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Budget is the way to go for Romania as tourist destination; Thomas Cooks blames negative image for tourist shortage

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Romania should counter its negative image and take full advantage of its tourist potential by positioning itself as a budget destination for small to medium income travelers, according to a Thomas Cook representative in Romania, as quoted by Mediafax

“Our only chance is to be seen as a budget destination, because of the negative image that we have,” said Gheorghe Marginean, manager of Karpaten Turism, Thomas Cook Neckermann representative in Romania. “Only small and medium income tourists come to Romania.”

Last year, more than 5,600 foreign tourists reached Romanian shores with Thomas Cook, around 60 percent of them German, and 40 percent Polish. These figures somewhat contradict a recent statement by Dragos Anastasiu, President of Eurolines Romania, TUI representative in Romania, who suggested that German tourists know practically nothing about Romania and never visit the country.

“German tourists don’t get to see Romania, they don’t know anything about it”, commented Anastasiu at the time. “It’s like a black hole, a dark spot on the map.”

In the summer of 2012, TUI only managed to bring 1,000 German tourists to Romanian seaside resorts, while Bulgaria’s seaside destinations welcomed 25 times more visitors from Germany. TUI put the low numbers of German visitors down to the company’s decision not to include details about Romania in its print catalogs, which are still the preferred source of information for German tourists.

A confirmation of the effect such an exclusion might have will be offered next summer, as Thomas Cook dedicated two pages of its catalogue to the Romanian seaside this fall, with plans to promote the destination with both the German and the Polish public.

According to Thomas Cook estimates, approximately 7,000 tourists, 5,700 Germans and 1,300 Polish, are expected to spend their summer holiday on the Romanian seaside next year. The tour operator also brought more than 100 German and Polish tourists to Sinaia and Poiana Brasov to spend their end of year holidays in three and four star accommodation.

The budget strategy appears to have worked for the UK mass tourism operator. “Thomas Cook entered the Romanian market with prices standing up to 40 percent below those of the competition, at the same hotels, and this is why it managed to bring in such a high number of tourists”, stated Marginean.

The accessibility of the proposed Romanian destination also played an important part in this equation. “Compare the two charters that landed this year at Kogalniceanu airport to the nine charters landing in Varna on which German tourists who are coming to Romania next year have their seats reserved. At the same Bulgarian airport there are two weekly flights organized by Thomas Cook for Polish tourists, some of whom will be staying on the Romanian seaside.”

Thomas Cook estimates foreign tourists’ expenses in Romania at no more than EUR 50 per day for plane travel, accommodation and breakfast, and no more than EUR 70 per day for an all inclusive package. Even with the added EUR 50 per day for short trips, food, drinks and souvenirs, Romania still stands below the average EUR 150-170 per day paid by foreign visitors to Spain, for instance.

A breakdown by age shows 30 to 50 year-olds going to the Romanian seaside, 40 to 60 year-olds heading for the mountains and over 50s taking tours around Romania, according to Thomas Cook.

Thomas Cook is one of the largest mass tourist operators in the world and is based in the UK. The company has just resumed its activity in Romania, under the Neckermann brand, after ending its operations here in 2006.

Ioana Jelea, ioana.jelea@romania-insider.com