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Bleisure travel: The new growing segment for Indian business travellers
08 Dec 2014

In a survey conducted by Bridgestreet Hospitality it was found that 83% respondents used their free time on their business trips to explore the city they were visiting.

With professional life spilling into personal life, it is not surprising to learn that the thin line between business and leisure is also blurring.

How much of this is allowed, is something that the executives need to think, but what stands out for the travel industry is an opportunity to attract guests interested in bizcation thus presenting a new segment altogether.

 It is no secret that business travelers are mixing their trips with leisure activities such as enjoying local sight-seeing, exploring art and culture and food and wine of the place or indulging in shopping and adventure activities. And the trend is more popular among the millennial who are pushing the frontiers and broadening the niche to include what is nowadays called - bleisure or bizcation.

No wonders, therefore, Las Vegas which has been one of the top MICE destinations in all of North America, also tops in best nightlife, local attractions, and stands among top five destinations in terms of varieties of things to do and dining options.

Talking about the opportunities that await a corporate traveler on a business trip to Las Vegas, Michael Goldsmith, Vice President of International Marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says, “Events held in Las Vegas regularly enjoy increased attendance, due in part to the availability of unparalleled dining and entertainment.” 

Goldsmith knows very well that almost one-third business attendees request to extend their trip for a few days before or after the event.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that the statement that business meetings are only about suited and booted professionals is a myth for those who know better.

69% respondents of the poll conducted by M&C magazine said that the leisure offerings is an important to somewhat important factor among the criteria to select a destination for business activity.

According to Neelu Singh, COO, Ezeego1.com, “The trend of combining business and leisure trips is becoming common in India.”

And why shouldn’t it be? After all India is among the top ten largest business market. With the increase in the frequency of domestic and international business trips, people have been shuttling between home and foreign destinations more often, adds Singh.

This is a perfect opportunity to extend the trip by a couple more days to make it into a weekend holiday along with the family. For example, a three-day business trip to France can be extended into a weekend family holiday in Paris, wherein the traveller can enjoy the best of both worlds. 

FCm India says that 20% of their clients actively evaluate the possibility of making bleisure trips a part of incentives for employees.

Also, while 10% of corporate travellers have demanded vacation days to extend business trips, another 15% or so try and take their spouse along to enable some leisure down time during a business trip, they say.

When we asked Desai on how old was this trend, he said, “While this is not a new segment (business travellers have been taking their golf kits along for ages), we are seeing a much broader trend across all kinds of business travellers pursuing a variety of personal interests while away.”

To support this trend, destinations while promoting themselves among Indian corporates make it a point to talk about the auxiliary services which go into making it an enticing leisure destination.

When we talked to SanJeet, India Representative-Canadian Tourism Commission, to understand more about the emerging trend, he said, “India is one of the world's fastest growing outbound travel market. More and more Indians corporates are now looking at new destinations for incentives and MICE movements.” 

With special reference to Canada which comprises cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver famous for their bleisure offerings, he said, “Canada is on the top of their (Indians) list. Many MICE movements have started visiting Canada and experiencing this remarkable destination. With over 140 signature experiences, Canada is the place to holiday.” 

Similarly, Dubai, which aspires to become the business hub of the world taking advantage of its central location between East and West also positions itself as a leading family and culinary destination among its global audience. Safaris, spa breaks and unique cultural experience including a wide choice of cuisine feature among the top ten reasons mentioned on the official convention bureau of Dubai as to why one should visit Dubai for a MICE event.

So is the story of New Zealand which has quite recently woken up to opportunities presented by the growing trend of MICE travel in Indian business community. In fact, when we asked Daniel Craig, General Manager of Asia for Tourism New Zealand about the major selling points that the destination was promoting in Indian Mice market, he said, “With Indian companies increasingly looking at overseas incentive and team-building destinations, the destination offers an array of very unique activities and experiences that can be customized to fit a group’s budget and objective."

Frequent travelers have gradually learnt to pursue their hobbies while keeping a good hold on house-hold budget by making a good mix of business and leisure, thereby effectively increasing the among of leisure experience.

Some of the top destinations for corporate travellers are major cities in the USA, Europe and South East Asia, so most extended vacations are also planned along these business destinations.

Rakshit Desai, Managing Director India, FCm Travel Solutions and Fight Shop explains, “Typically, someone traveling to New York may bundle a quick sojourn to the Carribbean for a few days. Seattle and Zurich are great for people interested in heading to the hills for skiing and Hong Kong has Macau nearby for those looking to live life to the hilt.”

The deal is especially lucrative to all the parties involved because the employers don't need to pay for this extra cost, the employee doesn't mind bearing a part of the cost and for the travel trade it means extra business. 

Hotels and tour operators are slowly waking up to the opportunity, but unfortunately the awareness remains limited.

It is only now that besides strategically locating themselves near the airport and business centers of the hub, hotels are also factoring in services such as, rejuvenating spa facilities and refreshing bar facilities.

Pullman Hotels & Resorts, for instance, introduced the concept of "Time for Pleasure by Pullman" in order to promote among business travellers the idea of leisure stayovers. The package allows unlimited Internet access, "Lounge Connectivity by Pullman" services, breakfast buffet, and a discount on hotel services such as bar and restaurant.

But destinations realize how lucrative it is to pamper the C-suite audience and therefore, many a times they go out of their ways to support travel agents to ensure that the corporate travellers have a wonderful experience.

Desai says,” We feel that for travel agents and tour operators, it is a lucrative opportunity to extend their offerings in the leisure travel space. Customers who have engaged with operators on a business travel plan, will be open to extend the association for leisure travel if the experience has been positive.  So players that can help travellers maximize the benefits of their travel plans and experience memorable vacations will definitely see growth in the segment.” 

So while, hotels are trying to develop facilities for a comfortable and enjoyable experience of the guest, tour operators are now trying to furnish itineraries or packages which can be a balanced mix of leisure and business activities.

 

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