This is the one of (if not) the most difficult moment in travel community, whether you are a traveller or representing travel industry. Meridien Ten is family owned, small tour operator based in Croatia. We are in adventure/travel business for more than 35 years. Our company’s history can be described in 1 word: rollercoaster. Our active and adventure travel started to grow just in time when internet started to develop. This allowed us to spread the word about Croatia and us. We are growing each year, slowly. But there were quite a few downhills on our “ride”; before the COVID – 19 outbreak, we faced Croatian National war (1991 – 1995), then in 1999 Kosovo armed conflict which reflected in no mayor bookings in Croatia for that and the following year, The Great Recession in 2008 and in 2001 9/11, which we felt in Croatia as more than 80% of our clients and business partners are from the US. And we have recovered from all these “falls” and we will recover from this one!
Situation with COVID 19 outbreak is not that bad in Croatia, at least when you compare the number of cases in Croatia and its surrounding countries. Nevertheless, this is a period no one from us will ever forget (I guess this applies to the whole world)! Besides possible health and/or economic crisis, Croatia was hit by series of earthquakes at the end of March. The biggest damage was seen in Zagreb, Croatian capital where destructive 5.3 magnitude hit the town and its surroundings in the morning of March 22. There were several aftershocks and then it started to snow, while it did not snow properly during the whole winter. And there were hundreds of citizens in the streets, not being able to get back to their homes as it was not safe anymore to enter some of the buildings and houses…. 1 month later, if we move a bit more south, to Split, where most of Meridien Ten staff is based, “things” are slowly getting back to normal (or a temporarily new normal). We still do have a lot of restrictions, we still have a few daily cases of coronavirus infections (approx. 20 per day as of April, 19th ,in the whole of Croatia) but at the moment we have great weather and we do see a lot of families enjoying the walks along the coast, people talking over the phone/internet to their family, connecting back with people they would not normally talk to. Wildlife is “recovering”; there was a whale spotted outside of the Island Solta. This is not a typical site in busy waters of the Adriatic Sea. Restaurants and hotels are closed, most of the flights to/from Croatia are cancelled, there is no one besides Croatians to eat Croatian fish – maybe those sardines will finally get a chance to multiply and to grow bigger. What am I talking about, you must be wondering, right? The old fishermen were saying that in one kilogram of sardines you would have 24 pieces. This was the perfect size of a sardine, full of flavour, meat and healthy nutrients. Nowadays, due to overfishing, you will have 50 or 60 pieces in 1 kilogram. Poor little sardines do not get enough time to grow before we (humans) or tunas consume them!
We want this “travel industry” to survive because we believe in its values: small group travel, local experiences, discovery of new cultures, new friends. Time in the nature doing activities. Trying new locally produced food, locally grown wine. Worldwide experts call this kind of travel: Sustainable travel. Not only that we believe in it, we do it. So do our partners and suppliers, even smaller companies on Dalmatian Islands. A great bunch of people!!
I am sure you did read about recent climate change due to reduction in travel. Fewer Carbon Emissions! Improvement of air quality in Lockdown Areas! There are many more benefits which happened during the virus outbreak. Each medal has 2 sides, so if we look at the “bright” side – all these benefits, all this “healing” of nature gives us hope and strength to keep on going with our work and work philosophy. Small group travel, environmentally friendly, travel that includes visits to natural spaces, discovery of local communities and cultures. Simply said – sustainable way of traveling! This should become a standard, in order to prevent climate change, wildlife conservation, provide environmental sustainability and eventually social justice. I am sure many will not agree with this, but smaller and medium sized enterprises do have more social focus and are more connected to the country where they operate and its people than large organizations which are in a global (capitalism) race and push on mass tourism, where traveller is just a number, statistic.
Highways for quick access to beaches, beaches covered with plastic trash and similar environmental destruction, global chains instead of local restaurants, local arts replaced by cheap plastic (or similar material) replicas, wildlife abuse and more.. All signs of mass or overtourism!
Even we all have to keep “social distancing” now, the whole world managed to unite and act as one to stop the pandemic! It would be great to stay united and reconsider our travel and overall future plans to more sustainable practices. Yes, social distancing can feel boring and daunting, but keep in mind we are actually doing something well for the planet! So, let’s hold on a little bit more and we will get through these difficult times!
We did reduce our office staff, for more than 50% percent. Our guides will not lead any trips at least till July and for most of them this was the main source of income. All our local partners; hotels, B&B, travel companies based on the islands, restaurants will also be impacted. Heavily! Their families! Our families! These are difficult times for everyone. And they will pass! Once they do, we will be here for you!
I hope you and your family are safe and will remain like that in this world-wide adventure!