Hybrid and remote are now familiar ways of working. Will the natural business travel spin-off of these new ways of working be a growth in blended travel?

Often referred to as ‘bleisure’ in the industry, blended travel is any type of travel that combines business and leisure.

Recent statistics have shown a rise in those seeking out trips that blend these two elements together. Our parent company, TripActions, reported (through recent third-party surveys of business travellers) that 65% of respondents had planned to combine business and leisure trips this year.

Forbes reported it expected to see business and leisure trips more closely bonded than ever before. Plus, it’s a trend that the Global Business Travel Association has highlighted, citing nearly one-third (37%) of North American business travellers extended their trips for leisure.

Companies may have to match changing attitudes to the workplace, increasingly adopting bleisure travel behaviours, such as extended stays.

Yet what does all this mean for your travel programme and your organisation’s business trips?

What are the benefits of blended travel for employees? 

Blended travel offers many benefits. Primarily it allows employees to embrace flexibility, considers traveller wellbeing and champions sustainability.

Business travellers can prioritise their mental wellbeing in these trips by reaching a balance between work and play. Adding leisure days may give them the opportunity to overcome jetlag, acclimatise before meetings or wind down afterwards. Being joined by family members during a blended work trip could also improve personal relationships and connections, in turn, increasing mental wellbeing.

A focal point for the benefits of blended travel in recent years has been sustainability. It helps reduce carbon emissions by eliminating the need for a separate journey for leisure. Yet it still brings tourism to local areas, with travellers spending more money, and offers the advantage of offsetting the flight fare expense for the employee.

“We shouldn’t discourage blended travel as it will meet the needs of travellers,” Reed & Mackay Partner, Advisory Services, Ian Ferguson says. “We can take a more sustainable-positive approach to travel by only taking one flight to a destination and back.”

In terms of benefits for the company, Ferguson highlights its contribution to employee recruitment and retention. How can bleisure help team productivity?

“The next cohort filtering into the workplace is Gen Z. And, at the core of their focus, is wellbeing and protecting the planet. They’re asking, ‘how can you work and travel at the same time?’ Finding a business and leisure balance, upholding general wellbeing, and doing so in an environmentally responsible way, such as with blended trips, is a massive attraction.”

However, while the desire for blended travel may be high, the execution could be complex.

Tips when planning the bleisure trip

·      Expense management

The largest component that separates corporate travel from leisure is who is paying for the ticket. Blended trips will not happen without the support of the company. Reed & Mackay Global Elite Advisor Steve Spurgeon points out that the more employees mix business and leisure trips, the more challenging expense reporting will become to complete accurately.

“It’s hugely important that companies clarify, before the work trip begins, where the personal and the business travel cost of the trip separate, to ensure it’s not detrimental to business,” he advises.

·      Risk management

With more corporate flexibility comes more responsibility to ensure the safety of employees. This will mean taking a fresh look at risk management.

Seemingly, blended travel is currently happening outside of what is supported in company travel policy. According to a GBTA poll, 49% of those polled said their travel policy didn’t account for bleisure trips but, in practice, employees are often permitted to take them. Thirty-six percent said their company travel policy expressly allows blended travel; 3% said it did not.

Therefore, there is a need for a solid blended travel policy to be incorporated into main corporate travel policies. There needs to be formal demarcations for what the company will take responsibility for and what will be the responsibility of the traveller.

“I think it’s important to have some in-built flexibility within said policy to accommodate the extension of the trip for a purpose that is either the same as – or over and above – what the trip was originally designed for, such as entertaining clients informally,” Ferguson adds.

With these newly framed considerations around travel cost, climate change and wellbeing we are likely to see a more flexible work future.

DO YOU THINK BLENDED TRAVEL WILL BE A GROWING TREND IN 2023?

Email us your thoughts at hello@reedmackay.com

To find out more about how Reed & Mackay can help transform the way your business travels, contact us here.