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Welcome to Bristol bleisure centre

Published on Thursday, 19th July 2018, contributed by Prophecy Unlimited

Are you one to mix business with pleasure when it comes to travel? Did you even realise you were part of an emerging trend that sits under the hottest portmanteau since ‘Brexit’? That’s right, you and your work-life balance travel arrangements are part of the ‘bleisure’ category in life.

They say that busses come along in pairs but so too does ‘bleisure’ research from UK regional airports. Two pieces of research, commissioned independently of each other, were released this week to highlight the emergence, the opportunity and the benefits of travelling for ‘bleisure’. The reports come from London City Airport, in conjunction with the University of East London (UEL), and Bristol Airport with support from OnePoll.com.

The headlines of both state that over 50% of business trips are now extended by the traveller to add an element of pleasure to that work trip away. The motivations for doing so are intrinsically linked to individual wellbeing benefits, increased productivity and expanding horizons and connections. With 54% of ‘bleisure’ travellers taking their family with them, it is not yet clear if this is an additional chance for family travel or using business travel to subsidise a family trip away.

With seasoned ‘bleisure’ seekers taking an average of eight professional trips every year, the chance to extend that stay, supplemented with personal annual leave, is something that more people are seeking out. That said, not all businesses are adapting to this shift to accommodate extended leave plans. With 83% wishing they could travel abroad for work more often, it’s a consideration that businesses are going to need to address soon.

Nigel Scott, Business Development Director at Bristol Airport, who commissioned their survey, said: “This research reflects the changes we’ve noticed on stay lengths for passengers travelling on business which supports the Bleisure concept of travel.  Previously passengers would arrange business travel involving for one or two nights away, but increasingly we are seeing passengers selecting three or more nights stays, in some cases this allows passengers the opportunity of relaxing and enjoying time in and around the destination they are visiting.”

Old habits die hard. Young consumers shift easily.

But what does this new consumer-driven behaviour for travel mean for brands and the tourism industry itself? It is certainly further evidence of the fragmented state of play that is the holiday booking customer journey, with its myriad touchpoints.

If the millennial consumer hadn’t already ripped up the holiday booking rulebook, ‘bleisure’ certainly adds further complexity and disruption to the non-linear process for many.

At the inspiration stage, a ‘bleisure’ trip ultimately has its destination pre-determined by the business need for the trip itself. Be that conference, site visit or otherwise.

The research phase is still as open as a traditional leisure-based vacation, and with 89% of younger travellers having the decision making swayed by social media, it’s imperative for brands to present themselves in the relevant channels.

A ‘bleisure’ transaction is likely tied up with your company’s travel policy, but the eventual holiday experience and advocacy of that experience itself will follow the standard route.

Business and pleasure is booming in Bristol.

That this research comes from two regional airports is not surprising. Let’s take Bristol as our focus. With Bristol recently declared as one of the biggest financial sector hubs outside of London, contributing £1.8bn to the national economy and Bristol’s tourism economy estimated to be worth £1.3bn to the local economy, Bristol is perfectly poised to take advantage of the trend.

Data from Destination Bristol shows that overseas visitors average a 6.25-night stay in the area, with an average trip spend of £355.38. Domestic visitors typically stay 2.13 nights per trip with an average spend of £164.73.

Across all sectors, in 2016 there were an estimated 35.2k business events held in Bristol venues, bringing 2.2 million delegates to the region – many with the opportunity to extend their trip that little bit further.

Now is the time for travel and tourism brands to capitalise on the additional revenue opportunities presented by those that come to the region seeking ‘bleisure’. Given the role of regional airports as hubs of commerce, we expect to see airports, as both brand and business, take a bigger role in influencing travel decisions. Be that for business, pleasure or both.

Photo by Michal Parzuchowski on Unsplash