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Pergamon

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Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 898927, 1999


# 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved
Printed in Great Britain
0160-7383/99/$20.00+0.00

PII: S0160-7383(99)00033-X

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE


POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD
Duncan Light
Liverpool Hope University College, UK
Daniela Dumbraveanu
University of Bucharest, Romania
Abstract: This paper examines tourism development in post-communist Romania. It rst
examines tourism trends between 1989 and 1997. International arrivals are faltering, due to
political/economic instability since 1989, the legacy of a decaying tourism infrastructure, and
poor standards of service. Post-communist economic restructuring has signicantly depressed
domestic tourism, with the accommodation sector also declining. This leads to a discussion
on tourism restructuring, particularly the privatization of accommodation, the introduction
and regulation of standards for it, and the training/education of tourism personnel. Next,
future prospects are considered, specially rural, heritage and cultural tourism. The paper
concludes that, despite Romania's considerable tourism potential, the immediate future
prospects are not encouraging. Keywords: Romania, post-communist period, transition,
restructuring, privatization. # 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
sume
: Le tourisme roumain a l'epoque post-communiste. Cet article traite du
Re
developpement du tourisme dans la Roumanie post-communiste. On analyse d'abord les
tendances entre 1989 et 1997. Les arrivees internationales se font incertaines, en
consequence de l'instabilite politique et economique d'une infrastructure touristique en
declin et de niveaux de service mediocres. En plus, la restructuration economique postcommuniste a sensiblement affaibli le tourisme domestique, avec la capacite d'hebergement
en baisse. Ceci mene a une discussion de la restructuration de l'industrie touristique, en
particulier la privatisation de l'hebergement, l'introduction et la reglementation de normes
et la formation du personnel. Ensuite, les perspectives d'avenir sont considerees, en
particulier pour le tourisme rural et culturel. On conclut que, malgre le potentiel touristique
s: Roumanie,
de la Roumanie, dans l'immediat le pronostic n'est pas encourageant. Mots-cle
periode post-communiste, transition, restructuration, privatisation. # 1999 Elsevier Science
Ltd. All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION
Since 1989 the former communist countries of Central and
Eastern Europe (CEE) have been experiencing fundamental political and economic restructuring as they seek to replace centrallyplanned economies and one-party states with market economies and
multi-party democracies. Such a change cannot take place overDuncan Light lectures in Geography at Liverpool Hope University College (Department of
Environmental and Biological Studies, Hope Park, Liverpool L16 9JD, UK. Email
< Lightd@hope.ac.uk >). His research interests include the relationships between tourism,
heritage, and identities in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. Daniela
veanu is Assistant Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Bucharest,
Dumbra
Romania.

898

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899

night, and these countries are currently acknowledged to be in a


period of transition. However, while the nature, processes, and
impacts of political and economic transition in CEE have generated
considerable academic interest (Bate 1991; Buckley and Ghauri
1994; Estrin 1994; Henderson and Robinson 1997; Karp 1994; Koves
1992; Lavigne 1995; Richter 1992; Turnock 1997; Vasko 1992), the
changing nature of tourism in the region is a more neglected topic.
Yet, tourism in CEE cannot be isolated from these wider processes
of transition, and as Hall (1995a) argues tourism is itself an element ofand is strongly inuenced bythe processes of restructuring.
However, the academic study of tourism in CEE has been both
slow to develop and inconsistent in its coverage. Two publications
made a signicant contribution to understanding the nature of tourism development in the region during the period of state socialism:
a special edition of the Annals of Tourism Research dealing with tourism in centrally-planned economies; and a collection edited by Hall
(1991a) which included a detailed examination of the evolution of
tourism in CEE, along with individual country studies (which
included an analysis of the situation in early 1990). Subsequent
tourism research in post-communist CEE has focused on two broad
themes. The rst is emerging trends in the region as a whole (with
particular emphasis on trends in arrivals of foreign tourists and
receipts), and the challenges and problems for tourism development
in the future (Hall 1990, 1992a, 1992b, 1993a, 1993b, 1995b;
tetic 1991; Witt 1994).
Lockwood 1993; Medlik 1990; Smeral 1993; S
A more detailed regional analysis of how tourism is both an element
of, and is inuenced by, economic, political and social restructuring
is provided by Hall (1995a). The second focus is the emerging
trends and the changing nature of tourism in individual countries,
including Bulgaria (Bachvarov 1997; Harrison 1993; Koulov 1996;
z 1995; Johnson
Vodenska 1992); the Czech/Slovak Republics (Bala
1995; Jordan 1992); Estonia (Jaakson 1996; Unwin 1996); Hungary
(Fletcher and Cooper 1996; Johnson 1997) and Poland (Airey 1994).
Such studies have been inconsistent in their coverage, with most
attention having been paid to the countries of Central Europe,
while those of South Eastern Europe have been more neglected
(Hall 1998). Other themes include investment potential in the
region (Franck 1990), the implications for transport systems of
changing tourism development (Hall 1993c), the privatization and
restructuring of hotel accommodation (Lennon 1995), Japanese
z and Mitsutake
tourists in the countries of Central Europe (Bala
1998), and issues relating to sustainable tourism in south east
Europe (Hall 1998).
This paper focuses on tourism development in post-communist
Romania. Within the English-language academic literature,
Romanian tourism has received only sporadic attention. Turnock
(1991) has produced an overview up to early 1990, and has also
focused in more detail on tourism development in the Romanian
Carpathians (Turnock 1973, 1990). Studies in the post-communist

900

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

period have tended to focus on specic themes. These include tourism development and environmental protection in the Danube
Delta (Hall 1993d), the problems facing Romania's spa resorts
(Cooper, Fletcher, Noble and Westlake 1995), the need for education and training for personnel (Burns 1995), the relationships
between tourism conservation and agriculture in the transition
period (Ploaie 1996), and geographical changes in the nature of
domestic and international demand (Light and Andone 1996).
Within the Romanian academic literature tourism has been a subject of considerable interest, particularly among academic geographers (Turnock 1977). There is a long tradition of interest in
ndea
identifying and evaluating the country's tourism potential (Ca
1993; Cocean 1996; Cristescu 1996; Erdeli and Istrate 1996), but
nescu 1997) there has been
with isolated exceptions (Erdeli and Ma
little interest in post-communist developments or the restructuring
of the tourism industry. This paper assembles data from a range of
sources (both English and Romanian) to study and thus contribute
to this research theme.
TOURISM IN POST-COMMUNIST ROMANIA
In order to understand tourism development in post-communist
Romania it is rst necessary to examine briey the nature and evolution of the industry during the state socialist period (194889).
Before the Second World War Romanian tourism had experienced
slow but steady growth (with the formation of a National Tourism
Ofce in 1936). However, progress was halted by the war and the
subsequent seizure of power by the Communist Party. Thereafter,
tourism development in Romania was strongly inuenced by the
ideology and personality of its Communist leaders. In the immediate post-war period there was little interest in developing tourism,
so that when the package tour sector began to prosper Romania
had little to offer. In 1961 the country received only 134,000 foreign
tourist (Turnock 1974, 1991).
By the late 60s, however, Romania had emergedsupercially at
leastas one of the more open and liberal of the East European
socialist republics with a Westward-looking foreign policy, measures
to allow small-scale private enterprise, and openness within cultural
and academic life (Georgescu 1991). Tourism development reected
this climate. A Ministry of Tourism and Sports was established in
1971, and during the 60s and 70s Romania made substantial investments in tourism infrastructure, mostly on the Black Sea coast. By
the early 70s two-thirds of the country's tourism was focused on the
coast which was particularly popular with the nationals of other
Central/Eastern European states (particularly Czechoslovaks).
Romania was also a reasonably accessible country for Western
Europeans: border formalities were minimal and visas easily obtainable; there were no compulsory currency exchange requirements
nor controls on hotel accommodation; and incentives were offered
to encourage tourists to visit out of season (Hale 1971; Turnock

