Technology already has blurred the line between "work" and "play" for many Americans. Now, travel appears to be doing the same thing, according to the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
Last week, it published the results of a new study focusing on the "bleisure" travel trend. Titled "Extending Business Travel into Leisure Time -- Bleisure Study," it's based on a survey of 675 business travelers in the United States and Canada, 37 percent of who told GBTA that they have extended a work trip for leisure purposes at least once in the last year. For Millennials, the number was even higher -- 48 percent, compared to 33 percent of Gen-X travelers and 23 percent of baby boomers.
"Business travel is a lifestyle for many of our guests and we're seeing a growing desire by these travelers to add a leisure component to their trip and experience the destination beyond the meeting room," said Kelly Phillips, senior vice president of global engagement and strategic accounts at Hilton Worldwide, which conducted the study in partnership with the GBTA Foundation.
On average, travelers extend business trips for three days, found GBTA, which said 90 percent of bleisure travelers typically extend their trips for more than a day. Only 23 percent typically extend them for more than three days.
GBTA also asked bleisure travelers about their motivations. Travelers' most common reasons for extending work trips for leisure, it discovered, are: to visit a destination where they like to spend their time (43 percent), to visit a new destination they wanted to see (38 percent), to lower the cost of taking a vacation (34 percent), and to take time away from home and work (34 percent). Travelers' most common reasons for not extending work trips, meanwhile, are: lack of time (58 percent), company policy (18 percent), undesirable location (17 percent), and cost (14 percent).
Clearly, a growing number of business travelers want to turn business trips into personal vacations. What's less clear, however, is the impact on their employers, according to GBTA, which said issues for companies' managed travel programs include:
• Cost: Although 39 percent of business travelers paid the difference in air/train travel costs for extending their business trip into personal time off, one-quarter (27 percent) did not.
• Duty of Care: On their last bleisure trip, 12 percent of travelers experienced an issue where they needed assistance from their company or the person who arranged the travel, begging the question: When does a company's liability and obligation to help their traveler begin and end?
• Accommodations: When business travelers choose to extend a work trip for leisure, they generally book accommodations outside of their company's official channels, GBTA concluded. This, even though 82 percent stay at the same hotel for the business and leisure portions of their trip.
"This study highlights a variety of ways in which companies can improve the bleisure travel experience for their employees, while also aligning bleisure travel with their own goals," said GBTA Foundation Director of Research Monica Sanchez. "Some of these ways include establishing clear rules for reimbursing expenses incurred by non-employees, helping travelers understand the resources available to them on the leisure portion of their trip, and developing a policy regarding preferred suppliers and booking channels."
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