Sibiu Experience



In this quick call, we check in with Tudor Balaban, who offers the Sibiu Experience in Transylvania, Romania via Airbnb Experiences to learn how he is coping with the COVID-19 lockdown and how he plans to come back stronger.

Today’s episode is kindly sponsored by Checkfront.

Checkfront is the booking platform trusted by over 5000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

Hello, and welcome to episode 75 of Tourpreneur, the world’s only weekly independent podcast for tour operators.

This week we’re doing something a little different on the show. Monday to Friday, each weekday, I’m going to be calling a tour operator from around the world, and taking the pulse on where they are in terms of their business, finding out how their tour business is dealing with the Coronavirus crisis,

  • What are their action plans during quarantine,
  • What’s the daily routine,
  • What’s their message to other tourpreneurs around the world,
  • What are they learning, to make sure their business comes out of this stronger than before?

Transcript of our interview with Tudor Balaban of Sibiu Experience.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at checkfront.com.

Welcome to the TourPreneur podcast, travel industry veteran, Shane Whaley, will take you on a journey with fellow TourPreneurs sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now, here is your host, Shane Whaley.

Shane Whaley:

Hi, and welcome to TourPreneur. Today, we have another TourPreneur check in. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is where I call some of our listeners around the world and find out how they are running the tour operator business, how they are coping during the coronavirus pandemic. If you want to come on the show and have a quick check in, call with us. You can drop me an email at [email protected] Today, we’re going to have a very quick chat to Tudor Balaban. He is the man behind Sibiu Experiences. That’s in Transylvania, Romania. Let’s give him a call. Hi, Tudor. How are you?

Tudor Balaban:

I’m good, thank you. How about yourself?

Shane Whaley:

Or, should I say, ” [foreign language 00:01:21]”

Tudor Balaban:

[foreign language 00:01:22].

Shane Whaley:

[foreign language 00:01:22] that’s it. [foreign language 00:01:24]. Hello in Romanian. You’re our first ever guest, our first ever TourPreneur from the great country of Romania. [crosstalk 00:01:34] Yeah. You’re in Transylvania, correct?

Tudor Balaban:

Correct. Yes.

Shane Whaley:

What is the mood like in Romania right now with regards to the coronavirus?

Tudor Balaban:

We’re actually on lockdown. The authorities suggested we should stay inside. So, we’re coping with the current situation, staying home. And other than that, it was actually sunny today.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah. That’s always a worry because people go out when it’s sunny. So, how are you coping? Because obviously, you’re on lockdown, you can’t operate any tours. How are you coping?

Tudor Balaban:

We started this last autumn, and we started this through a platform that’s dealing with experiences, and now, we’re actually working on our website. So, when things will go back to normal, we can have our website up and running so that we can accept bookings from our guests.

Shane Whaley:

Right. Right now, what’s the platform? So if I wanted a book one of your tours, where would I go?

Tudor Balaban:

That will be Airbnb.

Shane Whaley:

Okay. So, you’re running tours through Airbnb. I also saw your Facebook page, but you have decided during this downturn that now is the time to build a website, correct?

Tudor Balaban:

Correct. Yeah. So that when everything is up and running, when people are going out, we can take them on our experiences.

Shane Whaley:

How are you coping financially? Because obviously, you’re not taking tours out right now. How how are you coping with that?

Tudor Balaban:

With my savings from the past and so that’s basically it.

Shane Whaley:

Sure. And how many months do you think you can survive really without an income?

Tudor Balaban:

Well, with the basic necessities, it will be two months, three.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah. That’s what I’m hearing from most TourPreneurs. Have you been tuning into any of the webinars, or the online learning, and the virtual summits that have been going on?

Tudor Balaban:

No, unfortunately, I haven’t. But yeah, I think I should. Learning is from others is the best thing to do. So, I will take some time and listen to the podcasts.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah. What kinds of things are you going to do during the downturn to improve your business?

