From a digital nomad writing a blog post in Palawan, to a manager checking emails from a ski resort in the Alps, to a full-time freelancer staying in a coliving space and a computer scientist building codes from his home office, technological innovations have blurred the boundaries between work and fun, professional career and personal time. In the quest of finding a fulfilling work/life balance, a trend that gained a lot of interest in the last few years is the hybrid model of bleisure.
"The end of labour is to gain leisure – Aristotle
Bleisure is a buzzword that describes the combination of business and leisure travel that, in recent years, transformed the whole travel industry. According to the Global Business Travel Association, nowadays, more than one in three people that travel for business reasons will also consider dedicating some time for leisure to explore their destination. Expedia confirmed this trend by stating that more than 40% of business trips are extended for leisure purposes. Leisure is related to looking for a better quality of life, which can be translated in free time to relax, doing activities, attending local events and, in general, experiencing more about the travel destination, its culture and surroundings. Having the chance to dedicate some time for interests outside of work, business travellers can boost their morale and reduce stress levels.
In a recent research by Forbes, it turned out that younger generations – specifically Millennials – will most likely take part in such a trip compared to older colleagues, as they seek for adventures alongside their professional career. Companies should also encourage bleisure among their employees for multiple reasons. Firstly, face-to-face communication with clients will reinforce business relationships. Having the chance to explore and experience the local culture, language and art will limit anxiety and help the business traveller to variate the routine and prevent a burnout. Furthermore, it also creates more opportunities both for personal development, and for the professional career. Lastly, companies formalising bleisure policies will gain a positive reputation and attract new talents. This type of tourism may also boost local economies, as bleisure visitors are most likely to have a high purchasing power.
During these unprecedented times, a great transformation is affecting the tourism sector; the travel industry is undergoing changes that may most-likely last forever after COVID-19. Based on a report by Expedia Group Media Solutions, domestic trips turned out to be the most popular version of bleisure across multiple countries such as the United States, UK and Germany. In a previous SPX Lab article, How to Repurpose Hotel Assets into a Shared Living Experience, we have seen that domestic reservations are currently increasing in many countries. The domestic pattern seems to be the one that will reach major growth in bleisure in the post-corona world. In addition, the new working conditions proved that most employees can effectively work remotely at any time. This contributed to raising the employee-employer trust relation and will allow an increase in bleisure travelling. Hotels and other short-term accommodation providers can grab this great opportunity and take advantage of it in order to attract bleisure travellers by staying within the borders of their countries. Lastly, we need to mention that travellers will not be able to spend money during a trip as they were before. Thus, travel leisure packages, tailor-made hospitality services, but also alternative residential models (e.g. serviced apartments) can accommodate them since they are in need of a place to call home for a flexible amount of time.
For those who already own a hospitality property (hotels, hostels, B&B), shared living or coliving space, bleisure travellers are a challenging, but rewarding target group. Innovative solutions need to keep being implemented in short-term accommodations in order to attract travellers and make them happy. One way is to promote bleisure packages: due to the fact that business trips that last two to three nights are very likely to change into bleisure trips, hospitality owners can create special short to mid stay offers for their guests or certain discounts for every extra night. Within these offers they can include leisure activities both inside or outside of the property. For example, after a long conference meeting, your guests could be participating in an adventurous activity, such as sightseeing, hiking, diving, climbing, gaming, playing football, basketball, golf or enjoying a local gastronomic experience. Every morning, before they start working, they could join a yoga or pilates session to charge their batteries. Moreover, partnering up with local businesses is a great idea to encourage bleisurers to explore further and experience all the benefits offered within the package chosen. Finally, as travellers will probably avoid one night trips after the coronavirus outbreak, hospitality managers could rearrange their traditional pay-per-night model into short/mid flexible stays lasting from a fixed amount of days (f. e. 3, 7, 14, 30-days stay) to a fixed amount of months. These models will be the preferred options by many as physical & mental wellbeing, and a satisfying work/life balance have the biggest impact on loneliness.
People are now more aware of their safety than ever before. Thus, in a business trip they will tend to choose a remote stay instead of a central hotel, if the choice is given. One of the segments that will certainly see a successful uplift after the crisis will be retreat cabins, innovative concepts that enable guests to live, work and relax in isolated locations. Some of the largest hotel groups in the world have already tapped in this solution. Let’s take the example of Marriott, which has put its focus on creating memorable experiences for their guests. In 2019, the hotel chain launched its first private rental initiative offering 2.000 premium and luxury homes located throughout the US, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America with the goal to create a little holiday experience at each travel destination. Retreat cabins are usually located in remote environments, which can differ broadly from one another, such as jungles, mountains or even the middle of the desert. Especially during and after the pandemic, travellers will rather choose for options where they can feel safe and continue practicing social distancing when needed. A peaceful space in the woods or besides a lake represents a great solution for all kinds of professionals that are looking for inspiration and recharging their energy levels. In any case, the offer must meet all the safety measures, implement strict hygiene practices and higher standards in order to create a sense of security and freedom for the traveller.
COVID-19 had a significant and unpredictable impact on the hospitality industry. Hence, bleisure travelling is undergoing a transformation and it will certainly continue evolving in the near future. In order to attract travellers again, hotels and different real estate players should adjust their offer to prioritise guests’ well-being by promoting special packages, rearranging their model and raising hygiene standards. Any feeling of unsafety, isolation and boredom needs to be prevented by offering a top-notch customised assistance for their trip. Companies that actively encourage the work/life balance are the most successful in retaining their employees. Bleisure travelling could finally help to ameliorate friction significantly.
All the aforementioned solutions can be the driving force for hospitality and the alternative real estate industry to start recovering from the hit of the current health crisis. The choice of looking into retreat cabins is an unexplored segment that will attract more and more business travellers following the pandemic. Bleisure packages and flexible contracts represent appealing solutions for potential bleisure guests. Needless to mention, the most crucial aspect is to develop a safe, inspiring environment that enables interactions within the space and community building within a building or property. The major goal should be to create a sense of community that belongs to the space, and the people in it – no matter if you join tonight, if you joined 1 week ago or will be leaving soon to come back the month after.
As an innovative partner in business, SPX can offer full creative support adn consultancy services for both online and offline activities to adjust outdated real estate & hospitality concepts and start attracting bleisure travellers again. Have a look into our services for further details and subscribe to our newsletter below to be the first to get fresh insights straight to your mailbox.