Tourism has changed over the years, and nowadays many holidaymakers are looking for authentic experiences and a closer connection to nature and tradition. Razvan Pascu, tourism marketing consultant at Travel Communication Romania and Association Travel Focus, talked to BR about local ecotourism and the potential of various parts of the country.
By Georgiana Bendre
What does ecotourism mean? What does it mean for the country’s natural and cultural assets?
Ecotourism is that part of tourism that aims at the commitment and closeness of the tourist to the specifics of the travel destination, local customs and traditions. This is done through interactive strategies and projects and, at the same time, by encouraging responsible behaviour towards the environment, both from tourists, as well as those who provide touristic services. Ecotourism is a promise to the cultural and natural assets of any country, through which everyone can contribute to the promotion and conservation of the respective nation, as well as to the maximization of benefits for local communities.
In what activities can tourists take part, and what experiences can those that travel in ecotourist areas enjoy?
Tourists can become familiar with the cultural and social values of these areas, with the communities, getting involved in different activities that focus on connection with nature, and on traditional Romanian customs. For example, Astra Museum in Sibiu has developed a strategy based on ecotourism principles, organizing regular fairs, exhibitions, shows for visitors (most of them foreigners), aiming to develop local communities.
Will ecotourism help future generations?
The conservation and protection of these areas are the main principles of ecotourism activity. Therefore it focuses both on economic growth via sustainable tourism and visibility on the global market, as well as on the conservation of the country’s natural and cultural resources. Romania has a wide range of assets – natural areas, and traditions and customs that foreign tourists particularly like – which can bring profit and long-term wealth from this precious patrimony, if there is a strategic and responsible mentality, and well-planned marketing.
In Romania there are already two ecotouristic destinations approved by the European Commission: Zarnesti-Piatra Craiului and Mara-Cosau-Creasta Cocosului. Have others with development potential already been proposed?
Romania has extraordinary touristic potential, but doesn’t benefit from appropriate positioning on the tourism market, or the efficient management of destinations so that they can get the international visibility they deserve. We have several areas that fulfill all the conditions for the development of all forms of sustainable tourism, such as Transylvania’s hills, the perimeter of Sibiu, the county of Dorna, the Aurochs’ province, and the Danube Delta.
Are there investments in marketing/advertising in Romania for the promotion of ecotourism?
There are no investments at all. Ecotourism involves long-term strategic thinking, prior documentation and the integral exploitation of the respective area, to identify its specifics. None of the authorities at central level has yet adopted long-term thinking. They want to check things fast, not knowing how long they will stay state secretaries. So it’s not possible to get any results, and if it hadn’t been for the private sector and NGOs, the situation would have been disastrous.
Are there ecotourism investors that have built something from scratch?
There are several successful examples in Romania, such as in the Danube Delta, a promising area for sustainable tourism practices, and in Maramures and Transylvania. The private sector had done everything it could. Both Romanians and foreigners have taken the investment risks in a country where the fiscal laws are changing monthly; they do promotion, they get things moving, but without any support from the authorities. For example, Green Village, a hotel concept built on sustainable principles, which is integrated perfectly in the middle of a Danube Delta reservation, attracts annually thousands of Romanian tourists and their counterparts from Austria, Germany, and the USA. By promoting entertainment possibilities in nature, gastronomic workshops, boat trips, photo tours and cultural tours, entrepreneurs have developed a real tourism culture in the middle of nature in a few areas of Romania.
Where does the demand for ecotourism come from? From Romanians or more from foreigners?
Foreigners have a special interest in this form of tourism, as they are fascinated by green areas with ancient woods, mountain tracks, natural areas, and the communities that pass on the handicrafts and occupations of the old generations. Unfortunately, most foreign tourists discover them randomly, because we don’t have a concrete touristic profile, efficient marketing, or a portfolio that comprises all these touristic objectives.
Is tourism development dependent on the development of an infrastructure?
Infrastructure is compulsory for the promotion of tourism in general, not only for ecotourism. But it’s not the number one priority. Romania is among the countries with the weakest infrastructural development, which gradually makes tourists lose their interest, so we have to redouble our efforts to compensate for these drawbacks.
Do you make info-trips, related to ecotourism, at Travel Communication Romania?
Yes, we try as much as possible to promote these destinations in our activity at Travel Communications and Association Travel Focus. We work with some Romanian areas and with some entrepreneurs and authorities who want to promote places, so we have helped with the promotion of the Danube Delta, of Szekely land, Alba Iulia city, Covasna county, and others.
RAZVAN PASCU is consultant in tourism marketing, vice-president of Travel Focus Association and managing partner at Travel Communication Romania. He graduated from the Marketing faculty of Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ASE) in 2008 and also holds a master degree in Communication at National University of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA).
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