Over one-third (37%) of North American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure in the past year, according to a study from the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association. Millennials (48%) did so at a much higher rate than Gen-X travelers (33%) and baby boomers (23%). The study, Extending Business Travel into Leisure Time – Bleisure Study, conducted in partnership with Hilton, identified who takes bleisure trips, why they do and what this means for managed travel programs, as well as the types of accommodations such travelers use throughout their trips.
“This study highlights a variety of ways in which companies can improve the bleisure travel experience for their employees, while also aligning bleisure travel with their own goals,” said Monica Sanchez, GBTA Foundation director of research. “Some of these ways include establishing clear rules for reimbursing expenses incurred by non-employees, helping travelers understand the resources available to them on the leisure portion of their trip and developing a policy regarding preferred suppliers and booking channels.”
Business travelers who do take bleisure trips most typically extend them for a short period of time. While 90% do so for more than one day, only around one-quarter (23%) do so for more than three days. On average, travelers typically extend their trips for three days.
When taking bleisure trips, travelers frequently incur additional transportation costs. On their last bleisure trip, 39% of business travelers paid the difference in air/train travel costs for extending their business trip into personal time off, 27% did not and 26% indicated there was no difference. This presents several challenges for managed travel programs, including how to estimate the additional costs stemming from bleisure travel, distinguishing between business and leisure costs and how to address these issues in company travel policy.
Another major area of travel policy that comes into play is duty of care. On their last bleisure trip, 12% of travelers experienced an issue in which they needed assistance from their company or the person who arranged the travel. This begs the question of when does a company’s liability and obligation to help the traveler begin and end.
When business travelers choose to extend a work trip for leisure, they generally search for accommodations through a third-party site or a hotel’s website or mobile app, meaning it is possible that bleisure travel may incentivize travelers to book outside of their company’s channels, according to the study. To encourage travelers to stay within the program, companies might make a greater effort to help travelers receive the corporate discount for the leisure portion of their trip.