure trips—also known as bleisure—as well as more access to business class and the airline lounges, and the ability to bring family members or partners along with them at no extra cost.

In a survey of 500 business travelers and 500 senior business travel decision makers in the U.K. conducted for American Express by Opinium from July 25–29, the card payment services company found that more than two-thirds of U.K. businesses are planning to boost travel spending by 50% or more. Businesses want more travel as they believe it will drive more revenue and growth, and help them expand to new markets.

Around 77% of businesses said they had suffered due to their inability to travel over the past two years, as they see travel as a valuable tool in connecting remote teams and getting teams together, the survey found. Workers concur: 70% of business travelers said that face-to-face meetings are essential in achieving their business objectives.

But as business travelers pack their bags and check in to flights, they have much higher expectations from their employers. Around 71% of business travelers said they would leave their role if their employer didn’t prioritize their well-being during their trips.

“Our research shows that business travel and the value of in-person connections in driving growth go hand in hand,” said Hana Lear, vice president of U.K. card services at American Express. “However, there’s clearly a renewed focus on the entire business travel experience to ensure both companies and employees maximize the value of trips.”

The rise of Bleisure

Bleisure is a concept that first described in 2009 by the business consulting group Future Laboratory, and it has become increasingly relevant during the pandemic-inspired shift in the way we work. Companies that permit bleisure allow employees to extend their business trips to spend time vacationing and sightseeing at their destination—with some even allowing families or partners to come along.

The movement has grown exponentially over the last decade and has become a common demand among employees who are asked to travel. The American Express survey found that almost 42% of business travelers preferred business trips where they blend business with leisure time, and 43% of businesses are finding new ways to help their employees enjoy bleisure. One in three employers said that they were allowing workers to bring a partner or family member along at little to no extra cost.

Bleisure in seen as making business trips less stressful for employees, increasing job satisfaction and productivity, and helping employee retention.

Travel industry interest

There are also many positives to bleisure for the ailing airline and hospitality industries. While leisure travel has largely rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, airlines—which saw a loss of some 75% of their income with the rise of remote working and online conferences—don’t expect to see a full recovery until 2024 because of the drop in business travel. Bleisure could speed this recovery.

Bleisure is also more sustainable, which is one of the top concerns for business travelers. More than 70% of business travelers said they worried about the environmental impact and the carbon footprint of their trips, according to the American Express survey, which can be mitigated if they combine a necessary work trip with a family vacation that would otherwise require another flight.

But bleisure does come with a catch. In an already deeply connected and always online world, bleisure further erodes the barriers between personal and professional lives.  

The days when a vacation meant leaving work behind seem to be retreating further into the past, with a Linkedin study finding that nearly 60% of workers admitted to engaging in work duties and checking in with their bosses or coworkers while taking time off.

And as workers take their laptops with them while traveling, the positives of “work from anywhere” may mean they can and will have to work from everywhere.

Sign up for the Fortune Features email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.

Read More

Travel IndustryBooksSmarter ShoppingSports