Americans are notoriously bad at taking time off. Could the advent of the “workcation” — a trip away some of which is spent working — help change that? US travel companies are hopeful it may.

This will be the first year for three years when the upcoming Memorial Day holiday will kick off America’s so-called “driving season” without the deterrent of a pandemic.

Before coronavirus broke out, workers in the US took an average of 17.4 vacation days, according to the US Travel Association. The US is the only OECD country that has no paid vacation mandated by national government. The EU, on the other hand, requires at least 20 vacation days for all employees. Workers in the UK are guaranteed 28 days.

Moreover, nearly half of US workers who have paid time off report not using all of it, according to the Pew Research Center.

Workcations are a compromise popularised by the rise of hybrid work. Employers allow employees to stay away from offices for longer than allotted vacation days would allow.

The downside is that workplace worries invade at least one part of a worker’s trip away. They must also show they are cutting no corners to maximise leisure time.

About one in four travellers reported their intention to work while on their longest trip of the holiday season, according to findings from a Deloitte survey.

Workcations will be good news for leisure stocks if uptake is high enough. In the US, occupancy rates are nearing pre-pandemic levels, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. It predicts 63.8 per cent of the country’s hotel rooms will be occupied this year, up from 43.9 per cent in 2020 and close to 65.9 per cent in 2019.

Shares in big hotel groups such as Hilton Hotels, Marriott International, InterContinental and the Hyatt have gained between 15 to 28 per cent so far this year. Those for Airbnb, the home rental platform, are up 25 per cent despite a sharp sell-off this month after it warned that the pace of growth would slow in the second quarter. Valuations, however, remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Business travel may never return to pre-pandemic levels. Workcations should help soak up some spare capacity in the travel industry. If they persist, it would be another sign flexible working is here to stay. That requires trust on both sides — if staff produce slipshod work in their hurry to go sightseeing, all bets will be off.

The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. Please tell us whether you think employers should agree to workcations in the comments section below

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