Visit Berlin, the German National Tourist Board (DTZ) and the Travel Management Association (VDR) talk about bleisure travel.
Bleisure travel, the combination of business and leisure time, is now a growing trend. It is especially popular with young and travel-hungry skilled workers and executives. Bleisure travel gives people an opportunity to enjoy their spare time on a business trip, cultivate their work life balance, or extend a working week in an unfamiliar city by taking the weekend off there. In this interview Iris Lanz, director of Conventions, visitBerlin, Berlin Convention Office, uses Berlin as an example and explains what makes the German capital such an attractive venue for MICE events, and the role that bleisure plays in that context.
Why is Berlin such an attractive city for the MICE industry?
Iris Lanz: Berlin stands for tolerance, technology and talent. For anyone planning an event, the city has highly professional and innovative MICE event organisers. Besides some of Europe’s most modern hotels, clients can find a large number of outstanding venues for every occasion in Berlin. Geographically at the heart of Europe, the city is also easy to reach. Some of the world’s leading researchers work and lecture at the city’s universities. Berlin is also a hotbed for startups, where new companies emerge almost daily. Anyone planning an event benefits from our close relationship with the local business and research community, which enables us to organise sustainable and innovative events in Berlin.
What is being done to make Berlin more attractive on the MICE market?
Iris Lanz: in addition to continually expanding our range of online and offline services, we have recently made a big effort to bring our customers together with a wide range of stakeholders in the city. Our expanding network of researchers and the sustainable services we offer for the MICE industry are practically unmatched in Europe. Our aim is to give our customers access to Berlin’s research and business community.
Why is combining private and business interests on a trip becoming so popular? What is the attraction?
Iris Lanz: Berlin’s mainstream culture and subculture, the international food scene here, as well as innumerable opportunities for shopping, leisure and sports are certainly a bonus for everyone attending conference events. Berlin stands for creativity and innovation. This is where trends are set and visitors can find inspiration beyond conference events.
Has the growing bleisure trend impacted arrivals yet?
Iris Lanz: Overnight stays are becoming longer, which very likely has to do with the shift in participants’ behaviour. Once visitors are here they want to stay for a while. Ultimately, a growing awareness of the merits of sustainable travel behaviour has led to business customers also planning longer rather than shorter trips.
How is the growing number of millennials in executive positions affecting the bleisure trend?
Iris Lanz: Millennials are well informed and draw inspiration from their travels and encounters. Sustainability is becoming more and more important particularly for this age group, including for their business trip plans. Bleisure is set to become the new normal for decision-makers.
Where does bleisure mainly take place?
Iris Lanz: Berlin with its wide range of attractions is the perfect city for combining business travel and leisure. It is not just the inner city that offers attractive leisure venues, which thanks to Berlin’s extensive transit system can be easily reached.
Bleisure travel is becoming increasingly popular in Germany
Petra Hedorfer, Chair of the National Tourism Board (DZT), on the trend towards combining business travel and leisure: “With 13 million business travellers from within Europe and some 2.5 million from overseas, Germany easily leads the European market. Its strong position in this segment is proof that Germany is also an attractive bleisure destination. According to the market research organisation IPK International more than two-thirds of business travellers pursue private interests in their spare time while on necessary (conventional) business trips. MICE industry decision-makers have recognised that there is greater potential in marketing destinations for events, conferences and congresses etc. when they are able to offer an attractive setting for supporting programmes and accompanying persons, for example. Operators in the leisure hotel and leisure park segment are now also actively positioning themselves on the conference market.“
According to the VDR many companies allow bleisure activities
Bleisure is becoming a reality for more and more companies. In its 2017 business travel survey the Travel Management Association interviewed companies with both 10 to 500 and more than 500 employees on the subject of bleisure - combining different interests on a trip. According to the survey, most companies are willing to let their employees extend a business trip for private reasons in order to explore a new city over the weekend or visit friends and family. Smaller companies are slightly more flexible (67 %) than larger ones (59 %) in this respect. Bleisure is already influencing booking patterns: thus with Airbnb in 2016 over 50 % of business bookings were from Saturday to Sunday. In such cases where employees are, for the moment, unable to combine their different travel interests this is due to compliance policies, separate taxation categories or an employer’s duty to provide for the welfare of his employees.