'Bleisure’ On An Upswing As Work-Life Boundaries Blur
Bleisure isn’t going away and brands need to consider not just the consumer wallet, but the business traveller’s wallet, and adapt products and services for both audiences
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The Indian travel market is growing at a very prolific pace. Corporate travel is nothing new but with technological advances, the world has shrunk today, and business travel has become the norm of the day. With the millennial workforce driving change, the business mixed with leisure or ‘bleisure’ category is seeing an upward swing, with many travel sites reporting higher bookings of this pattern.
With plummeting airfares, getting to far flung destinations has never been cheaper! This makes it much easier for business travellers to take a companion with them on trips – someone to spend leisure time with in between meetings. And for those with the travel bug who want to save on air fares – tacking on a few extra days post-business engagement is a much more cost-effective way of booking a break. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that business travel was the top pursuit of a list of 17 provided that Indian respondents of our recent research were likely to personally spend most on in a given year.
This can be a win-win situation for companies too as it means cost effective tickets and happier business travellers! It can often be expensive to pay for employees to travel back at peak days or times after their meetings. Allowing them to add some leisure days to the trip could lower the cost of return travel, reducing the hit on company coffers. They look at travel investments as a way to secure growth. Globally, organisations devote significant sums to it every year – over $1.3 trillion (£1.01 trillion) in 2017 in fact. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts this figure will grow in the coming years, thanks to an improving economic landscape worldwide and the increasingly diverse demographic taking to the skies on behalf of their company. According to another report by KPMG, India is now a $30 billion business travel market and is expected to more than triple to $93 billion by 2030.
This trend is seen irrespective of gender as more women are becoming corporate globetrotters today. Recent research from Priority PassTM has shown that their spending is not very dissimilar to that of their male counterparts – 49,407.11 INR annually compared to INR 53,723.26. In addition, frequent business travel in India seems to span a wide range of age groups. 12% of 25-34-year olds said they were likely to travel overseas on business, with 18% of the same age group likely to make business trips domestically. Interestingly in India, which differs to the global averages, was the propensity of the older age groups to make trips for business, both domestically and internationally. In fact, notably for the 55+ age group, 32% were likely to take a domestic business trip in a year, with 19% likely to take an overseas business trip, and they were in fact the most likely of all age groups to travel overseas for business.
The Culture of Experience
But the reasons for a boom in bleisure run deeper and provide real opportunities for companies looking to capitalise on this new corner of the market. Our new Priority Pass research, carried out by YouGov, found that globally we place huge value on the Currency of Experience.
Millennials and Gen X-ers are famously fond of experience over material goods, and their growing presence on the business travel scene may contribute to a penchant for bleisure rather than a simple corporate trip. But it appears they are not alone.
In a Global Barometer of the activities, what were valued the most were experiences like holidays, going out for meals and trips to the cinema.. In fact, when asked what they enjoyed doing the most, globally, one in five people said it was exploring other cultures abroad – the most popular answer. Conversely, just 4% of people said buying luxury items was their favourite indulgence. In India, the concept of “bleisure” is particularly strong. When asked about how much respondents were likely to personally spend on activities they were likely to do in a year, travel overseas for business came out on top with an average of Rs 52,191. India was the only one of the 9 countries surveyed where this was the case.
This overall sentiment of preference towards experiences over material goods was broadly the same regardless of gender, geography or age, demonstrating the worldwide appetite for ‘doing’ rather than ‘owning’. Perhaps the rise of bleisure breaks reflects this demand. If the modern business traveller is starting to better represent the global consumer base, it stands to reason that they will correspondingly seek opportunities to combine corporate excursions with leisure experiences that can be shared with friends, family and social networks.
According to the Next Big Thing consumer futurist, Will Higham, the desire to reduce carbon footprints could also have an impact in the future. It’ll make people more likely to bookend business travel with personal, and even family, holiday time. He also predicts the growth of the ‘Health Club Class’ – wellness-focused business travellers with a desire to maintain personal health. He suggests these travellers will want to ensure that the whole travel experience is healthy – from the calories in the food they eat, to the air quality of hotel rooms.
Full steam ahead for the future
Regardless of the reasons, it seems that bleisure is not only here to stay, but is set to flourish. Business travellers want choice in how they spend their time pre-flight, whether that’s firing off last minute emails in a tranquil luxury lounge or indulging in flight-side massages. And they’re willing to pay for it.
Figures show that there is a general trend that spend on overseas business travel may at times be linked to their income. Recent India data shows that those bringing in between INR 960,000-1,199,999 per year spend on average INR 55,222 when travelling overseas for business. The highest spend was however in the income group of INR 12,00,000 to INR 36,00,000: travellers spent Rs 67,873. If experience is king, these figures could be representative of bleisure expenses – dining out, investing in one-off experiences or exploring the cultural highlights of their destination.
Bleisure isn’t going away and brands need to consider not just the consumer wallet, but the business traveller’s wallet, and adapt products and services for both audiences. Whether it’s offering experiences tailored to the business traveller or diversifying their core offering to cater to the experience market, businesses that embrace this growing trend will encourage higher spending and secure greater customer loyalty.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.