Heartbreak sucks. And there’s an app to help you get over it. We sat down with Breakup Tours co-founder Stephen Chung to find out more about the unorthodox approach of his new travel app that promises to help people move on.
“It’s not you, it’s me.” It’s the perennial problem stalking people around the world: how do you get over a painful breakup? For Stephen Chung, co-founder and CEO of the Hong Kong-based app Breakup Tours, the answer lies in changing up your space – both mentally and physically. Soft-launched in November 2019, his app aims to help people start afresh, offering over 100 themed experiences personalised to release post-breakup stress with a trip abroad to cities such as Japan, Taipei, and Thailand. “When you’re travelling, you have a different itinerary, a new place, a new home – you don’t think, oh, this morning I didn’t text them, because you already have plans,” he says. We got the lowdown from the man making a living helping others bounce back.
“Breakups change your whole personality,” says Chung. “I watched lots of friends handle breakups badly, and that experience haunts them for like, the rest of their lives. They just can’t get that face out of their heads.” What began as a moment of vulnerability confided between friends has since grown into a multi-brand e-commerce platform that has been featured by CNN, The Lonely Planet, and The Standard, already carrying partnerships with Cathay Pacific, Airbnb and Shiseido to name a few. Essentially a travel app that suggests itineraries based on your particular breakup experience, users log on and are asked for certain details about their situation – their breakup story, their current mood, and their feelings toward their ex. Then, the app suggests a selection of experiences based on their account. “You can open the app, say something like, ‘I feel so angry,’ and then we’ll recommend you go to the anger house in Taipei where you can smash everything there to release your anger,” explains Chung of how it works.
From there, they carry you through the process of recovery. The app comes equipped with a 24-hour customer service team of psychology majors called the Breakup Tours Listeners. “We’re not just doing transactions. We sell a sentiment – we’ll be caring. We’ll keep asking you stuff. We’ll give you a call. We’ll send you all the articles,” Chung elaborates. The app also includes a ‘Traveller’s Circle,’ allowing people to connect with other customers with similar breakup stories and interests. “Whoever has just broken up will want someone beside them, and that person does not need to make any comments or give any suggestions. They just need to be a good listener,” Chung says simply.
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Chung’s creative streak hasn’t always worked out in his favour, however, as he found out on the journey that led to the Breakup Tours. “I’m a person that prefers to do something that has failed or that no one has done before, instead of doing something popular that lots of people do,” he says. “Earlier in my career, I worked at five different advertising agencies in three years, and two of them blacklisted me, actually,” he admits, laughing. “I just don’t want someone to tell me what to do.” But it was this restlessness that led him to one fateful Valentine’s survey, showing him that newly-single individuals spent up to 25% more on travel-related products, and the rest is history.
The first Breakup Tour trialled four heartbroken Hong Kong-based influencers on a five-day trip to Tokyo, Japan, proving so successful that the second tour to Japan in 2018 was filmed as a reality show by Apple Daily. “On the first tour, we got a flight attendant to come to their seat to surprise them with two redeemable flight tickets for the next year, so they’d know they will be on a better path,” he recalls. Since then, Chung has expanded his offering, bringing in HKD 200 breakup first-aid kits that include a film camera for the trip, exercises in writing therapy, a music pin player for sentimental playlists, and a personalised gift. “We spend hours going through the breakup stories of users to find the remedy best suited for you. It could be spa packages or a free ticket to Tokyo.” Chung has even asked participants on his second tour to help fund their trip by selling their ex’s gifts on the online marketplace Carousell.
Looking forward, Chung hopes to use AI to further develop his technology, enhancing the app’s personalisation. Whether that means bringing up a recommendation for a massage for insomniacs in Taipei, a shooting range for the resentful in Chiang Mai, or a modern art trip to teamLab Borderless for the dispirited in Tokyo, the idea is that by forcing you out of your comfort zone, the Breakup Tours will give you a whole new outlook. As Chung puts it, “To truly move on, you need to get rid of your routine, go to a new place, and meet new people. You need a fresh start.”