Tourism in the Baltic Sea region: Bleisure

Anna Golec-Mastroianni,
Sopot Tourism Organisation,

For many towns, which have become well-known over a long period of time for offering excellent conditions for tourism, the situation is absolutely clear. These towns are aware that in the summer they can count on being extremely popular and enjoy great success with tourists who are happy to visit them.

Currently there is an increasing number of this type of resort in the Baltic Sea region. This is unquestionably a very favourable phenomenon which must be continually developed so that the majority of this region of Europe will be considered an attractive destination in the future.

There is something for everyone to discover in our beautiful Baltic region, whether you are parents with children, people in retirement, students or someone with a disability. Those who prefer peace and quiet, with the silence only disturbed by the sounds of the sea or the cries of the seabirds, will be attracted by the smaller coastal towns. Alternatively, the larger resorts in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) guarantee that there is plenty to keep you entertained, whether that might be discos and fun-packed beaches, the smell of smoked and fried fresh fish; delicious and original regional delicacies or a host of other attractions.

Staying in the winter months offers a different destination, quietened by the absence of the hustle and bustle of tourists and the numerous ice cream stands, souvenir stalls or clubs with their summer tunes. At this time of year, time passes in a slower and calmer way. The demand for X3S tourism (sun, sea and sand) is still important. But this type of tourism is only valid when the weather is good. The BSR has a warm, temperate but changeable climate characterised by warm summers and cold frosty, winters. At these times of the year sunseekers prefer to choose warmer destinations.

A good example of the type of town found in the BSR is the seaside town of Parnu, known as the ‘Summer Capital of Estonia’. The town’s colourful streets and tenement buildings and its sanitoriums attract many visitors, but these mainly come in the warmer months. The town offers wide, sandy beaches and a lot of green areas including a huge park which runs along the seafront. The fact cannot be avoided though that the town only wakes up in May each year.

Another example is Rügen, the large German island in the Baltic Sea which is a popular holiday destination. On most postcard and signs, visitors will see the words ‘Ferieninsel Rügen’, which roughly translates as ‘Vacation Island Rügen’. The resort is famous for the nearby Jasmund National Park with its high, white cliffs which descend sharply into the Baltic Sea. Rügen has tremendous potential and I could mention a lot including its beautiful buildings, palaces, spa complex and castle. Despite its range of attractions Rugia, like many other towns, has gained itself a reputation as a summer resort and it faces challenges in developing other types of tourism.

Compared to other regions of Europe, tourism in the BSR is very focused on summer, typically holidaying tourists. The current tourism market clearly indicates that it is important to have a wider range of goals and to create more options for visitors. As the world develops quickly, we have a lack of time for rest, relaxation and entertainment. Visitors wish to make the most of every moment, even if they are visiting on business. That is the reason the tourist services market offers a new trend in travel – ‘bleisure’ (business + leisure), which combines business travel with a leisure trip. This is not just a trend but a phenomenon where employees can make optimal use of the time spent away from home.

Using opportunities which ‘bleisure’ creates, employers can take the opportunity to create an image of being an attractive employer, particularly among younger people. It benefits not just the employee and the employer, but the tourism industry as well. According to statistics, the people of Generation Y, who were born in the 1980s and 1990s and are commonly referred to as Millennials, will soon make up half the global workforce. Due to their approach to life, ‘bleisure’ is gaining more and more importance. It is believed that the opportunity to combine flexible tourism/business trips is becoming a great incentive in attracting talent to American corporations. Many people are deciding to join a given business based on this opportunity to travel while working. According to the American business magazine, Forbes (article from 25.10.2018) ‘bleisure’ trips increased by 20% in 2018 over 2017. This estimate has come from the SAP Concur Hipmunk travel and expense management system. For the purpose of the study, a ‘bleisure’ trip was defined as one including a Saturday overnight stay. From the beginning of the survey in September 2017, Concur Hipmunk showed that 16% of hotel bookings for business trips included a Saturday night stay. This trend is also popular in small businesses too. In summary, the Forbes study estimated that approximately 2.2 million ‘bleisure’ trips took place in 2017, a figure which equates to about 10% of all business trips. Despite the fact that Milennials are most likely to be ‘bleisure’ travellers, they are not the only group who like this kind of travel.

Research has shown that destinations all over the world are seeing more of these kinds of trips. Since 2016, ‘bleisure’ trips to the EMEA zone (Europe, Middle East and Asia) have increased 46% while the Asia-Pacific region has seen a 45% increase. Typical destinations include London, Chicago, New York, Tel Aviv, Paris, Singapore and Shanghai. Most ‘bleisure’ trips take place in September and October. These two months saw travel growth of 15% and 18%. In addition to increased travel in early autumn, some industries can be seen to be more flexible than others. National Business Travel Monitor data as far back as 2000, indicated that 2/3 of Americans who travelled regularly for business purposes, combined both leisure and business and even made the decision on whether to go on a business trip based upon the possibility of doing so.

Worldwide, the fashion for extending business trips for leisure purposes exceeded 6.7 million trips in 2013. A study by the American Jurys Inn hotel group showed that every fifth traveller i.e. 20% treated a foreign business trip as an opportunity to combine a leisure trip. In the USA, where paid leave is much shorter than in Europe, employers show a large degree of tolerance in this respect, especially when it comes to extended business stays. However, an accompanying family on a business trip raises concerns, especially when it comes to the rental of a larger room and the cost is invoiced to the employer without the possibility of clearly separating the expenses incurred by the spouse (Pay & Benefits 2013).

With more and more people travelling for business and leisure, some hotels may charge higher rates. As a result, more leisure visitors and tourists are searching for alternative accommodation options. The popular alternative is Airbnb. Research has shown that older travellers still prefer hotel accommodation to Airbnb, while 76% of Millennials would choose Airbnb. The fact is that ‘bleisure’ trips are taking place in every corner of the world and becoming more and more popular every year.

The city of Sopot wants to make the most of its potential and has chosen to develop the ‘bleisure’ sector of its market. The requirements of the ‘bleisure’ trend perfectly match the potential of the city of Sopot and the amenities available in the city, such as its conference facilities (for hosting events) and the potential to grow its hotel and catering base and its small meetings offer are perfectly suited to this sector.

In addition, the city’s numerous sports facilities (including among others the Ergo Arena and Aqua Park), the city’s attractive architecture dating from the 19th and 20th centuries and its large green areas, which are well-suited for physical activity throughout the year, provide potential guests with ample reasons to extend their stay. The attractiveness of the resort is further enhanced by the rich cultural calendar of the city, which often has an international feel such as during the Sopot Jazz Festival and the Polsat Superhit Festival. Sopot continues to develop dramatically from year to year and is attracting the interest of many investors who want to invest their capital here.

This trend will gain importance in the coming years and it is worth noting its potential today. As one of the most beautiful resorts in northern Europe, a place frequented by visitors from Poland and abroad, the city of Sopot will promote the new ‘bleisure’ trend as the so-called year-round offer for the industry, with all necessary responsibility.

Expert article 2620

> Back to Baltic Rim Economies 5/2019