VEANU
LIGHT AND DUMBRA

901

1974, 1989). For Western Europeans Romania offered an inexpensive alternative to Greece and the Spanish Coasts (New Markets
Monthly 1996) and 0.6 million Western tourists (of a total of 2.9
million foreign) visited in 1972. At this time tourism accounted for
about 0.5% of employment (Turnock 1991).
Domestic tourism also increased rapidly during the socialist
period. Romanians were strongly encouraged to travel within their
country and did so extensively (Turnock 1991). The Communist
state actively supported social tourism: trades unions arranged lowcost holidays to the Black Sea and medical visits to spa and mountain resorts, while other organizations arranged educational trips
for students and school children. Monuments of historical importance were widely promoted, while Romanians were also encouraged
to visit contemporary monuments of socialist achievement.
Although the Black Sea coast was again a popular destination, domestic tourism was developed throughout the country at many spa
resorts and towns. Central planning ensured the development of an
extensive network of hotels, some exclusively for Communist Party
members.
During the mid 70s, however, the climate in Romania changed.
The regime of Nicolae Ceaus escu became increasingly repressive
which had concomitant implications for international tourism. A
law passed in 1974 required tourists to exchange a minimum
amount of hard currency for each day of their visit. The following
year Romanians were forbidden to accommodate tourists in their
own homes, and subsequently they were required to report all contact with foreigners to Securitate (the internal security services).
These developments limited contact between Romanians and tourists, by concentrating the latter activity on ``ofcial'' accommodation
(mostly at the Black Sea), and restricted the opportunities for independent tourists (Turnock 1989, 1991).
During the 80s tourism declined rapidly. Driven by an isolationist
ideology to reduce dependence upon Western Europe, Ceaus escu
introduced severe austerity measures in order to pay off Romania's
foreign debt (which was achieved in 1989). This involved reducing
domestic consumption and investment, rationing energy supplies,
and the export of almost all the country's agricultural produce
(Stan 1995). The result was a marked decline in living standards for
Romanians with rationing of food, electricity, and fuel. These circumstances could hardly have been less propitious for tourism.
Standards of accommodation declined to below those expected by
Western tourists, and food was in short supply. Infrastructure and
transport links were of low quality. Energy shortages meant that
bars and nightclubs in cities were forced to close early to save electricity. Standards of service were often low, and Romanians unresponsive to complaints from holiday operators. The increasingly
paranoiac regime viewed foreigners with suspicion and the Securitate
subjected them to close surveillance, while tourist guides were
instructed to write detailed reports of the activities of Westerners
in their charge (Elliott 1993; Hall 1991b; Turnock 1989, 1991).

902

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

Consequently, by the late 80s, while tourism in neighboring


Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia was booming, tourism in
Romania was in decline, despite the country's considerable tourism
potential. Table 1 indicates that tourist arrivals in Romania were
well below those of the neighboring countries. Similarly, by 1988 the
country was last among the CEE countries (except Albania) in
terms of income from tourism (Buckley and Witt 1990; Hall 1991c).

Tourism Development in the Post-Communist Period


Following Ceaus escu's violent overthrow in December 1989, a
group (dominated by former communists) called the National
Salvation Front assumed control, and thus began Romania's hesitant transition to democracy and a market economy. However, since
under communism Romania's economy was so highly centralized, its
transition has been more difcult and erratic than that of some of
the other CEE countries (Popescu 1993; Smith 1994). The National
Salvation Front convincingly won elections in 1990 and Ion Iliescu
(a former communist ofcial) was elected president. Iliescu was reelected in 1992, and this organization, later renamed the Party of
Social Democracy of Romania, formed a government with the support of extreme nationalist parties. The administration pursued a
course of extreme gradualism, and its commitment to both reform
and democracy was repeatedly questioned by Western governments.
Moreover, the party was implicated in numerous corruption scandals. In the 1996 elections, the former communists were defeated by
the center-right Democratic Convention of Romania which had
campaigned on a rapid-reform and anti-corruption manifesto, and
the reformist Emil Constantinescu was elected president. The new
government (itself a coalition of three parties) committed itself to
rapid reform (particularly privatization) and ``macro-economic
stabilization''. Hence, Romania's transition period to date falls into
two clear stages: the rst was dominated by the former ruling elite
and characterized by dilatory reform; the second is led by a government determined to make a break with the former regime, and
with a commitment to rapid reform.

Table 1. International Arrivals (in Millions)a


Country
Bulgaria
Hungary
Romania
Yugoslavia
a

Source: Hall (1991c).

1975

1980

1985

1988

4.0
5.0
3.2
5.8

5.5
9.4
6.7
6.4

7.3
9.7
4.8
8.4

8.3
10.6
5.5
9.0

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LIGHT AND DUMBRA

903

Trends in International Tourism. On assuming power the National


Salvation Front rapidly revoked laws from the Communist era, with
immediate consequences for tourism. For example, the Securitate
was abolished on January 1, 1990, and surveillance of foreigners
ceased, along with the harassment of tourists arriving at borders.
The law forbidding Romanians to accommodate foreigners in their
homes was similarly abolished (Turnock 1991). Foreign arrivals for
the period 198597 are presented in Figure 1. In the year following
the ``revolution'' arrivals increased signicantly (by 1.6 million). Not
all of them were tourists: many were journalists, charity workers,
the residents of neighboring states who traveled to Romania for the
purposes of petty trading, or returning expatriate Romanians.
However, there was undoubtedly an increase in genuine tourists,
some part of a trend known as ``dark tourism'' (Foley and Lennon
1996). The violent Romanian ``revolution'', which was reported
widely throughout the world, generated immense curiosity and
many people visited Bucharest to see the sites of Ceaus escu's overthrow. Other Westerners took the opportunity to visit Romania
once the climate of repression was removed and the country was
nominally ``free'' (Murphy 1993). Since 1990, however, trends in
foreign tourist arrivals have been more erratic. Overall, the number
has increased by only 6% between 1989 and 1997 (and the total
number in 1997 were the lowest for any year of the post-communist
period).
Simple gures of tourist arrivals can, however, be misleadingindeed Hall (1991c) has emphasized the problems in interpreting

