Business travelers know the condition all too well. It’s the last day of meetings and your mind is wandering: Any good restaurants around here? How about museums? Any way to squeeze in a quick trip to the beach? Speaking of, how can I quickly find out what fun there is to have around here during this two-hour break?
That challenge — easing the stress of doing business with a little leisure — has led to what travel industry pros are calling “bleisure.” Some 60 percent of U.S. business travelers now add personal time to their trips, up from 43 percent in 2016, according to a recent year-long survey of travelers from Expedia Group Media Solutions. And as of last week, there’s also an app for that.
“I got pretty burned out by business travel,” said Anne-Fleur Andrle, the co-founder and CEO of Jack and Ferdi, an app that seeks to ease the dilemma. Andrle formerly had a career in regenerative medicine, most recently as an applications engineer for tumor and stroke imaging in Boston.
“I put on more weight than I wanted to,” she said. “I had trouble sleeping. I was living in complete disconnection of what was going on at home. And that truly was the trigger that led me to think: ‘There has to be a better way to do it for business. There has to be more sustainable way.'”
Business and leisure travel combined is a more than $1 trillion industry, according to the U.S. Travel Association. About one-quarter of those trips are business-related, with leisure taking up the rest.
The bleisure trend gained more widespread notice in 2016 when employers — and travel businesses — started to get requests from millennials to combine business and leisure travel, traditionally sliced as separate categories by the industry. But Andrle said the demand stems from across working-age generations.
Most bleisure travelers take a business trip at least every two to three months, with those trips lasting up to three nights. In the U.S., such trips average more than six a year, according to the Expedia Group survey of 2,500 travelers, including more than 500 from the U.S.
It’s no wonder demand for a little rest and relaxation is on the rise. Too much business travel risks burnout, premature aging, a weaker immune system and even mental health issues from sleep disruption.
More than 80 percent of bleisure travelers spend one to five hours researching, typically getting their information online or by talking to co-workers, according to the Expedia Group survey.
Tips from “ambassadors”
Jack and Ferdi debuted for Apple users as a free app last week, and plans call for expansion to other platforms. It doesn’t rely on crowdsourcing, like Yelp, or direct marketing from big companies like hotel chains.
Rather, a team of researchers put together a database of more than 60 cities, offering tips from 200 independent “ambassadors” across the regions. They parse everything from the best places to eat a specialty dish to unique museums and historic sites to tips on local business etiquette, Andrle said. The company plans to add roughly five more cities a month in coming months.
During testing, app users were drawn especially to the tips, she said.
“We all know in theory that doing business in Tokyo, in Paris and in Boston is different,” said Andrle, an avid traveler and native of France. So the app gives “concrete tips on how to connect with people and how to negotiate — like what’s the dress code, what’s the etiquette, what’s the relationship between men and a woman or between senior and junior staff.”
The app doesn’t accept advertising. Instead, Jack and Ferdi gets revenue through partnerships with local businesses via direct booking links to activities, like eateries and museums. Users don’t have to book through the direct link, Andrle said, but doing so is easy and provides a revenue stream. The company also plans to further develop a premium service.
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