Hybrid work has spawned a new trend – hybrid travel – as the line between work and leisure experiences continues to blur. Blended (aka “bleisure”) travel that mixes work and play has been a trend long before the pandemic. But it’s become something else entirely as flexible work-from-anywhere policies have freed employees from being tethered to a desk and have opened them up to the possibility of performing their jobs from afar.
According to research conducted by American Express Global Business Travel and CULTIQUE, 60% of the 3,000 employees we surveyed said they would back a travel policy that permits workers to add personal travel to an existing trip, and 61% said they would like a policy that supports a mix of personal and work travel that also allows for extended stays and family members or significant others to join.1
And it’s not just business travelers tacking on a few PTO days to a work trip. The inverse is happening as well, with more turning a personal journey into a working vacation.
A report from Crowne Plaza indicates that as many as 80% of US respondents favor traveling while working remotely.
The greater flexibility remote workers now have is having an impact on travelers’ behaviors.
United reported that this past September, typically an off-peak period, was the third strongest month in the company’s history. Airlines also saw that travel around Thanksgiving was spread over more days as many people started their trips earlier or returned home later.
Meanwhile, American Airlines is noticing a shift in departure time preferences. The carrier reports that its travelers have long gravitated toward flights that left before 8 am or after 4 pm. However, it is starting to see a notable shift toward travel in the middle of the day.
Hotels and vacation rental companies are noticing a change due to blended travel as well – specifically, that stays are getting longer. Airbnb shared that in the third quarter of 2021, almost half of the nights booked on its platform were for stays of at least seven days, up from 44% in 2019. One out of every five gross nights booked in the quarter were for stays of 28 days or longer. Meanwhile, vacation rental company Hostaway reports that trips longer than 28 days have increased by 106% since 2019.
Extended-stay hotels have gained popularity as well. According to an NBC report, they are capturing more of the total lodging market, and nearly every major hotel brand is adding, or has announced plans to add, properties that cater to travelers looking to stay a while.
Catering to this group of travelers
Hotel operators realize that with this new subset of travelers comes a whole new set of demands. Fast and reliable Wi-Fi service – something hotels notoriously haven’t scored high marks on previously – is at the top of their list.
In its 2022 Travel Outlook, Deloitte outlined several other needs remote working guests have, including:
- A quiet and comfortable space, perhaps away from the rest of the travel party.
- Convenient access to wellness-related amenities like healthy meals on the go and fitness equipment/activities.
- The ability to reschedule in-destination activities to accommodate work.
For those bringing their family along, more spacious accommodations and drop-off kids’ programming are also necessities.
Some brands are extending special packages to lure remote workers and digital nomads to their properties, with Hyatt becoming one of the first major hotel chains to have an official work-from-hotel package. Its “Great Relocate” deal offers steep discounts on rooms, food and beverage, and laundry services for stays of 29 days or longer. Likewise, Citizen M created a membership program that provides fixed nightly rates and discounts on food and beverage offerings when guests commit to a month-long stay.
Airlines are looking at how they can attract this type of customer.
Observing that nearly half of its revenue comes from blended travel, American Airlines has been adjusting routes to accommodate these travelers, increasing flights on North American routes where it sees the most significant return for its growth from this type of trip.
According to CNN, some airlines are redesigning their business class cabins to feature two seats that can be converted into a double bed to woo business travelers bringing along their partners on a blended trip.
The trend is also inspiring companies to rethink how they conduct internal gatherings and how they can balance work with fun.
Evan Konwiser, executive vice president for product and strategy at American Express Global Business Travel, recently discussed the rising importance of business travel in conveying work culture in a distributed workforce environment with Bloomberg. He noted how companies are going to a greater distance to make sure remote workers’ travel experiences are positive. “I may have this one week to make you, team member, feel the power of our culture. Am I going to put you up at a highway motel or a cool boutique hotel in the heart of the city?”
Many companies have gone so far as to organize lavish corporate retreat-style gatherings to foster a sense of camaraderie and unity among workers who don’t get to connect regularly at the office.
Looking to create a fun, productive, memorable event that will stay with employees long after they leave in 2023? Our American Express Meetings & Events team can curate an exceptional experience sure to wow your people that meets your goals and budget. To learn more about how we can create those magical moments, contact our team today.
1 The Future of Work, CULTIQUE and The Quorum, October 2022.