The bleisure concept of mixing work and pleasure has never been more popular, but Derek Picot asks if it is a phenomenon only for younger travellers.
Bleisure is the rather inelegant word hoteliers use to describe business travellers who are mixing work and leisure and adding on a few days’ holiday to their trips. But are you too old to partake in this trend? A recent study in France by American Express and BVA (a French research company) confirmed earlier findings by several US travel consulting firms that it was millennials who were making the most of the opportunity. The report highlighted that business travellers in Europe aged 25 to 45 were the most likely to add on leisure days to their work trip.
So how is the hotel industry responding? A growing awareness that younger business travellers may want to spend more time in their destination has spurred further research. This has revealed that there is a youthful desire to see the local art scene, enjoy the beaches or take in a sightseeing tour.
The issue of age is relevant because it may reflect that millennial business travellers have fewer family commitments and can more easily spend the weekend away from home. They may also be leading lives with greater pressure at a key point in their careers and believe in taking time out when the opportunity arises. And this comes with the advantage of no significant extra cost, as transport to the destination has already been taken care of as a business expense.
Hoteliers are seeing the benefits of guests extending their trips. The focus is on making a suggestion at the time of booking that they stay a little longer. Discounts for weekends, special offers in the spa or great dining deals are all being buckled on to a typical midweek business booking.
Hotels are also suggesting exactly how a few days extra in the city can be a cultural experience. The Gran Melia Palacios de los Duques in Madrid, for example, has introduced a cultural programme for the bleisure traveller.
Along with a better room product, it is offering weekend private pre-opening tours of the Prado Museum or the Teatro Real, and its business lounge is now equipped with a library and more relaxed seating.
Another example is the Fried Castle hotel near Budapest, which offers something for everyone. After a hard working week, guests can enjoy petting the animals at the small zoo in the grounds or, for the blood thirsty, the hotel will organise a hunting expedition where you can shoot your dinner and have it brought back to eat.
ROOM TO RELAX
At the same time, hoteliers are rethinking their room proposition, giving particular attention to design. A 2016 competition by L’Arca to see how architects and designers were responding to the bleisure trend produced some interesting variations to the typical hotel set-up. The primary focus was on health, wellbeing and activity, followed by food and romance. Bedroom colours were softened, four-poster beds used instead of standard divans and more thought put into the technology for leisure purposes, including games and music choice via the audio-visual system.
The public areas have also come under consideration, with travellers expecting to experience the location beyond their work needs. Large interactive wall maps of local culture and areas of interest are being displayed in lobbies to suggest where bleisure guests can visit and invite them to post their experiences on the wall afterwards. Business-focused hotels are suggesting walking tours and bike rides, purchasing both pedal and electric bicycles to encourage guests to travel a little further in pursuit of local charm.
So will the trend extend to those with hair that is slowly silvering or has already disappeared? The consensus of thought from the researchers is probably not. It appears that the aged business traveller, unlike the millennial counterpart, may be more jaded, more exhausted or plain “just not bothered”. Resembling a drained long-distance runner staggering on the last mile, the older traveller appears to want nothing more than to get home.
Can business and vacationing go hand in hand, and is this a trend that your company would want to promote? I suspect that those who want to mix the two are not encouraged to do so despite corporate lip service to “work and play” in equal measure. This is a shame because, encouragingly, all bleisure respondents to the surveys felt that they had increased job satisfaction, less stress and better wellbeing by taking off a few extra days, regardless of their age.
Derek Picot has been a hotelier for more than 30 years, and is author of Hotel Reservations.