At Your Bleisure

More travellers are combining business with pleasure. Is your travel policy ready?

By John Schofield

On Amber Hall’s most recent adventure, she took a two-day jaunt to the outdoor sports paradise of Park City, Utah, after an industry conference in Denver. It’s the embodiment of “bleisure” travel—the growing trend towards combining business trips with leisure tourism. “I do it all the time,” says the Vancouver-based corporate travel manager for ACTIVE Network, a global provider of online registration and event management software.

In her role managing an $8-million annual travel portfolio covering 3,500 employees worldwide, Hall, 27, says she’s seen an increase in bleisure trip requests over the past year, especially among the company’s millennial employees, now in their mid-twenties to early thirties. A growing number are also asking to take along a spouse or another family member.

The firm is happy to help staff members make the most of their trips, says Hall, and sees it as a morale booster. Employees are still required to book flights and hotels through the company’s travel management software, Concur, and they have to pay any difference, she says. To save money, some stay with friends or find Airbnb accommodation during the leisure portion of the trip.

“We just want to keep the cost at what it would normally be for a business trip,” she says. “But we don’t necessarily have an in-stone, written policy on bleisure travel.”

That could change. Ian Race, senior vice-president, sales and account man­agement for national travel management company Vision Travel Solutions, says that, under the law, employers are “ultimately responsible” for their employees’ safety from the time they leave on a business trip to their return— regardless of whether there is an add-on or not.

Get it in writing
In a recent, informal survey of about 20 of his clients across Canada, Race found that most do not have written policies specifically covering bleisure travel.

“You’ve got to make sure the policy covers all aspects, which could include the employee getting loaded and doing something stupid,” he says. “Policies should have some verbiage covering these eventualities.”

If company policy allows bleisure travel, Race adds, there must be ongoing communication with the traveller throughout the trip regarding anything that could impact them, whether it be a health-related matter, an external issue or a behavioural problem.

Many companies, he notes, hire third-party providers, such as the Anvil Group or iJET International, to handle the risk-management aspects of their travel policy.

The millennial employee’s love for new experiences and for sharing them on social media is helping to drive the rise in bleisure travel, says Race. At her company, Hall notes, more frequent business travellers—the road war­riors—are not as interested in extending their stays for leisure travel. “They don’t want to be away from their families any more than they need to be.”

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