Tudor Balaban:

Well, before we went on lockdown, me and my friend Sebastian [inaudible 00:00:04:15], we went out exploring the surrounding areas, trying to find the places to take our guests to. And now, we’re working to find our tours and see things around elsewhere to take our guests for restaurants. That’s how we are building a website, adding tours, adding all kinds of things that our guests will be interested to learn more about.

Shane Whaley:

To build even better tours then, is what you’re saying once we get out of this with your research, and build that in.

Tudor Balaban:

Yeah.

Shane Whaley:

What has your communication been like with Airbnb?

Tudor Balaban:

Well, it’s great. I didn’t have to make any kind of inquiries.

Shane Whaley:

In terms of, because no one’s running tours right now, experiences. So, you were selling through Airbnb. How have they been helping you?

Tudor Balaban:

Well, they’ve been having this Q and A’s with hosts trying to give updates on how they are dealing with the current situation. And they even said that they would be providing some funds to those hosts that have been impacted by this crisis.

Shane Whaley:

Did they give you any more details on if you qualify for that?

Tudor Balaban:

Yeah. You have to have hosted for at least a year, but since I started in September last year, that will be a no. They said they would waive commissions for two months after everything is up and running.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah. In terms of building your website, are you working with a booking platform or booking software? Or, how is that going to work for you?

Tudor Balaban:

I’m building my own website with Sebastian. We found a platform like WooCommerce to accept payments and bookings. So there’s also with the calendar and the stuff.

Shane Whaley:

And that was WooCommerce, did you say?

Tudor Balaban:

Yeah. Yeah.

Shane Whaley:

Okay. I’m not familiar with any tours that are using WooCommerce. Was there any reason why you didn’t want to work with someone like a FareHarbor, or a Checkfront, or a Rezdy, or a Peek, or the other 160 booking platform providers that are out there?

Tudor Balaban:

We’re trying to cut off fees for the moment until we get up and running. So, maybe when we’ll get a lot of bookings, we will take those kinds of platforms.

Shane Whaley:

WooCommerce, you pay up front for it for a plugin of some sort? How does that work?

Tudor Balaban:

It’s a plugin for WordPress, and I think it’s just for the payments. There will be a small fee or something. We’re still on the development mode with WordPress, so I couldn’t get an idea about how it’s dealing with the payments and all kinds of stuff.

Shane Whaley:

Excellent. Well, I’ll do some digging on that, and maybe I can add some links in the show notes for those who are interested. I’m a huge fan of Romania. I’ve been lucky enough to visit your beautiful country on one occasion. I hope once we’re through this that lots more people want to visit and see the sites of Transylvania.

Tudor Balaban:

Yeah, it’s an underrated country. There is a lot to see when you go out and leave the towns. There’s a splendid countryside, and if you go hiking in the mountains, the views are just breathtaking.

Shane Whaley:

It’s surprising. When I visited Romania, it was because my soccer team was playing a Romanian team. So we said, “Let’s go. We’ve never been to Romania.” And we didn’t really know what to expect, and we liked Bucharest very much. People were nice, the food was great. And then, we went out to a town, I’m going probably going to call it, pronounce it the wrong way, but Ploiesti?

Tudor Balaban:

Yeah, it north of Bucharest.

Shane Whaley:

It was great. It wasn’t a very tourist town, Ploiesti, but some of my friends then went to Bran, to the castle, and we made a good time of it. But, yeah, big fan of Romania. I hope to return one day.

Tudor Balaban:

Oh, I’m really glad to hear that. Well, I hope we can meet in Romania.

Shane Whaley:

Absolutely. [foreign language 00:09:09].

Tudor Balaban:

[foreign language 00:09:11].

Shane Whaley:

There we go. Romania on our TourPreneur podcast. Thanks very much for joining us, Tudor.

Tudor Balaban:

You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure to be on your podcast, Shane.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for listening to the TourPreneur podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is TourPreneur.

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