Villages in the Balkans are where you can feel the culture and hospitality. However, villages often lack good income opportunities, so many young people are forced to move to cities and pursue careers there. That has resulted in many villages dying.
Meanderbug is a booking platform that enables travelers to book accommodation and adventures while giving back to local communities - the money goes directly to locals, whereas Meanderbug takes 15% fees on each booking. Locals are not charged for listings on the website and promotion and sales are handled by the Meanderbug team. We also provide free coaching on further developments in an eco-friendly way, as well as legal counsel as needed. We envision villages thriving with new work opportunities being created through sustainable rural tourism.
Unlocking a new market
Meanderbug has conceptualized farm stays (farms or unique mountain huts) as accommodation options and we have catered to one specific market segment that has not been addressed properly–families. Families have been our primary target audience that fits well with the warm culture of the Balkan villages.
Challenges we have faced and what we worked on during Balkathon
One of the first things we did is to address the concerns of travelers by explicitly stating that bookings are flexible. We want to show understanding and full support in the difficult times we’re facing.
As a social business, we have to think about the viability of our partners, not just our own. We are at the scaling stage where we need to migrate from our current WordPress platform to a more sophisticated and stable backend solution such as .net. This innovation would lead to the development of several key features.
The outbreak of COVID-19 will put a strain on travel and a lot of locals will be using every channel at their disposal to book as many overnight stays as possible. We propose a simple solution–calendar synchronization. Real-time synchronization of calendars will enable partners to connect multiple channels (for example Meanderbug, Booking.com, Airbnb) and provide real-time availability to our clients viewing their listing. This, in turn, will result in maximum occupancy and more revenue for the locals.
By migrating from the current WordPress infrastructure to a .net solution, we will be able to provide backend accounts to all of the local partners. Over time, partner admin authorization will enable partners to customize their own offers directly and in real-time.
Meanderbug has always been about visual content and providing high-quality content to website visitors. Our search functionality is not sufficient for our growing number of partners and related offers as users are requesting a more intuitive and sophisticated visual approach. Our plan is to modify the search options from text-based to icon-based categories.
Navigation has always been an issue in the less known areas of the Balkans. Google maps and other online maps do not reflect the actual situation on the terrain and that can sometimes cause travelers to get lost or even stranded if dependent on these services. Therefore, we want to implement a locally sourced mapping solution that can help travelers navigate with accuracy and confidence.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
85,000+ euros of profit to our local partners in 2019 100% sales growth on a yearly basis 10,000 visitors per month on average 120 local partners as of now Features on Ryanair.com, Kiwi.com, and other travel magazines and blogs Developed sustainable eco-friendly solutions, such as schematics for compost toilets
What's next for Meanderbug 2.0
We entered 2020 with rising interest from new local partners and demand from major world-renowned companies signing agreements which we saw as a new breakthrough and recognition of the potential for rural tourism in the Western Balkans. However, the global outbreak of COVID-19 has stopped most travel-related activities. It also has reduced rural travel by more than 90% with local and expat communities still booking a minimum amount. Travel may have changed forever and we intend to adapt to the new circumstances and continue coaching local partners on innovative approaches we can take together to combat the challenges ahead. We strongly believe rural tourism is the next best thing in the travel industry as more and more travelers will be looking to get away from the crowds and spend time in nature. Toward that end, we will push to brand Montenegro and the rest of the Western Balkan countries as rural tourism destinations which will help local economies recover from the consequences of COVID-19, and ultimately preserve a significant number of villages for a better future.