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How to capitalise on bleisure travel

May 04 2017 18:29
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The mixing of business and leisure travel – or “bleisure” travel – has become a widely recognised phenomenon, and is making an impact on far more than just the tourism industry.

More than 50% of business trips on Airbnb in 2016 included a Saturday night, for instance.

“The rise of "bleisure" travel has created some exciting opportunities in the short term rental space,” says Bill Rawson, chair of the Rawson Property Group.

“It’s very encouraging for property investors who know what to look out for and understand ‘bleisure’ travellers’ preferences and needs.”

According to surveys conducted by international travel management company, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the typical “bleisure” traveller is young (under 35), female, and coming from another country or continent. They are infrequent travellers and most likely to be found in urban destinations.

“Looking at these statistics, it’s not surprising that most ‘bleisure’ travellers are choosing short-term rentals over more traditional hotel accommodation,” says Rawson.


“Platforms like Airbnb are proof of the growing popularity of apartment and home-stays with younger travellers, and the relative affordability of this type of accommodation is a big factor for employees tacking on some personal time to an otherwise all-expenses-paid business trip. It’s also much easier to bring a friend, partner or spouse along if you’re not paying per person.”

Employees from more than 250 000 companies - in over 230 countries and territories - have signed up to use Airbnb for work. In 2016 alone, the number of business trips on Airbnb tripled. And today, nearly 10% of trips on Airbnb are for work.

In order to cater for this growing trend, Airbnb launched a third-party booking tool so both the employee who is managing travel and the employee who is taking the trip can book, make changes to the reservation, and message the Airbnb host with questions about the listing or neighborhood.
It also rolled out the ability to filter search results to highlight listings with self check-in - where guests can access listings using a key lockbox, smartlock, keypad, or doorman any time after the designated check-in time on their arrival date.

The expense process has also been streamlined and the number of business travel ready listings has been increased.

Location also plays an important role for “bleisure” travellers, who need to balance access to local business districts with proximity to night-life and tourist hot spots. Rental apartments are often better located for this blend of business and leisure than hotels catering to typical corporates.

“When it comes to location, we’re very lucky here in South Africa,” says Rawson. “On the business side of things, we’re a well-recognised commercial and conferencing destination, and a gateway into the rest of Africa’s emerging markets. That means we have a lot of international business people visiting our shores.

“On the leisure level, we are arguably even luckier - South Africa is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and our exchange rate makes us very affordable for young, international visitors. Add to that the fact that many of our major cities’ CBDs overlap significantly with social and nightlife scenes, and it’s easy to see why we’re such a perfect fit for ‘bleisure’ travel.”


Rawson advises investors looking to capitalise on the "bleisure" market to look for some specific features in potential buy-to-let properties.

“The key is low-maintenance comfort in a central area with good access to popular business and social centres,” he says. “Keep finishes and décor clean and modern and try to keep clutter to a minimum, but don’t create a totally sterile environment devoid of all personality. ‘Bleisurers’ are young and trendy – they don’t want to feel like they’re in just another, boring hotel room.”

Size-wise, studio and one-bedroom apartments seem to be the most popular – unsurprising given that “bleisurers” tend to travel either on their own or with a tag-along partner or spouse. Self-catering facilities are beneficial, but don’t have to be extensive.

“Security can also be a concern for ‘bleisure’ travellers who have been warned about South Africa’s relatively high crime rates,” Rawson adds. “Apartment blocks and complexes with access control and 24/7 security are great at alleviating these fears.”

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