The return of ‘Bleisure’ travel

Business travel is regaining momentum as a growing number of companies look at it to secure growth
The return of ‘Bleisure’ travel
Priyanka Lakhani, Senior Vice President Commercial EMEA, Collinson

World Travel & Tourism Council’s recent report ‘Adapting to Endemic Covid-19: The Outlook for Business Travel’ shows that business travel to the Middle East region increased by 49% last year. Simultaneously, Global Business Travel Association’s  (GBTA) recent Business Travel Index estimates that business travel is expected to increase by 32% in the Middle East in 2022, as economies around the world begin to relax travel restrictions and the increasingly diverse demographic taking to the skies on behalf of their company.

As corporate globetrotters take to the skies, Collinson’s recent Value of Lounge research, conducted with travellers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, reflects the rise of ‘bleisure travel’ where business travel is combined with leisure or tourism, according to Priyanka Lakhani, Senior Vice President Commercial EMEA, Collinson.

The findings from the survey, which took place earlier this year, highlight that in 2021, the most common return trip was an international leisure trip (21.2%); however, 34% of the respondents from the United Arab Emirates and 33% from Saudi Arabia said that they often travelled for business or ‘bleisure’ purposes.

The United Arab Emirates was one of the top destinations for travellers, with Expo 2020 Dubai playing a pivotal role in catalysing business growth in the tourism and hospitality sectors in the emirate and driving the number of international visitors.


The pandemic has redefined the meaning of ‘bleisure’


In the past, ‘bleisure’ was classified as a trip that employees extended for a few extra days’ post-business engagements. This proved to be a much more cost-effective way of booking a break. This trend has seen a boom in recent years, with travel sites reporting a hike in these kinds of bookings, and quickly became standard practice just before the pandemic.

The pandemic has changed the fabric of ‘bleisure’, with digital nomads and flexible working, which have become the norm. Working from a beach café or extending the National Day weekend or Eid holiday to continue working with scenic backdrops does not classify as a vacation or even a work trip, but it can add a new meaning to the phrase, ‘bleisure’.

Notably, the UAE government recently eased its travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers, and at the top of the list is the UK. Unvaccinated travelers can also enter the country with a negative PCR test that needs to be taken 48 hours before arrival in the country. With these ease of restrictions across the country, 2022 looks promising for the return of all forms of travel, including leisure, business, and ‘bleisure’.

A GBTA survey conducted last year found that 82% of corporate travel managers believe that their workers were equally or more interested in ‘bleisure’ travel than they used to be.

Having this option could be quite appealing for many employees. This approach is made possible because of remote working and its flexibility. Employees now have the opportunity to explore new countries while simultaneously getting their work done.

Adding a few extra days’ post-business engagements benefits the employees looking for a quick break and who do not need to sacrifice their own time and leisure plans to travel for business. This approach could be beneficial to both the employees and organizations. Companies would find it more expensive to pay for their employees’ trips back during peak days or after their meetings.

It is clear that ‘bleisure’ is back, and it is here to stay. It is time for airlines to reconsider their services and offers to include business travelers. Providing tailor-made experiences for the business traveler and embracing this growing trend will help airlines secure greater customer loyalty and encourage higher spending.

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