Bleisure – the new duty of care headache

Travel insurance

In the past year, over one-third of North American business travellers extended a work trip for leisure, according to a new study released by the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association.

The study, Extending Business Travel into Leisure Time – Bleisure Study, conducted in partnership with Hilton identified who takes bleisure trips, why they do and what this means for managed travel programmes, as well as the types of accommodations they use throughout 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 Monica Sanchez, GBTA foundation director of research. “Some of these ways include establishing clear rules for reimbursing expenses incurred by non-employees, helping travellers understand the resources available to them on the leisure portion of their trip and developing a policy regarding preferred suppliers and booking channels.”

“Business travel is a lifestyle for many of our guests and we’re seeing a growing desire by these travellers to add a leisure component to their trip and experience the destination beyond the meeting room,” said Kelly Phillips, SVP global engagement and strategic accounts for Hilton.

The most common reasons business travellers identify for taking bleisure trips are to visit a destination where they like to spend their time or visit a new destination they wanted to see. Not far behind are a less expensive way to take a vacation or needing time away from home and work.

The study shows that for business travellers who have chosen not to take bleisure trips, it is rarely because they cannot afford to or do not want to explore the destination they are visiting for work. The most common reason given is lack of time, while less common explanations include company policy, undesirable location and cost.

When taking bleisure trips, travellers frequently incur additional transportation costs, found the GBTA. On their last bleisure trip, 39 per cent of business travellers paid the difference in air/train travel costs for extending their business trip into personal time off, one-quarter did not and another quarter indicated there was no difference. The GBTA commented: “This presents several challenges for managed travel programs including how to estimate the additional costs stemming from bleisure travel, distinguishing between business and leisure costs and how to address these issues in company travel policy.”

Another major area of travel policy that comes into play is duty of care. On their last bleisure trip, 12 per cent of travellers experienced an issue where they needed assistance from their company or the person who arranged the travel. “This begs the question of when does a company’s liability and obligation to help their traveller begin and end,” concluded the GBTA.