Bleisure: Star studied cities

CHIANG RAI, 8 March 2019: Among the collection of silly travel words, ‘Bleisure’ and ‘Glamping’ must be the worst examples of an industry scraping the barrel for gimmicky descriptions.

But to its credit ‘Bleisure’ has found a worthy champion in the Economist Intelligence Unit that recently released its Economist Bleisure barometer.

The study ranks the top 26 cities in the Asia-Pacific region for their business and leisure appeal, or in short their ability to be ‘Bleisure’ friendly.

If there is still a sense of puzzlement as to what constitutes ‘Bleisure’ let it suffice to say it’s a modern play on mixing business with pleasure, or skiving off halfway through a business trip.

The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the top destination for the pastime ‘work and play’ with Tokyo topping the chart followed by Singapore and Sydney in second and third place.

Not to be confused with a city’s liveability status, the Bleisure points were earned on how a city performed in delivering convenient and safe leisure activities right on your doorstep, accessible without hassles or obstacles.

Categorised by five to one stars, Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney Hong Kong and Melbourne successfully made up the five-star Bleisure cities.

But it was the one-star cities that caught my attention. Five great cities Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Manila, arguably fun places to be after a business trip, relegated to the also-ran class – just one star?

I could understand Bangkok’s city fathers being miffed by a one-star handout. Surely it is Asia’s capital of entertainment and street food where a business traveller can easily take time out for a weekend packed with hedonistic fun?

There’s an apparent contradiction.  The Thailand Conventions and Exhibition Bureau, in its latest promotions to draw major corporate events to the country, positions Bangkok as a top Bleisure destination.  The message hints that Bangkok is a great meetings destination simply because you can attach a holiday at the close of a corporate talkfest.

This is the city that wins the most votes when corporate executives are asked where they would like the next annual conference and sales awards to be held. It’s a no brainer. Everyone loves Bangkok. However, I am sure Bangkok conferences also have the largest no-shows once the opening ceremony is over. It’s a great city to play truant.

Well, that’s what we thought until the EIU comes along attaching stars to cities. Reality dawns, Bangkok and a few other great cities we loved to visit are apparently not in the premier league anymore. The study’s fine print on the parameters tells you why. Rankings rely heavily on EIU’s liveability assessment.

To be a top Bleisure destination boasting five stars you have to deliver a mix of fun and liveability and Bangkok apparently drags its feet on the latter.  A poor air quality index might be a factor and more likely gridlock traffic that ensures you are always hours away from the planned leisure activity or excursion.

Safety and security could be an issue for the Thai capital and let’s face it for many ordering a bottle of wine shouldn’t break the bank, but it does.

Singapore, often described as dull and expensive in the past, has introduced quality entertainment and leisure activities easily accessible although on the pricy side.

In contrast, Bangkok appears to be living off its reputation earned in a different era, while the reality sees its drop a star here and there for horrendous traffic, pollution and lack of road safety. Recognising the league where you reside would make a good start in the quest to regain lost status. For the EUI report, including full scoring and star bracket methodology, as well as an infographic and video: