COVID-19 – and all the life disruptions that have come with it – have called into question many of the ways we work, and business travel is no exception.
As companies increase spending on business travel as the world recovers from the pandemic, almost four-fifths of UK business travelers are demanding that their companies prioritize their well-being, new research from American Express has found.
Workers are demanding more combined business and leisure travel – aka leisure – as well as more access to business class and airline lounges, and the ability to bring family members or partners with them at no extra cost.
In a survey of 500 business travelers and 500 senior business travel decision makers in the UK, conducted for American Express by Opinium from July 25 to 29, the card payments company found that more than two-thirds of UK businesses plan to increase travel expenses by 50% or more. Businesses want more travel as they believe it will lead to more revenue and growth and help them expand into new markets.
Some 77 percent of businesses say they have suffered from not being able to travel in the past two years, as they see travel as a valuable tool for connecting remote teams and bringing teams together, the survey found. Workers agree: 70% of business travelers say face-to-face meetings are essential to achieving their business goals.
But when business travelers pack their bags and check in for flights, they have much higher expectations than their employers. Some 71% of business travelers say they would leave their role if their employer did not prioritize their well-being during their travels.
“Our research shows that business travel and the value of personal connections in driving growth go hand in hand,” said Hannah Lear, vice president of UK card services at American Express. “However, there is clearly a renewed focus on the overall business travel to ensure that companies and employees maximize the value of travel.”
The Rise of Bleisure
Bleisure is a concept first described in 2009 by business consultancy group Future Laboratory and is becoming increasingly relevant during the pandemic-inspired shift in the way we work. Companies that allow time off allow employees to extend their business trips to spend time vacationing and sightseeing at their destination — with some even allowing families or partners to come along.
Mobility has grown exponentially over the past decade and has become a common demand among employees who are asked to travel. The American Express survey found that nearly 42% of business travelers prefer business trips that combine business with leisure, and 43% of businesses are finding new ways to help their employees enjoy leisure time. One in three employers said they allow workers to take a partner or family member with them at no extra cost.
Time off is seen as making business travel less stressful for employees, increasing job satisfaction and productivity, and helping employee retention.
Interest in the tourism industry
There are also many positives to time off for the ailing airline and hospitality industry. Although leisure travel has largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, airlines, which saw a loss of around 75% of their revenue as remote working and online conferencing increased, do not expect to see a full recovery until 2024 due to the decline in business trips. Bleisure can speed up this recovery.
Leisure is also more sustainable, which is one of the main concerns for business travelers. More than 70% of business travelers say they worry about the environmental impact and carbon footprint of their trips, according to American Express research, which can be alleviated if they combine a necessary business trip with a family vacation that would otherwise require another flight.
But free time comes with a catch. In an already deeply connected and always online world, free time further erodes the barriers between personal and professional life.
The days when vacation meant leaving work seem to be a thing of the past, with a Linkedin survey finding that nearly 60% of workers admitted to engaging in work responsibilities and connecting with their bosses or colleagues while at work. you relaxed.
And since workers take their laptops with them when they travel, the positives of “working from anywhere” may mean that they can and will need to work from anywhere.
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