Figure 1. Visitor Arrivals in Romania, 198097. Source: Comisia Nat ionala


(1995, 1997a, 1998)
Pentru Statistica

904

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

data for CEE tourism. Figure 2 presents data, which have been
available since 1990, for arrivals differentiated by purpose of visit.
Those for the purpose of leisure, holidays, and tourism comprise
only around half of all arrivals, and absolute numbers have fallen
since 1990. Around one-third come to Romania only for the purpose
of transit to another country, much of which resulted from the international embargo imposed on neighboring Serbia/former
Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. This left Romania as the only
overland route between south east Europe (Greece, Turkey, and
Bulgaria) and Western Europe. The remaining arrivals are business
travelers, staff accompanying airplanes/ships, and localized border
trafc.
In addition, the origin of foreign tourists to Romania has changed
signicantly in the post-communist period (Light and Andone
1996). During the state socialist era tourists from the countries of
the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (the Soviet Union and
its Eastern European allies) accounted for up to 95% of all arrivals
(Hall 1991b). The Black Sea littoral had particular attraction for
citizens of Poland and Czechoslovakia (Turnock 1991), and in 1989
Poles accounted for 18.8% and Czechoslovaks 9.8% of foreign visitors to Romania (ICTVM 1995). Since 1989 these markets have collapsed: many of the citizens of the former ``Eastern Bloc'' countries
are now choosing to visit Western Europe. Between 1989 and 1997

Figure 2. Foreign Arrivals by Purpose of Visit, 199097. Source: Comisia


Pentru Statistica
(1996, 1997b, Data Supplied by Ministry of
Nat ionala
Tourism)

VEANU
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905

Polish tourists to Romania declined by 88% (Poles accounted for


just 2.2% of arrivals in 1997), and Czech/Slovak arrivals decreased
by 63% (Comisia Nat ionala pentru Statistica 1998; ICTVM 1995).
While Romania's main tourism market has declined rapidly no
replacement has yet emerged. The country has experienced a large
increase in visitors from neighboring countries. Those from
Hungary, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, and
Yugoslavia accounted for 63% of arrivals in 1997, and explain the
pentru Statistica
high proportion (75%) by road (Comisia Nat ionala
1997b, 1998). However, many of these are for the purposes of
business, petty trading, or visiting friends and relatives. The economic impact of these visitors is limited since they make little use of
designated commercial accommodation. Conversely, Romania has
had limited success at attracting tourists from the European Union
and America who accounted for only 16% of arrivals in 1997
(Comisia Nat ionala pentru Statistica 1998).
The evidence for arrivals indicates unequivocally that tourism in
post-communist Romania is in a state of stagnation and decline. A
similar situation is apparent in neighboring Bulgaria where arrivals
were virtually unchanged over the period 198995 (Bachvarov 1997;
Harrison 1993). The situation in Romania can be placed in context
by comparison with the other former CEE communist states. In the
more prosperous states of Central Europe, the liberation from communist hegemony has dramatically rejuvenated international tourism, and these countries have been particularly successful at
attracting large numbers of tourists. For example, between 1989
and 1992 arrivals in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland increased
by +35%, +182%, and +461%, respectively (Hall 1995a; Johnson
1995). Clear spatial inequalities are emerging in tourism development in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe: the more
afuent central European countries have experienced rapid growth,
while the poorer countries of south east Europe are experiencing
stagnation and decline (Hall 1992a, 1993a). With the exception of
Yugoslavia (where the industry collapsed during the conict in
Bosnia Hercegovina) and Albania (where tourism development was
always at a low level), Romania is still last among the Central and
Eastern European countries in terms of attracting foreign tourists,
a situation which is little changed from the communist period.
Clearly the argument that the collapse of totalitarian communism
inevitably produces a surge in tourism demand is unsustainable, as
the experience of both Romania (along with Bulgaria and many of
the former Soviet Republics) demonstrates. Instead, other explanations must be sought for tourism trends in post-communist
Romania.
To some extent the under-performance of tourism in post-communist Romania may result from the country's geographical location. Those countries in the region which have experienced the
biggest increases in arrivalsthe Czech Republic, Hungary, and
Polandall border ``Western'' European countries (particularly
Germany and Austria). The easy accessibility of these former com-

906

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

munist countries by car from Germany (and conversely the relative


difculty of access of Romania and Bulgaria) may account for the
differential tourism development in this case. Equally, the recent
accessibility of Western Europe for Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles
has caused them to desert traditional destinations in Eastern
Europe for new ones in the West. In terms of tourism development,
those countries which bordered the ``iron curtain'' have beneted
most from the collapse of communism. However, proximity to
Western Europe need not be essential for tourism development as
the experience of Greece and Turkey shows.
Instead, the fundamental problem in post-communist Romania is
the country's image among potential tourists, particularly in
Western Europe. By the late 80s, Romania was regarded as an isolated, repressive and under-developed country with poor quality
tourism services. In many ways, events since 1989 have done little
to dispel this image. In the early post-communist period, Romania's
humanitarian problems came to light and were extensively publicized in Western Europe. As such, the country rapidly became
synonymous with orphans and poverty. Moreover, Popescu (1993)
argues that the fall of communism was followed by a hiatus period
characterized by political, economic, and social instability, which
further damaged Romania's image abroad, and had a powerful
repulsion effect on potential tourists (Hall 1994). For example, civil
unrest in Bucharest in 1990 resulted in widespread violence, and six
deaths, while similar disturbances the following year caused the collapse of the government: both events were widely reported in
Western Europe. Similarly, conict between Romanians and
Hungarians in Transylvania, the country's mixed human rights
record, and the rise of extreme nationalism caused suspicion among
Western governments about its direction (Gallagher 1994).
Reported attacks (attributed to gypsies) on Western tourists travel-

Figure 3. Romanians Staying in Tourist Accommodation, 198597. Source:


Pentru Statistica
(1995, 1997a, 1998)
Comisia Nat ionala

VEANU
LIGHT AND DUMBRA

907

ing on trains, and of well-organized street crime directed at them in


cities also contributed to the negative image of Romania as a destination. Furthermore, the dominance of former communists in the
government created suspicion that little had changed since the fall
of Ceaus escu. Cumulatively, these events have been a major deterrent to tourism, particularly when such problems were not so apparent in other former communist countries (for example, Hungary,
Czechoslovakia and Poland). Romania's image abroad improved
rapidly following the 1996 elections (Gallagher 1998), but frequent
disputes between the members of the government coalition in 1998
have blunted the pace of reform, and mean that Romania is still
characterized by political and economic uncertainty.
Trends in Domestic Tourism. Mirroring international trends, domestic tourism in Romania has experienced a signicant decline.
Figure 3 presents the numbers of Romanians staying in hotel accommodation between 1985 and 1997. During the later years of the
communist regime, when Romanians had few opportunities to travel
abroad, domestic tourism boomed and the accommodation sector
was extensively used. Since 1989 demand for accommodation has
slumped by 58%, a situation which is apparent elsewhere in Central
z 1995). The decline was particularly
and Eastern Europe (Bala
rapid in the early years of the transition period. Although demand
stabilized slightly in 1995, it continued to decline in the following
years.
Many factors have contributed to the decline of domestic tourism
in post-communist Romania. First, the various processes of economic restructuring at the start of the transition period could hardly
have been less conducive to this domestic demand. Economic
reforms in the early 90s resulted in severe economic decline and
recession (Smith 1994). Successive rounds of price liberalization in
1990, 1991, and 1993 caused the prices of many basic commodities
to rise by up to 300%, and by 1993 ination had reached 296%.
Moreover, income tax was introduced, along with value-added tax
(at a rate of 18%). At the same time wages failed to keep pace with
ination, so that by 1993 real wage levels had fallen by 45%.
Moreover, unemployment reached 14.5% in 1995 (Turnock 1997).
Purchasing power was considerably depressed at a time of falling
living standards, so that most Romanians were simply unable to
afford a holiday. The introduction of more sweeping economic
reforms (including further price liberalization) by the government
elected in 1996, along with rising ination and unemployment has
further depressed domestic demand in recent years.
Second, as prices are liberalized, hotels have to increase their tariffs and charge market rates. In addition, the pricing system of dual
tariffs which operated under communismwhereby foreigners
would pay up to four times the amount paid by Romanianswas
revoked in 1997. Although the government's intention was that
prices would move downwards to the lower rate (Wingrove 1997),
the opposite is more likely as hotels seek to maximize income. The

