BLENDED travel continues to be a growing market for many destinations and is projected to be worth US$350 billion by 2027.
Speaking at this year’s ITB Berlin Convention, Euromonitor International’s senior industry manager Caroline Bremner said, destinations should be focusing on further growing this consumer segment. “Blended travelers are of increasing interest to destinations around the world from Cape Town, Buenos Aires, the Caribbean to Busan. These travelers include the traditional leisure add-on to a business trip, along with workations, corporate retreats, and employees taking advantage of work from anywhere policies,” she said. Euromonitor International is one of the world’s leaders in strategic market research reporting.
In his presentation, “Blended Travel and a Sustainable Travel Rebound,” Euromonitor Insights Manager-Düsseldorf Stephen Dutton noted separately, due to the pandemic work arrangements, leisure has become the main motivation for travel for many consumers, with business facilitating the opportunity to do so. This new market segment — Bleisure (Business + Leisure) offers “diverse travel opportunities, creating a more sustainable way to travel.”
In its global consumer lifestyle survey in 2022, over 33 percent of Euromonitor respondents cited relaxation as a top feature for a blended traveler’s choice in a destination, followed by 30 percent for the destination’s safety. “Hybrid work options shift more control to the individual, strike the right balance between what they want from leisure and what they need from work,” said Dutton.
He cited Busan, South Korea and Venice, Italy among the destinations capitalizing on the expanding blended traveler market. Busan is currently promoting itself as “Best Bleisure City Busan”, while Venice has “Venywhere” remote working options.
“The city is looking to make Busan a key MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions) destination in South Korea,” said Euromonitor. “By emphasizing bleisure, the city is hoping to revamp its appeal and extend the traveling.”
In the Philippines, hotel sales and marketing professionals likewise noted the surge in Bleisure travelers, post-pandemic. “Why? For one, [tourists] are really trying to be more practical, and economical. So they would rather go one time and stay a longer duration,” said Loleth So, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association Inc. in a recent interview with reporters. “The Bleisure travelers become innovative and maximize their budget and also their time.”
DOT workation program
The Department of Tourism likewise tried to encourage more digital nomads to temporarily relocate to Boracay Island with its Boracay Wellness Workation Program, a package that tied up the agency with 20 hotels to offer stable internet connection and coworking spaces. As most of these hotels also have gyms or spas, travelers can shift seamlessly from working on laptops to getting a massage.
Blended travel creates a good value stream for destinations, while keeping to sustainable tourism ideals. “Travelers spend longer, more meaningful time in a destination. Money spent tends to remain with local communities. Blended travel contributing to long-term growth trends in spend per trip, a reversal of pre-pandemic mass tourism trends,” said Dutton.
Bleisure will likely help the business travel spending to recover to its precrisis 2019 levels by 2024. Bremmer, for her part, said, “Post-pandemic, hybrid working practices will continue to dampen the rebound for business travel as virtual conferencing continues to eat share. However, the transformation of the traditional business trip into bleisure trips will enable more blended trips to take place.”
Recovery in 2026
Overall, Euromonitor projects international tourism spending to recover to 85 percent of its 2019 levels this year, amounting to $1.5 trillion. “Growth is expected to moderate but still be strong at 37 percent in 2023, compared to the exceptional growth of 107 percent enjoyed in 2022, thanks to the rolling back of travel restrictions coupled with strong pent-up demand,” she said.
Recovery will likely happen by 2024 for Europe, the Americas, and Australasia “with Asia Pacific lagging behind, not expected to return to peak levels until 2026, in a baseline scenario. However, the recent reopening of China following the removal of its zero-Covid policy will provide a welcome boost,” she stressed.
Although inflation hangs over the global tourism recovery, sectors seen to be the most resilient are spas and medical tourism, “as consumer wellbeing post-pandemic is expected to remain a top priority, both growing at 11 percent in CAGR over 2023-2027. Whilst duty-free [9 percent], national parks [8 percent, and food and dining [7 percent] are also expected to grow above average per year, as travelers seek out real world experiences,” said Bremmer.