Comment: The incredible potential for tourism in Romania
Guest writer Ronnie Smith travels around Romania and writes about the country's efforts to revive tourism.
A common theme in many national conversations is Romania’s abject failure to build an international tourist industry in a country as beautiful as this. It is indeed extremely frustrating to see the untapped possibilities, seemingly in every county, when traveling around at leisure. Let’s look at just one area.
Take, for example, the ancient Dacian royal palace and sanctuary of Sarmisegetuza Regia in the Orastie Mountains of Hunedoara. If fully excavated it could rival Ephesus or Troy in Turkey and is already a recognized World Heritage site. There are what are supposed religious constructions that resemble Stonehenge in England and also the Sun Calendar of the Aztecs in Mexico; experts are still arguing about the age and origin of the palace. It is difficult to overstate Sarmisegetuza Regia's importance in the world of archeology.
Of course the palace’s mystery is greatly enhanced by there being absolutely no public information about the ruins at the site itself. And by the fact that the visitor practically stumbles into the forest clearing where the main religious ruins are situated. And that access to the remote location is gained by 'driving' along a profoundly unsurfaced forest road that challenges the most sophisticated SUV, not to mention the damage to stomach and kidneys. And that knowledge about the site’s existence is passed only from person to person and while many wish, throughout life, to visit the ancient cities of Cuzco and Machu Pichu, it would be quite possible to never learn of the existence of Sarmisegetuza Regia. That can’t be right.
Within 70 Kms of Sibiu are stables that house around 350 Lipizzaner horses and whose origins date from the Habsburg empire. The Lipizzaners are possibly the most famous breed of horses in the world. The part of Slovenia where they originate is extremely famous and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, where the horses are trained to perform before millions of tourists each year is even more famous. Are the Lipizzaner stables near Sibiu, where these beautiful animals breed and train, known by many people and are they adequately funded? No.
The mountains around Sibiu are peppered by countless pensiunes offering very high quality accommodation, food and leisure facilities. They are perfect bases for hikers, cyclists, walkers and what the modern world calls agro-tourism. They sit amidst the most incredible scenery and give access to unspoiled nature to those who know they are there and who understand the rewards of making the sometimes difficult journey.
Even at the top of the mountains, in the spectacular mountain valleys and high plateaus the visitor can find places like the Cabana Balea Lac at around 2,000 meters, a hotel with an excellent restaurant sitting on the shore of a small lake, absolutely in the middle of nowhere. The extraordinarily peaceful beauty of this place resembles Vall de Nuria in the Pyrenees but I wonder which is the more internationally famous and visited?
Sibiu is a beautiful, interesting city with an excellent airport, renovated using EU funding when Sibiu was the European Capital of Culture. As we can see, the area around Sibiu has extraordinary potential to attract visitors from around Europe and beyond. Sibiu airspace should be full of low cost flights coming from every major airport on the continent. Instead, they are flying to Riga…!!??
What’s the problem? Well, I have a theory.
In spite of Romania being a large beautiful country with a relatively large population, business and business vision is small. Accommodation is provided largely by small family and friends networks. Infrastructure is organized and provided at county level. Information is passed largely by word of mouth. Everything that is required to truly develop an international tourist industry is compartmentalized to the extent that joined-up policy, planning and implementation by central government, local authorities and individual service providers is impossible.
At the moment the tourist industry in Romania serves only Romanians. To the rest of the world it’s a closely guarded secret and even if people know about it, they can’t reach it. But the potential is absolutely enormous. One day…
By Ronnie Smith, guest writer
Ronnie Smith is Scottish and now lives in Romania, working as a professional training business consultant and communication coach. He is also a teacher of political science, a political and social commentator and a writer of fiction. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com