908

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

effect is again to depress further domestic demand. Prices in


Romanian hotels have risen to such an extent that an inclusive holiday in Greece (costing $124) is more affordable for Romanians than
one at the Black Sea (costing $140 excluding meals) (Ion-Tudor
1997a; Wingrove 1997). Third, state-sponsored social tourism, which
Cooper et al (1995) estimate accounted for 30% of the domestic
market, has declined abruptly since 1989. Romania's post-communist governments have been unable to provide the necessary nancial support for this activity. Those Romanians formerly dependent
upon subsidized trips to spa resorts now have few opportunities to
take a holiday.
Fourth, Romanians' increased opportunities for foreign destinations have signicantly reduced domestic tourism demand.
During the 80s most Romanians were denied passports and consequently they had few opportunities to go abroad. Since 1989, on the
occasions when they are able to afford a holiday, many Romanians
are choosing to visit other countries to which they were long denied
access. Hence, between 1989 and 1997 departures abroad of
Romanian citizens increased by 595%, from 898,000 to 6,243,147
pentru Statistica 1995, 1998). Most of these
(Comisia Nat ionala
trips are to neighboring countries (especially Hungary), and few
Romanians can afford to visit Western Europe. However, not all
departures are for the purposes of holidays, and many go to contiguous countries for the purposes of petty trading (particularly with
Yugoslavia during the period of the UN embargo).
The restructuring of agriculture has also contributed indirectly to
the decline of domestic tourism. Most agricultural land was collectivized during the early communist period. A land reform law of early
Table 2. Accommodation Units and Capacity in Romania
Accommodation
Type

Number
of Accommodation Units
1989 1997

Hotels
828 935
and Motels
Tourist Chalets
229 174
Campsites
219
86
Tourist
1,525 1,275
Villas and Bungalows
Pensions
160
Farms (agroturism)
159
Other
689 260
Total
3,490 3,049

Accommodation
Capacity
(bedspaces)

%
1989
change 198997

1997

%
change 198997

+11%

168,895 169,479

+0.3%

24%
61%
16%

12,325 7,805
47,212a 26,760
49,009 28,965

37%
43%
41%

62%
13%

1899
783
141,503 52,252
418,944 287,943

34%
31%

a
pentru Statistica (1996,
Including houselet units. Source: Comisia Nat ionala
1998).

VEANU
LIGHT AND DUMBRA

909

1991 returned between 0.5 and 10 ha of land to its former owners


or their families, and many Romanians have subsequently returned
to agriculture in order to weather the economic hardships of the
early transition period. Others have practiced part-time or ``weekend'' agriculture to supplement their declining regular incomes
(Stan 1995). In these circumstances, time which might have previously been spent on a holiday is used instead tending and harvesting agricultural land.
Trends in Accommodation Provision. In the same way that the
demand for tourism in Romania has experienced stagnation and
decline, the provision of accommodation has experienced similar
problems. As Table 2 shows, the number fell by 13% and capacity
fell by 31% in 1989 and 1997. The decline is most severe for those
accommodation types catering primarily for domestic tourism (particularly chalets, campsites, and villas). Hotels and motels (the type
most frequently used by foreign visitors) have experienced a modest
growth, although the number of bedspaces available to tourists has
barely increased since 1989. In addition new forms of accommodation (pensions and places within farms) have emerged, aimed primarily at independent travelers.
A number of other developments in post-communist Romania
have also contributed to the decline of tourism accommodation
(ICTVM 1995). First, the decline in domestic tourism demand has
had obvious implications for the accommodation sector. In some
areas, particularly those removed from the main tourism circuits,
up to 95% of demand is from the domestic market. With the slump
in this demand many units have had little option but to close.
Second, around 5% of all tourism assets have been requisitioned by
the army, various state organizations, and government ministries.
Some of these are now used as state ``protocol'' accommodation
(Ministerul Turismului 1998). Third, under legislation of 1991 to
de-nationalize land and property, some accommodation (particularly
villas in spas and mountain resorts) has been reclaimed by its former owners, and is no longer available to tourists. Fourth, some
tourist facilities, particularly in Bucharest, have been sold for their
real estate value and converted into ofces (Richardson and Burford
1995). Fifth, some rooms in Bucharest and the Black Sea coast have
been removed from tourism circulation while refurbishment and
upgrading are taking place. Sixth, many of the Communist Party
hotels have been appropriated by Romania's post-communist political parties. Finally, other accommodation has closed (or is being
``mothballed'' pending privatization) due to being in a condition
that is unt or unsafe for tourist use.
Much of Romania's accommodation is currently in a poor condition, the legacy of a general lack of investment in infrastructure
during the last decade of communism. Many units (particularly
hotels) are over 20 years old and are in urgent need of modernization and upgrading. For example, Poiana Bras ov, Romania's premier ski resort, is reported to require $40 million worth of

910

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

investment (Ion-Tudor 1997b, 1997c). Moreover, as Table 3 indicates, the majority of Romania's accommodation is at the lower end
of the market (64% of all accommodation and 79% of hotels are
classed as one or two stars) and is intended to cater more for the
less-demanding domestic market. Standards, facilities, and service
in many hotels fall below the expectations of Western tourists, so
that many Western European tour operators have withdrawn from
Romania, and charter ights to the Black Sea have virtually ceased
(New Markets Monthly 1996). The outcome of these trends is that
hotel occupancy rates have steadily fallen, from 73.0% in 1989 to
pentru Statistica 1997a, 1998),
41.2% in 1997 (Comisia Nat ionala
while the ``tourism season'' at Black Sea resorts is now just two
months in length (Dimofte 1997).
The prospects for much of Romania's accommodation sector
appear bleak. In a context of rising prices, and falling international
and domestic demand, many hotels have had little choice but to
raise prices, in order to maintain cash ows and cover operating
costs (Dimofte 1997). For example, in 1998, hotel prices on the
Black Sea coast were expected to be 35% higher than in 1997
(Marchidanu and Rabbitte 1998). Those hotels formerly dependent
on the domestic market, and those located by central planners in
areas where there is little tourism demand are particularly badly
hit. Many hotels are unable to generate surpluses for investment
and refurbishment, so that low standards will persist and demand is
unlikely to recover. Moreover, the extent of investment required in
many hotels is so great so as to be of marginal viability. An economic analysis by Cooper et al (1995) of Romanian spa resorts indicated that investment could not be recovered within an acceptable
time period. In these circumstances further decline and closure of
hotel accommodation is inevitable.
Table 3. Tourist Accommodation in Romania by Category of Comfort in
1997a
Category

5 Stars
4 Stars
3 Stars
2 Stars
1 Star
Unclassied
N=
a

Total Tourism
Accommodation

Hotels

No. of Units

No. of Places

No. of Units

No. of Places

< 1%
3%
9%
28%
36%
23%
3,049

< 1%
2%
7%
37%
29%
25%
287,943

0%
2%
10%
46%
33%
8%
817

0%
2%
11%
56%
27%
4%
163,357

Source: Comisia Nat ionala pentru Statistica (1998).

