I should have had my first rafting trip to Montenegro this May with Green Adventure, a Romanian outdoor tour operator. Unfortunately, the Universe had other plans for me.? The epidemic started. Then I had to find a new apartment and move out. Then I had to go through an urgent surgery for my herniated disk crisis.
Luckily, all of this didn’t affect in any way my curiosity.
I was following Green Adventure’s activity for some time. I contacted Catalin Campeanu, the company owner, who was so kind and agreed to share their story with me. They are present for over 10 years in Romania’s adventure travel industry and have the vastest portfolio of outdoor activities that you could find in a single tour operator. We also discussed some of the challenges that the outdoor industry is facing because of the epidemic.
What’s the story behind the business?
Catalin was interested in adventure and expeditions since he was a kid. And now I ask you, what more can you want from this life than to end up doing what you dreamt of as a kid?
He followed his passion for the outdoor in 2008. Then he decided to open an outdoor equipment shop, a small side project to his already existing business, producing advertising materials. The crisis was affecting most of the companies at that time. He thought this could be an excellent opportunity to create an alternative source of income. In this context, he started to become familiar with the local adventure travel industry at that time.
At the same time, he was also traveling outside the country during his holidays. He was researching new destinations and participating in all kinds of activities like rafting, canyoning, trekking. He also started to know these companies who were activating on more mature markets, offering similar services.
Green Adventure – the travel agency
Catalin quickly realized the differences between the business model of foreign companies and how businesses functioned in Romania. He believed that in Romania, some things needed improvement. Being an entrepreneurial spirit and firmly believing in his ideas and approach, he created Green Adventure in 2010.
They have the largest number of outdoor activities that you could find in a single operator in Romania: rafting, paragliding, canyoning, or even yachting, to mention a few. They also have high-quality equipment for all these activities and well-trained guides and instructors. Most of them obtained international certifications, as in Romania, you cannot find any schools for some of these activities yet.
So if you decide to go on an adventure with them, you can be sure you will be in good hands. You won’t have to worry about anything but to enjoy your holiday.
The whole concept also had in mind not only to sell authentic outdoor and adventure trips to customers but also to give something back. In their case, it is protecting the natural environment in Romania. It is one of the subjects Catalin enjoys discussing, and he is very keen on promoting their initiatives on that matter. Part of their customers become promoters of these projects and want to get actively involved in them. One of these projects is protecting the “Basca Mare” river and the natural habitat of the area. It is the target of industrialization in the region through the building of a hydropower plant.
Green Camp – Adventure Glamping Resort
Green Camp adventure glamping was launched last year in Vadu Oii, Buzau County. The area is quiet and remote, situated next to the “Basca Mica” river. You can be sure there will be no civilization distracting you from connecting with nature. I didn’t go there yet, but surely it is on this year’s list. As soon as the restrictions relax, I hope to bring you a full review of this beautiful place.
Catalin also explained that all resources that they use at Green Camp come from the local community. Sometimes, this is more expensive than if they went to buy them from big retailers. But it keeps the experience 100% authentic, contributing to the survival of the local community. It starts with food and ingredients coming from local farmers and goes up to the people they hire.
“Green Adventure is redirecting part of its profits to different causes because we strongly believe in giving back. In the same way, we built Green Camp in the local community of Vadu Oii; we also want to help by sustaining this community.” Catalin Campeanu
Green Adventure’s guides are very passionate about the outdoor and the expeditions, but most of them have full-time jobs in other industries. However, they took their role as guides very seriously and obtained all the necessary certifications. While talking with Catalin, I can sense that providing a high-quality experience and safety for their travelers is very important for him. I believe this is connected very much with his integrity and how he understands doing business in Romania. This country still has many gaps when looking at legislation, customer service in tourism, or protection of the natural environment.
In the same manner, he cares about his team and supports them in getting the best certifications available. These are not easy classes, they require dedication, training, and effort, and there is no guarantee that in the end, everybody will pass.
Romania doesn’t officially recognize the respective certifications. Still, at least Catalin is sure that all the guides have proper knowledge and preparation to offer the best and safest experiences to their customers. And it shows because a lot of them return and even become friends. ?
How they face the present situation?
Catalin also faced the economic crisis in 2008 while having his first business. As compared with that, the actual context is very different, he says. All tourism activities stopped almost entirely overnight. And this abrupt block happened right at the beginning of the tourist season. Their business is highly seasonal, alternating between specific periods during the year. The timing couldn’t be worse. Nobody could predict such a situation by the end of 2019, so the only thing they could do now was trying to survive.
One way “Green Adventure” adapted to this was to launch an online class, “Romanian Survival Skills.” It is a live streaming training held by two former military officers who are also internationally certified outdoor instructors. The main idea behind this online training was to help people learn how to react in crises. It is useful specifically for extreme situations we have to face when we experience panic and fear. It is indeed difficult to make the correct decisions, as you feel overwhelmed, scared, and confused, and probably you never had any similar experience before. Just think of the toilet paper hysteria generated at the beginning of the crisis. Having a minimum guideline and understanding of the psychology that lies behind these behaviors and what you can do not to fall into the same scenarios will make the difference.
How do they see the adventure travel industry evolving after the epidemic?
In the short term, they wish to transform and adapt their offering and focus mainly on local tourism. In the first stage, national tourism will be the first to start, and we can expect a rise of interest in this area. Even so, the authorities don’t provide clear rules when it comes to local traveling. Still, the adventure travel industry could provide more valid options for customers. They could go camping or organizing 1-day trips, for example.
The possibility of “virtual” experiences emerging in tourism doesn’t seem very attractive to Catalin. When he thinks of their programs’ primary purpose, the main idea is to take people into nature and provide them an authentic experience. He believes that Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality experiences could make the traveler move away from the desire to spend time in nature. It could contribute to a more isolated life, where you could “virtually” experience any destination in the world from your own home. And you won’t need to travel anymore. It would be just with a few clicks.
What about the trips already sold?
Their customers were very supportive, and Catalin was proud to say that none of them made a refund request. Moreover, he received supportive messages from their customers, who offered to help Green Adventure in any way they could. It proved once more the loyalty of their travelers. At the same time, he feels that it is his responsibility not to let them down and to be able to deliver the programs. In a way, he feels it puts additional pressure on him to continue his business and properly serve his customers.
I also decided not to request to receive my money back for the planned trip to Montenegro. Even if it was my first trip with “Green Adventure,” and I already had paid an advance for the rafting, it felt like the right thing to do. Moreover, after having my surgery for the herniated disk, I realized that it would probably take some time before I can go rafting. Even so, I discussed with Catalin, and he agreed to use the advance and go on another trip when my health improves, and my doctor gives me the green light.
So, if you are in a similar situation, I strongly recommend, if possible, you do your best and not cancel your trips. Only postpone them. Discuss with the tour operators or any kind of service provider involved, and see if it is possible to show flexibility and adapt. It is a difficult time, and everyone is doing their best to survive.
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