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Bleisure is real – How can CTMCs adapt?

Jun 12, 2017

Whatever your feeling about the word, bleisure is a very real phenomenon, and one that is having repercussions throughout the travel industry. Travelers are mixing business and leisure trips, and the last few years have seen the sector paying more and more attention to the trend, with bleisure trips on average worth more than pure leisure bookings – research by the Global Business Travel Alliance (GBTA) found the average spend on a bleisure trip was $1,556 compared with $1,332 for pure leisure travel. And the same research found that 67% of business travelers felt it important to be able to extend business trips for leisure; this presents a real growth opportunity for corporate travel management companies (CTMCs) that can offer leisure add-ons. There are plenty of challenges for employers that need to manage budgets and employees looking to get the most from work and play – but there are just as many opportunities. We look at how CTMCs can add value to both sides while capitalizing on the bleisure trend.


Why millennials are a key bleisure market

Though opinions differ on how much bleisure has grown in recent years, research is conclusive on the demographic most likely to combine a leisure trip with business travel: as Expedia and Skift have reported, millennials are now the most frequent business travelers, and they are twice as likely as their older peers to add leisure time onto a business trip – a recent survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) found that the bleisure rate among under-25s was over double that of 45–50-year-olds

At the same time, millennials make up a generation that, in workplace terms, may currently span C-level to incoming graduates and has now established itself as the largest generation in the workforce. Competition for top talent is well documented (you only need look at the subtitle of the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey: Winning over the next generation of leaders). Add to this the premium that many members of the demographic place on travel, and bleisure emerges as a powerful tool in employer branding.

‘Opportunity to travel’ has long been a nebulous carrot dangled by job descriptions that play fast and loose with the reality of corporate life. But the tangible increase in travelers using a corporate framework for leisure pursuits presents a real opportunity for CTMCs to offer employers a feasible way to give employees what they really want. In the same way that gym membership and partner discounts are benefit stalwarts, innovative travel schemes can become a standard perk to offer real value to the growing number of bleisure-minded employees.


How CTMCs can incentivize clients

Many in-house travel managers will remain resistant to the idea of subsidizing an employee’s summer vacation. But the arguments are compelling – bleisure boosts morale. And CTMCs can offer a solution to a growing problem by making bleisure travel a realistic prospect as a company perk – or even part of everyday work life – as well as adding value through access to discounts and deals. The key to success lies in presenting a business case and opening dialog with the right gatekeepers.


Why CMTCs are best placed for bleisure management

In its 2016 Portrait of Business Travelers MMGY Global found that 69% of business travelers make their own reservations, with 17% going through the company travel department and 3% through a travel agent.

Bleisure travel presents some major compliance challenges for companies – even more so when employees are making their own bookings. As the bleisure trend blurs the line between business and personal, CTMCs can capitalize on this by helping employers meet the increasingly complex challenges of developing their travel policy and ensuring that employees comply to it.


And how they can add value for employees

Companies can keep employees within a governed travel infrastructure by offering bleisure as a value-add to employees. As Philip Haxne of American Express Global Business Travel points out, to adapt to the modern business traveler’s expectations ‘corporations should take advantage of today’s powerful technology to enable choice and personalization in the travel experience.’

CTMCs can win here by promoting their ability to provide information and options to employees with diverse and high expectations – a challenge that many companies are ill-equipped to tackle on their own. Industry insights and tools such as airfare tracking and exclusive hotel discounts are now also a way to become a go-to for employees as well as a de facto channel for employers.


Why product mix is vital to bleisure success

Given the diversity of booking methods and the proportion of business travelers who book themselves, travel management solutions need to provide more flexibility than ever. And with the varied motivations for bleisure travel, it’s clear that product mix is also important to meet demand. Trips in the bleisure bracket can range from family vacations to weekend city breaks (CWT identified Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas as the top bleisure destinations in the US, with Barcelona, Lisbon and Nice leading in Europe).

Travel brands need to start paying attention to how younger travelers book travel, especially in business travel. Companies will have a new set of challenges to face, especially if airline or hotel loyalty programs and other perks are less important than local experiences or brand identity.’

— Andrew Sheivachman, Skift

Travelers themselves are at the heart of the bleisure trend, so targeting their habits will be key to realizing success. The ideal CTMC becomes one that can not only take away the headache of booking corporate travel, but can add value to employees’ experience by helping them get more from their career through travel options. And, crucially, by providing both the products and technology to do that.