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Tourism Reform in Post-Communist Romania


Tourism has clearly been affected (mostly adversely) by broader
processes of political and economic change in post-communist
Romania. However, the tourist industry is itself undergoing restructuring to enable it to function effectively in a market economy.
Three key themes are examined here: privatization of hotel accommodation, regulation and enforcement of standards, and education
and training of tourism personnel.
Privatization. One of the central processes of the transition to a
market economy is the transfer of economic enterprises from state
to private ownership; a process which underpins many other processes of transition. Within the industry, the privatization of hotels
is considered essential for the relaunch of tourism in the country
(Richardson and Burford 1995). Earlier, post-communist Romania
embarked on a seemingly ambitious program of privatization (BenNer and Montias 1994; Lindsay 1992; Stan 1995, 1997; Turnock
1997). A 1990 law established the National Agency for Privatization
and converted some 6,300 state-owned enterprises into autonomous
joint-stock companies or societat i comerciale (commercial companies)
owned fully by the state. Those commercial companies operating in
strategic areas of the economy (such as transport and energy) were
to remain in state ownership, while the remaining 3,304 companies
were to be privatized. A second law of 1991 established the State
Ownership Fund, and ve Private Ownership Funds which assumed
control of 70% and 30% respectively of the total state capital (and
subsequently each individual commercial company). The 30% share
of state capital held by the Private Ownership Funds was to be distributed free of charge to the adult Romanian population. This took
the form of ownership certicates (issued in 1992), and coupons
(issued in 1995) which could be freely exchanged for up to 30% of
shares in any commercial company. The 70% of shares in each commercial company owned by the State Ownership Fund were to be
sold to individuals or rms (either Romanian or foreign) who
offered an acceptable price for them. The 30:70 ratio of state capital
to be given away and to be sold was later changed to a 60:40 ratio.
Although supercially straightforward, Romanian privatization
proved to be an erratic, complicated, and slow process, which was
frequently frustrated by corruption. Hence, by 1995 only around
1,000 state-owned companies had been privatized (Enea 1997). The
majority of the transfer activity up to 1996 affected small and medium sized commercial companies, while large-scale enterprises
remained in state ownership, prompting frequent questions about
the government's commitment to reform. The administration
elected in late 1996 has made rapid privatization a priority, and has
attempted to privatize (or liquidate) the large, loss-making stateowned enterprises. However, it has frequently failed to achieve its
privatization targets. Tourism was one of the rst economic activities to be affected by privatization. In an attempt to gain experience

912

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

of the process, and to generate support and understanding of it, the


National Agency for Privatization undertook a pilot project of a limited number of economically viable small and medium sized companies (Ben-Ner and Montias 1994). Three of the 22 companies
privatized this way were directly concerned with tourism: the
National Tourist Ofce; the youth tourism organization; and
Litoral, a coastal tourism organization (Lindsay 1992).
Subsequently, other parts of the industry have been subject to privatization. As part of the 1990 legislation, individual hotels, or
groups of hotels within a resort, were converted into societat i comerciale prior to privatization. A strategy was prepared in 1993, and
the then Minister of Tourism suggested that privatization could be
completed by early 1996 (Matei 1994). However, these targets were
not met (Table 4). By 1997 only 22% of all accommodation (and
15% of hotels) was in fully private ownership. The reformist government elected in 1996 attempted to accelerate the privatization of
the accommodation sector but this was only partially successful. For
example, the State Ownership Fund succeeded in privatizing only
111 of a planned 272 accommodation units in 1997 (Romanian
Business Journal 1998), and by early 1998 only 15% of hotels at the
Black Sea had been privatized (Marchidanu and Rabbitte 1998).
Much of the early privatization of hotels has been through the
complete, or partial, management and employee buy-out method,
the preferred approach for privatization as a whole up to 1995
(Enea 1997). This method works in several ways. The most common
procedure is for managers and employees to subscribe their ownership certicates or coupons for shares in the commercial company
in which they work. Alternatively, or additionally, employees can
pay the State Ownership Fund the value of the building, in installments, over a negotiated time period. The buy-out plan has the advantage of creating immediate core investors, with potentially a
strong interest in the business and its future (Ben-Ner and Montias
1994; Stan 1997). However, this buy-out method also has its problems (Dimofte 1997; Turnock 1997). Employee-owners may be primarily concerned with protecting jobs and wages (and the method
Table 4. Ownership of Tourist Accommodation in 1997
Type
Public
Mixed
Privatea
Co-operative
Community
N=
a

All accommodation

Hotels

64%
4%
22%
7%
4%
3049

70%
5%
15%
7%
4%
817

Note that these gures do not differentiate between the very small number of
privately built hotels, and those former state-owned hotels which have been privatized. Source: Comisia Nat ionala pentru Statistica (1998).

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can be somewhat halfhearted, being regarded by employees as the


only way to safeguard their jobs). Privatization through the subscription of couponswhich accounted for almost all of the privatization of tourism-related commercial companies up to 1997
(Birtalan 1997)fails to inject actual capital into a business, so
that employee-owners continue to lack resources to make necessary
investments. Employee-owners may also lack marketing expertise
and contacts. Overall, the buyout privatization method of accommodation units has made little contribution to an improvement in standards and facilities. Hence, the government elected in 1996 has
largely abandoned this method, preferring to privatize hotels by
auction and negotiation with potential buyers (Enea 1997).
In addition to the buy-out method Romania has also adopted a
system of ``semi'' privatization of state-owned enterprises known as
Locat ie de Gestiune. This process involves leasing hotels and restaurants to managers and employees who lack the capital to purchase
them outright, on the condition that the leaseholders undertake
investments and improvements of the property. At the end of the
leasing period the employees have the option to purchase the building (although they were not compelled to do so). A total of 1,308
such contracts had been negotiated by the end of 1992 (Ministerul
Turismului 1998). Although intended as an alternative means of
transferring hotels into private ownership, the system is widely
recognized as unsuccessful (and may even have frustrated the privatization process). Indeed, one Romanian publication has described
leasing as ``an entirely useless initiative'' (Ion-Tudor 1997d). The
confusion surrounding the process has resulted, in some cases, in a
hotel and its associated restaurant being leased to different companies (Burns 1995). The recurrent problem of lack of capital and
expertise has meant that many leaseholders have been unable
to make necessary investments. Other leaseholders have declined
to make investments in the pursuit of short-term prots.
Consequently, by 1994, 153 leasing contracts had been canceled due
to the failure of the leaseholder to observe the provisions of the
lease, and 248 leaseholders gave up the contract through being
unable to meet payments (Dumitrescu 1994).
Privatization within the tourism sector has been frustrated by corruption and the inuence of the nomenklatura (former communist
elite), many of whom were active in the government between 1990
and 1996. Through inuence and contacts within the State Owned
Fund, members of the nomenklatura have been able to distort the privatization process, by securing for themselves the most attractive
assets at well below their market value. For example, good quality
hotels in popular destinations have been acquired at less than the
price of a one-room at (Dimofte 1997). Such owners are concerned
more with immediate prots than longer-term investments.
Nomenklatura privatization can also create a situation whereby all
the hotels in a resort are owned by the same company, thus replacing a state monopoly with a private one.

