After several years of stagnation, travel for business or pleasure is rebounding in a big way, and in some instances they are converging. As travel restrictions are lifted around the world, businesses are seeing an opportunity to free remote workers from their home offices, uniting staff after two years of virtual work, lack of connection and an inability to meet face-to-face. In fact, there’s even an accelerated push towards employees “taking an extra night” on business trips, allowing them to connect with colleagues they may not have met, take more time to explore the destination or even indulge in an added day of rest before another day of travel.
It’s clear that the concept of a “work reunion” has become a differentiator for companies to become an employer of choice and bring people back together. As employees re-enter the world of traveling for business, the following are top of mind:
* More boundaries: While workers have a high level of enthusiasm for business travel again, they are reappraising and reevaluating it, as there is no desire to return to the old road warrior days.
* Better balance: While work will likely be at the center of most of these reunions, business travel is now viewed as part of self-care and work-life balance.
* Higher expectations: Employers are expected to allow employees to “take an extra night” and offer some personal experiences as part of a successful trip.
* Re-connection: Reunions will build in more time for employees to connect face-to-face, after not seeing each other for more than two years, or meeting new colleagues who may have started during the pandemic.
Ben Trodd, Senior Vice President, Sales and Hotel Marketing, Four Seasons, recently addressed the issue of corporate travel and company culture.
What can this trend of increased “bleisure” travel be attributed to?
The increase in bleisure travel is a natural extension of the blurring of our professional and personal lives over the past two years. We no longer fall into the standalone categories of leisure or business travelers. More than ever, flexibility is key as companies and employees embrace remote and hybrid models of working, compounded by the prioritization of wellness. The days of the exhausted road warrior are over, and employers understand that embracing these trends will be necessary to attract and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive labor market.
With this newfound freedom and flexibility, travelers are extending business trips to explore a destination, breaking up the 9-5 workday with a lunchtime yoga class or surfing lesson, or bringing their laptops with them to the pool or beach to get a bit of work done in the outdoors. The pandemic accelerated the convergence of leisure and business travel and shone a light on the important need for work-life balance – booking trends at Four Seasons signal that bleisure travel is here to stay and no longer a passing trend but an opportunity to enhance an employee’s work experience. Specifically, we’ve seen that in our American urban hotels, corporate travelers have been staying for 25% longer than they were one to two years ago.
How are Four Seasons properties enhancing corporate travel experiences?
Corporate travel has always been a significant focus for Four Seasons. During the pandemic, we introduced our Work At Leisure program to provide travelers with the tools they need to work comfortably and safely. Travelers can equip their Four Seasons in-room office with monitors, bluetooth printers, ring lights and ergonomic chairs, to name a few, while having access to wellness focused in-room dining and on-call tech support.
“Lead With Care,” Four Seasons enhanced global health and safety program, continues to be in effect at all properties globally, so that guests feel confident and cared for during their time with us. While health and safety measures will remain in effect in line with each market where we operate, we’re also pleased that pre-pandemic amenities such as house cars, 24-hour in-room dining, pressing and laundry are available for added convenience.
As corporate travel resumes post-pandemic, business travelers are also taking advantage of our leisure offerings as they extend their time with us and build in more personal time to their travels. We’ve seen an increase in corporate guests bringing their spouses and families to enjoy the destination while they work during the days, with their families taking advantage of the spa, pools, local city tours, and much more. Corporate travelers are also adding on an extra day or two of personal travel to unwind or explore a destination, leading to an increasing booking trend of longer stay lengths.
In what ways do you believe that “bleisure” travel helps to boost company culture and employee retention?
After two years of remote work and an inability to meet face-to-face, employees are craving connection to their colleagues and looking to engage in their work through in-person experiences. For those that may have started a new job during the pandemic, employees want to meet their colleagues in person for the first time and get to know them in a way that is difficult virtually. The productivity that some have touted as result of working from home came at the expense of company culture, and there is no more powerful way to build team connections than through immersive travel experiences outside of an office or in-home virtual environment.
Companies are looking to bring employees back together to build relationships, re-engage with their work and reconnect with colleagues they may not have seen for the past two years. We’ve seen a steady increase in work reunions hosted at Four Seasons properties because of our ability to foster these connections through our incredible property experiences, wellness activities, food and beverage offerings, state-of-the-art technology and exceptional meetings and events capabilities and venues.