The aviation industry has rebounded significantly in 2021, thanks mostly to a resurgence in leisure travel.
Business travel continues to lag behind the leisure sector, and many experts predict that corporate and business trips will not return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024.
But there may be a silver lining for airlines, hospitality and tourism. Some call it “bleisure.” Others say “bizcation.”
Bleisure is the simple idea of traveling for business and adding a little leisure time before or after the work. Others plan a family vacation in an area where they can also visit clients or conduct other business.
“What we are hearing from our corporate clients is that there will be fewer business trips, but they will be longer,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of Global Business Travel Association. “Companies are encouraging their employees traveling for business to do multi-city trips.”
Dan Landson, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, said the carrier has seen more bleisure travel from people who have the ability to work remotely.
That trend could lead to more travelers adding some leisure activities outside of business hours in those locations. Three out of four business travelers recently surveyed by the association said they are equally or more likely to combine business and leisure on their trips, Neufang noted.
And some companies are providing stipends to employees for lodging with family or friends while traveling for business, she said.
The World Travel & Tourism Council reported that U.S. leisure and business spending in 2020 fell $582.3 billion short of 2019’s levels. Leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry say the increase in leisure travel makes them much more optimistic about this year’s totals. (Stock image)
Anni Murphy of industry giant Expedia Group said the agency is seeing a general up-tick in longer trips.
“People are traveling during the mid-week and returning the following mid-week, which means most likely they are taking their weekend to enjoy the city and visit local attractions,” she said.
However, many companies are still restricting business travel.
“Sales and technician employees are the only ones permitted for business travel,” said Melissa Carr, global strategic sourcing manager for PPG, the Pittsburgh-based global supplier of paints, coatings and specialty materials. “We allow this travel because they engage with critical customers.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council reported that U.S. leisure and business spending in 2020 fell $582.3 billion short of 2019’s levels. Leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry say the increase in leisure travel makes them much more optimistic about this year’s totals.
Leisure travel will finish the year 17 percent higher than 2019, predicted Amanda Hite, president of STR, a hospitality analytics firm, speaking at the recent Hotel Data Conference.
Stay a little longer
Jerad Bachar, president & CEO of VisitPittsburgh, said bleisure is nothing new in cities that attract a lot of tourists.
“Allegheny County historically has hosted over 30 million visitors every year pre-Covid for tourism purposes specifically,” he said. “When we see people come to Pittsburgh for business travel, it has been our experience that stays are extended.
“And with remote work increasing it has given travelers the opportunity to take in what we have to offer such as museums, Pirates and Steeler games.”
VisitPittsburgh incorporates bleisure messages in proposals and promotional materials, priming travelers to stay longer or to return for another visit, Bachar said.