914

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

Privatization of the accommodation sector through direct investment (particularly by foreign companies) has been very limited. In
1998 there were only 47 joint-ventures between Romanian and
foreign companies (Ministerul Turismului 1998). Foreign investors
have shown most interest in some of the larger and more prestigious hotels, in the major resorts and cities. Almost all the hotels in
nescu 1994). For
Bucharest have attracted foreign investors (Iorda
example, the Athenee Palace in Bucharest was bought and restored
by the Hilton chain at a cost of $21 million (Richardson and
Burford 1995). However, foreign investment in hotels has been
oriented at the lucrative business sector, rather than the holiday
market (Flint 1993). Those decaying hotels at the lower end of the
market, or those removed from main tourism circuits have little
attraction to foreign investors. Some Western hotel groups have
also built new hotels, instead of investing in existing structures,
such as the Sotel in Bucharest, part of the French Accor chain.
Direct investment in this sector by Romanian companies has also
been very limited, although there are isolated instances of successful companies purchasing protable hotels as business assets. For
example ANA electronics of Bucharest has purchased a luxury hotel
in Bucharest and several hotels in Poiana Bras ov, and has invested
in their refurbishment and upgrading.
Regulating Standards of Tourist Accommodation. During the communist era there was little concern for monitoring or regulating the
quality of the accommodation sector. Since the state owned all of it,
there was no need to regulate or implement standards in its own
properties. Although hotels were graded as deluxe, rst class, and
second class (Richardson and Burford 1995), there was little
attempt to dene minimum standards or requirements. In the postcommunist period, issues of the ``quality'' of hotels and services
have been identied as one of the major deterrents to foreign tourists, particularly from Western Europe. The transition to decentralized, and ultimately private, ownership and management
necessitates some monitoring and regulation by the state to ensure
that acceptable standards are being offered, and that further deterioration does not occur.
The absence of adequate legislation dating from the communist
period to ensure and enforce quality within the industry meant that
new and purpose-designed legislation was needed. However, faced
with more pressing issues of economic reform, tourism legislation
was a low priority. Draft legislation was passed in 1992 to establish
a legal framework to ensure appropriate standards, although it was
na de Turism 1994;
not implemented until 1995 (Revista Roma
Monitorul Ocial 1998). This legislation required businesses operating within tourism to be licensed by the Ministry of Tourism for
quality and safety in accordance with domestic and international
standards. Hotel managers were similarly required to hold a license
certifying their competence. Failure to provide appropriate services

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(or operating without a license) would leave the operators liable to


nes, and the possible cancellation of their license.
The process of inspecting and accrediting accommodation began
in summer 1993, and 946 licenses and 1,025 certicates had been
awarded by early 1995 (Matei 1995). Later in 1995, a government
ordinance introduced a revised ve-star system for classication.
This specied in detail the basic requirements for all accommodation, the minimum standards required for a hotel to be awarded
a particular grade, and specied limits on this prices which could be
charged by hotels of a particular grade. Properties were also
required to display their star rating on the outside of the building
(Monitorul Ocial 1998). The reformist government elected in late
1996 introduced a further law which established an Ofce for
Licensing and Control in Tourism as an autonomous unit within the
Ministry of Tourism and introduced further minimum accommodation standards, including a minimum temperature of 188C in winter, and appropriate re safety (Mazuru 1997a). The government
also announced that accommodation classications were to be
renewed every three years by the Ofce for Licensing and Control
in Tourism, and the names of those units whose classication had
been suspended or withdrawn would be published (Mazuru 1997b).
Although intended to bring about improvements in the quality
and management of the accommodation sector, attempts at regulation and licensing have only been partially successful. Since, by
summer 1998, the issuing of licenses had not been completed, unlicensed or inadequate quality accommodation was still legally operating. The licensing of managers/owners has proved easy to sidestep, and has failed in some cases to eliminate inadequate owners.
The establishment of minimum standards does not necessarily guarantee improvements since, in some cases, managers may undertake
only the minimum improvements necessary to obtain a license.
Moreover, standards are only effective if they are enforced. For
instance, in the summer of 1997 only 120 of the 1,000 economic operators at the coastal resort of Mamaia held a license (Ion-Tudor
1997e). Further, even if regulation and licensing contribute to the
improvement of hotels, they make little contribution to the
improvement of the surrounding environment (beaches, pavements
and so on).
Training and Education. In a centrally-planned economy workers
had little incentive for hard work, since payment by the state was
unrelated to the quantity or quality of their work. The failure of
communist systems to bring about economic prosperity, coupled
with the irrationality of some central planning decisions and an
obstructive bureaucracy created frustration and low motivation, so
that the effect of communist systems in Central and Eastern
Europe (and their most enduring legacy) was a depreciation in the
value of work (Jung 1995). In communist Romania, particularly
during the austerity of the 80s, Romanians took little interest in
their work, since hard work produced little material benet and for

