For Dr. Angelique Jenney, the turning point was a two-day trip to Hong Kong.
“The whole trip took four days – two on the plane and two on the ground working,” says Jenney, a University of Calgary professor who also delivers training and consulting for organizations around the world. “I woke up in the hotel room one night and didn’t know where I was or what time of day it was. It seemed like a mistake to work like that.”
Since then, Jenney tacks on vacations days onto business trips whenever possible so that she can rejuvenate and experience a destination. On a work trip to Edinburgh, Jenney and a colleague drove to the Scottish Highlands for a scotch-tasting session. Another time, she took in a performance at the Sydney Opera House after lecturing in Australia. It has been so rewarding that Jenney’s spouse has also jumped on board.
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“At a recent conference in Norway, I arranged a hiking trip for the two of us the week before,” says Jenney. “Once the holiday part was over, he worked remotely from the hotel room and joined me for dinner in the evenings.”
Jenney way of travelling is part of a growing trend that see the line between business and leisure blurred. ‘Bleisure’ travel is becoming increasingly popular. According to a 2017 study from the Global Travel Business Association, approximately 37 per cent of North American-based business travellers have extended a work trip for leisure. These numbers are expected to rise in the future with millennials leading the charge. Forty-eight per cent of those aged 22 to 35 combined business and pleasure while baby boomers were a distant second at 23 per cent.
“Many businesses understand that people love to travel, so letting employees tack on a few extra days to a business trip is not a big deal,” says Barry Choi, a Toronto-based finance expert who travels frequently for television appearances across Canada. “The increase in technology has also made bleisure that much more popular.”
Gone are the days when hotel guests fit neatly into business or leisure categories. Nowadays, the lines are six out of 10 business trips considered a bit of both which has prompted the hospitality industry to innovate to meet the unique needs of guests. This new hybrid business traveller craves indulging and immersive experiences, or as Jenney calls them, “moments [that] feel like little gifts and make you appreciate your work more.”
“It certainly helps to connect with others when you can mention visiting a meaningful location or experiencing something unique to a place,” says Jenney. “Trying local delicacies or visiting a particular monument can let people know you are serious about getting to know them [and] that will make your work together more meaningful.”
Choi says he tries to immerse himself in the local culture: “I visit museums and eat at popular restaurants, but I also hang out at cafes and grocery stores since I like to see what the locals eat. If I'm at a sunny destination, I'll sit by the pool or ocean, but I remain productive by having my laptop nearby.”
With 30 brands and over 7,000 properties across 131 countries and territories, Marriott International is at the forefront of the movement, making it their mission to accommodate their pleasure-seeking business guests. For one, that means ensuring that spaces are designed to make switching between work and leisure seamless.
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“The lounge at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver is a favourite,” says Choi. “I can work in a relaxed area that faces the water while having access to free snacks and drinks. I also love the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel – it has a nice, long workspace right in the lobby, so I can be in the middle of the action. That property also has a secret garden and a pool that's both indoor and outdoor when I need a break.”
“Bleisure essentials” are also integrated into various membership levels, such as fast and free WiFi, flexible check-out times, and access to Marriott Bonvoy Moments – one-of-a-kind culinary, lifestyle, sports, and entertainment experiences exclusively available to members of the company’s loyalty program. While they get plenty of perks, there’s something for every guest looking for a bit of downtime whether it’s booking a gastronomical getaway through the Experiences by Marriott® Travel Packages or signing up for a run concierge – a running pro who can help you get fit while giving a private tour of the city.
“During a recent stay at a Westin hotel, I was able to rent both a bike and gym clothes,” says Choi. “This was incredibly handy, as I didn't think I'd have downtime and didn't pack any workout clothes. Having a rental option made that business trip so much more fun.”
According to travellers like Choi, it’s the little luxuries coupled with stylish spaces that makes Marriott a bleisure champion. Its success has driven the company to expand in recent years, adding exciting new luxury properties to the Marriott family.
It certainly speaks to the influence of “bleisure” travel and the emerging opportunities for growth. The benefits aren’t limited to the hospitality industry either: Jenney’s initial one-off lecture in Australia has since spawned into a major research initiative that has her venturing there once a year. She partly credits bleisure time for helping to “spur more business opportunities and linkages.”
“It’s about relationship building and connections, but also getting a different perspective on life and work,” says Jenney. “Bleisure is the answer to work-life balance.”
For those blending business and travel, additions to Marriott International’s lineup of luxury properties, which includes beloved names like St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton, offer new ways to enjoy five-star amenities and services. It’s an exciting time to check in and enjoy the best of all worlds where you can work, play, relax and explore.
“We know there is a growing consumer appetite for luxury here in Canada,” says Martin Stitt, area vice president Western Canada, Marriott International. “We recently launched the first St. Regis branded property in Toronto. We opened the JW Marriott in Edmonton this summer and we recently announced the upcoming W Toronto in 2020. We’re looking forward to announcing additional luxury properties in Canada in the coming months.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.