916

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

many people their priorities were obtaining sufcient food. This


approach was summarized by the maxim ``the state pretends to pay
us, so we pretend to work'' (Hall 1995b) Inevitably such deeply
embedded attitudes were also found in the tourism industry. Staff
in hotels and restaurants took little interest in the welfare of their
guests, since their payment was unrelated to the quality of service
they provided. The concept of ``service delivery'', and a concern for
the satisfaction of consumers was not recognized in Romania
(Burns 1995). Moreover, Western tourists were regarded more as
objects of suspicion than guests whose welfare was important. While
Romanians were used to poor service and tolerated it, their
Western counterparts found standards of service below their expectations, leading to disenchantment among Western tour operators
(Turnock 1991).
Consequently, if post-communist Romania is to succeed in rejuvenating its tourism industry, a radical change in service delivery
particularly customer contact and management skillsis necessary.
Many personnel and managers have limited experience or understanding of a market economy and have little awareness of the expectations of Western tourists (even in private sector businesses
standards of service can be poor), so that improved education and
training opportunities are essential (Witt 1994). Burns (1995)
argues that this task is so great that it can only be successful if conducted as a national awareness campaign. The legacy of the management culture of the command economywhich emphasized the
maintenance of the status quo rather than the achievement of
resultsis managers who are reluctant to be creative and innovative. Hence, the training of managers to operate successfully within
a market environment is a priority. Such managers then play an important role in training the remainder of the workforce (Burns
1995).
The Romanian Ministry of Tourism regards the improvement of
staff trainingof both existing and new staffas a major objective
of the development strategy (Matei 1994). This process has been
assisted by the European Community/Union. In January 1993
Romania received ECU4.5 million from the PHARE fund (for assistance and economic reconstruction in Central and Eastern Europe)
for restructuring and modernization in its tourism industry. One
part of this project was concerned with identifying the training
needs of tourism workers, and basic professional training for hotel
and restaurant employees was provided (by Romanian and foreign
specialists) at seven locations in Romania (Florian 1994).
Subsequently, increasing numbers of public and private sector organizations have become involved in tourism training. In 1997 the
National Institute for Tourism Training and Management (originally established in 1968) was relaunched as an autonomous unit
within the Ministry of Tourism. In collaboration with the Ministry
of Education, tourism training was introduced into schools, with
three high schools (teaching pupils aged 1418) being dedicated
entirely to training people to work in the industry. Higher education

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917

institutions are increasingly offering courses on tourism which


recruit large numbers of students (for example in 1997 the
University of Bucharest introduced a combined degree in tourism
with English/ French). However, there is a lack of expertise in marketing and management within Higher Education institutions so
that the new courses tend to emphasize a long-standing concern
with identifying tourism potential. Training in foreign language
skills is also in demand, with English being the most popular second
language among young Romanians.
Future Prospects
Tourism trends in Central and Eastern Europe are likely to
remain volatile for some considerable time (Hall 1995a) and future
development paths in Romania is difcult to predict. Nevertheless,
prospects resulting both from the overall progress of political and
economic transition, and from the specic restructuring of the tourism industry can be identied. First, the 1996 election of a centerright government marked a decisive break with Romania's communist past. The current administration enjoys the support of Western
governments, and has brought about a signicant change in the
nature and pace of reform in Romania (Gallagher 1998). There is
increasing interest in Romania among foreign investors and, in
order to attract such investors the new government overturned a
law from the previous administration banning these companies
from owning land in Romania. There is thus potential for more
direct foreign investment in the hotel sector. Improvements in
transport infrastructure which are being facilitated by loans from
the International Monetary Fund will also indirectly benet tourism. Overall such developments can only be benecial for its image
abroad and, now that the over-publicized ``orphan problem'' has
receded, the country is likely to gradually emerge as a more attractive destination in future years. Although Romania is a ``poor''
nation, such countries are not inherently unattractive to Western
tourists if the country is perceived as stable, and if tourism services
meet expectations.
The current government has also shown more interest in reforming tourism than the previous administrations. The rapid privatization of hotels is regarded as a priority with nancial incentives to
accelerate the process. The government has demonstrated that it is
prepared to liquidate unprotable state-owned enterprises, so that
those for which no buyer can be found are likely to be closed and
put to an alternative use. Financial incentives to stimulate the
industry have also been introduced. In August 1997 the government
installed exemption from Value Added Tax for economic agents
working in international tourism, while rural pensions with a capacity of up to 10 rooms are exempted from taxation for 10 years
(Mazuru 1997b). Although these are encouraging developments,
tourism remains under-funded. In 1997 the Ministry of Tourism
had a budget of $1.2 million, representing 0.03% of the national

918

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

budget (Ion-Tudor 1997f). In order to generate more revenue for


tourism promotion, a government ordinance in early 1998 established a ``Special Fund for the Promotion and Development of
Tourism'', to which tourism-related businesses were expected to
contribute 3% of revenue (Ion-Tudor 1998).
Despite these initiatives the future of the Black Sea coastal
resorts (traditionally the mainstay of Romanian tourism) remains
uncertain. But Hall (1995a) has predicted an increased demand
among Central Europeans for low-cost seaside holidays, which could
benet Romania. Consequently, Romaniaalong with other
countries of southeast Europe (Hall 1998)is attempting to diversify and reposition its tourism product, and is increasingly promoting new forms, particularly rural and heritage types. Romania has a
vibrant rural culture and tradition unique in Europe, so that the
country has much to offer for the development of this tourism form
(Mitrache, Manole, Stijan, Bran and Istrate 1996). In the early postcommunist period rural tourism was actively promoted by the government which introduced various initiatives (often with European
Union assistance) designed to encourage the activity. These
included the establishment of a Commission for Mountainous Zones
in 1990 and a law of 1994 to establish a legal framework for the
development of rural tourism (Roberts 1996). Particular emphasis
has been placed on the provision of agrotourism or rural accommodation which allows tourists to stay with a Romanian family in a village and experience rural life at rst-hand. It is an experience
which is particularly well suited for those tourists seeking contact
with authentic rural life and an escape from traditional options.
Agroturism has been most strongly promoted in particular regions of
the country, especially the Prahova valley (a mountainous corridor
which links Bucharest with Transylvania), in Transylvania itself
(particularly around Bras ov and Sibiu), and in the remote northwestern region of Maramures . Rural tourism is currently small in scale.
According to government statistics 6,519 Romanians and 7,099
foreigners were recorded as staying in agroturism units in 1997
pentru Statistica 1998). However, the activity
(Comisia Nat ionala
has proved to have a broad appeal, particularly among urban based
Romanians, but also with foreign workers resident in Romania, and
with independent foreign tourists.
Rural tourism in Romania is largely a private sector development
(New Markets Monthly 1996). Although there are a number of
small, local organizations promoting rural tourism, the activity is
dominated by two (competing) organizations: a Romanian non-governmental organization called National Association for Rural,
Ecological and Cultural Tourism in Romania, founded in 1994, and
the Belgian-based Operation Villages Roumains, established in
1989. The former has the aim of promoting and facilitating rural
tourism in Romania and has 1,812 rooms. Through a national network of ofces it arranges accommodation for tourists (both foreign
and Romanian), provides training and guidance for hosts, and monitors standards within its network. In addition, through its afliation

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with European rural tourism networks it is able to promote rural


tourism in Romania more widely. In 1995 the users of its accommodation units spent an estimated $280,300 (Glavan 1995).
For post-communist Romania the development of rural tourism
has had many benets. First, it has been relatively unproblematic
and inexpensive to develop. Second, it has been a means of presenting a new image of Romania after the excesses of the Ceaus escu
era. Third, it offers additional accommodation units, particularly for
those who are unable to afford hotel prices (consequently rural tourism has become very popular with young Romanians). Fourth, rural
tourism offers considerable benets for rural areas, including additional sources of income and employment for the rural population
(at a time of rising prices) and the opportunity for farm diversication (Roberts 1996). The development of agroturism can also slow
rural depopulation, and potentially make an important contribution
to the revitalization of the countryside. Overall, as Roberts argues,
the development of rural tourism is a means of building on
Romania's strengths and uniqueness but without exposing, or placing excessive demands upon, the underlying weaknesses within its
tourism industry.
Romania is also promoting ecotourism in the Danube Delta, an
area of international importance for wildlife (Hall 1993b, 1993d).
The economic exploitation of the area which was promoted by
Ceaus escu was immediately halted by the post-communist government, and in 1990 the area was given international recognition as a
biosphere reserve. Subsequently, the Delta has been promoted for
various small-scale forms of tourism, including water sports and
bird watching (Glavan 1994). However, development in the area is
highly regulated and controlled, and large areas of the delta are inaccessible to tourists. Since green tourism and ecotourism are
among the fastest growing sectors within the contemporary industry
Romania has much to offer for the further development of this sector.
Romania also has much to offer for the development of heritage
tourism, a sector which is experiencing steady growth on a
European scale. Transylvania's rich multi-ethnic history has left a
ne legacy of historic towns, buildings and monuments (particularly
in the German towns of Bras ov, Sibiu and Sighis oara) which can
rival anywhere else in Central Europe. In particular, there is growing interest among German tourists in exploring the Saxon villages
and churches of southern Transylvania. There is also a well-established but expanding package-tour business centered on ``Dracula
tourism'' in Transylvania. The Ministry is also eager to promote
other regions for heritage tourism, particularly the northern regions
of Maramures (with its legacy of wooden churches and buildings)
and Bukovina (famous for its painted monasteries), and also the
northeastern region of Moldavia. There is also evidence that
Bucharest's legacy of communism and revolution is increasingly
being promoted (albeit by Western guidebooks) as ``heritage'' for
tourists to gaze upon (Light 1998).

920

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

Heritage tourism is another way for Romania to play to its


strengths. Tourists interested in this product are a relatively highspending group with few environmental impacts, and are thus
exactly the type which Romania needs to attract (Light and
Prentice 1994). Romania contains a considerable reserve of largely
undiscovered resources which currently experience low tourist numbers (although the German towns of Bras ov, Sibiu, and Sighis oara
are increasingly becoming part of the ``inter-rail'' circuit of young,
independent travelers). Therefore, it can target those tourists who
do not want to experience the large crowds of elsewhere in Central
Europe. At current levels of demand there are sufcient good-quality (and privatized) hotels in the main historic towns of
Transylvania to accommodate heritage tourists (although as numbers increase more accommodation will be necessary). Perhaps most
importantly, heritage tourism has the potential to fund conservation
activity. The care of historic buildings was long neglected during
the communist period, and indeed the Directorate for Historic
Monuments was abolished by Ceaus escu in 1975 (Gallagher and
Tucker 1996). In the post-communist period conservation activity is
similarly constrained by lack of funding, but heritage tourism can
generate much-needed revenue for the maintenance and restoration
of historic buildings.
There is, early evidence of a major re-positioning of Romania's
tourist product. The emphasis is increasingly on those forms which
have been termed ``post-Fordist'' (Sharpley 1994; Urry 1990, 1994).
Such alternatives represent a distinct rejection of mass tourism,
with an emphasis instead on small-scale and more sustainable
forms of experience, on segmentation and targeting of (potentially
high-spending) niche markets, and on independent tourists. Hence,
Romania is increasingly promoting non-mass experiencessuch as
rural and heritage typesin place of the mass tourism at the Black
Sea coastal resorts which were encouraged most strongly during the
communist period. This sectoral re-positioning also has a distinct
geographical dimension (Light and Andone 1996), which involves a
shift from the Black Sea coast (which is experiencing steady
decline) towards the center and north of the country (especially
Transylvania). To date, however, it appears that the redenition of
Romania's tourist product is more the result of largely uncoordinated private-sector initiatives, than of a formal policy of the
Ministry of Tourism designed to promote ``alternative'' forms of
tourism for high-spending niche markets.
CONCLUSION
Tourism in post-communist Romania is currently in a state of
uncertain transition. Although the country has an extraordinarily
rich and diverse tourism potential (which can rival anywhere else in
Europe), Romania is also a vivid illustration that the potential does
not equate with tourism demand. Indeed the phrase ``untapped potential'' is frequently used in discussions (for example, EIU 1993).

VEANU
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In terms of demand, international arrivals are stagnant, and domestic tourism has declined. In terms of supply, much hotel accommodation is deteriorating and in need of investment, while there is
also a shortage of expertise, training, and a general understanding
of the market economy among tourism workers.
To a large extent, the crisis now facing Romanian tourism is a
direct legacy of the later communist period. The combination of a
repressive regime and an inadequate tourism infrastructure (the
result of over a decade of neglect and under-investment) rendered
Romania an unattractive destination, and arrivals were already in
long-term decline at the time of the overthrow of Ceaus escu.
However, the processes of political and economic transition in the
post-communist period have not been propitious for tourism.
Political transition has been erratic as political instability and the
dominance of former communists in government until November
1996 has done further harm to Romania's image as a destination.
Economic reforms have resulted in rising prices and unemployment
(with detrimental effects on domestic tourism), but have yet to produce widespread prosperity so that Romania is saddled with the
image of a ``poor country''.
Restructuring of tourism is an integral part of the transition process in Central and Eastern Europe, although in Romania successive
post-communist governments, faced with the need for macro-economic reform, have placed tourism low on their list of priorities
(indeed the post of Minister of Tourism disappeared in a government reorganization in December 1998). Privatization within the
industry has proceeded slowly and has yet to bring about improvements in the standards of accommodation. Many hotels are not
attractive propositions to foreign investors, and those which are privatized by the management and employee buy-out plan lack capital
for signicant improvement. Regulation of the accommodation sector has been introduced but can only be effective if it is enforced.
Although tourism training opportunities are increasing, there is still
a need for greater knowhow and customer care skills among
workers.
In the short term the prospects for Romanian tourism do not
look promising. There is likely to be little signicant upgrading of
the hotel sector except in the largest cities, international demand is
unlikely to increase signicantly, and domestic demand will continue to fall. Until the government has implemented macro-economic reform, tourism will remain a low political priority. In the
medium to longer term, much will depend on the survival of the
current administration and its success in achieving the macro-economic restructuring which Western analysts consider essential if the
country is ever to achieve prosperity. Economic growth will revive
domestic tourism and will make available more capital for investment in accommodation; it will allow the further growth of a private
sector in tourism; and it should mean increased funding for the
Ministry of Tourism, allowing more advertising and promotion.
Moreover, an environment of political and economic stability plays

922

ROMANIAN TOURISM IN THE POST-COMMUNIST PERIOD

an important role in making the country more attractive for potential tourists. In the longer term Romania could enjoy the tourism
boom experienced in the former communist countries of Central
Europe. In particular, the country has the potential to relaunch
itself as a destination for ``alternative'' forms of tourism, and the
development of rural and heritage types in Transylvania could, if
successfully promoted, play a major role in contributing to local
economic growth. However, the process of transition in Romania is
still not complete, so that future tourism development in the
country will continue to be strongly dependent upon broader political and economic developments which are beyond its control.&
Acknowledgments The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of Ion Cotea of the
Traian Hotel, Drobeta Turnu Severin for his help in explaining the privatization
process in Romania; and to Tamara Simon and the late Ioan Istrate of the
Institute of Research for Tourism for permission to use unpublished data.

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