Romania equals product. Only after that, it can be called “brand”
The statement “Romania does not have a brand” is wrong. Romania has a brand, both in terms of tourism and as a country. A negative brand, a weak one. A brand that uses insufficient communication strategies and it is inconsistent, without attributes and positive values present in the minds of a large mass of citizens of the world. In some places and for a few people, Romania is viewed positively. What should it communicate and how? Basic questions, however, the “product” that we have to “sell” must be defined.
I think today Romania sells the wrong product which doesn’t bring much value, both financially and in terms of image. In my last article, I supported once again, the change of product strategy proposing for România to become a top-notch balneary resort in Europe. What is more, we could also promote the “authenticity” that is still preserved in certain areas (Transylvania and Bucovina) and the nature (still) untouched in the largest part of Transylvania and possibly the Danube Delta. From my point of view, the Black Sea coast does not exist because the summer season is too short, there are a lot of legislative problems related to hotels and the beaches are too confusing and we do not have anything to show and to use, like the other do – Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, to name just a few countries that are doing a great job in the field of coastal tourism. Therefore I stick to the strategic idea of the tourist product focused on spas. Another significant detail that contributes to this strategy is the mineral waters, an unprecedented resource in Europe in combination with spas, mountains, forest and the preserved authenticity of customs and places in rural areas.
Shortly, Romania has several uniqueness factors:
– Former spas, some famous, which can be rehabilitated;
– An abundance of mineral waters;
– Nature that is still unaltered and untouched by civilization;
– Rural areas and customs which are still preserved;
– Historical monuments that can be highlighted;
– Good geographical positioning so that it can attract tourists from both Western and Eastern Europe;
– Available European funds.
If we would take on this product strategy, then the next move would be to evaluate the potential on the map, choosing at least five large spas (and maybe a few smaller ones with a well-defined specificity) that are perfectly rehabilitated. Then we should start building and connecting the transport infrastructure (roads, airports, railways, buses). If it would be possible, these resorts and transport infrastructure could also be linked to certain areas where skiing can be practised, (forget about the Prahova Valley). However, there is still the Danube Delta that deserves a special strategy.
I emphasize that all these measures to stimulate the tourism business should be linked to a drastic environmental policy and legislation that preserves and enhances nature and historical and natural monuments. This environmental policy is absolutely necessary because one of our great strengths is the unaltered natural beauties that contribute to creating the specific Romanian environment for spas, and historical monuments that could bring a little salt and pepper to the tourists’ stay, something that could also represent an element of perceived national pride.
The next step is communication. There are not many spectacular things to do here other than to ensure a complete and accessible tourist information infrastructure, both online and offline. I believe that the big secret is to invite the first 10-20,000 tourists and make everything in your power so that they return satisfied with their countries. After this, they will start talking positively about their Romanian experience. We need a critical mass of “satisfied” customers that could become the first ambassadors of Romanian tourism. Of course, adventure tourism, as it is presented on the priority axis in the current strategy, must not be forgotten, but I see it as a by-product. I would add, forget about city breaks, they are good for Vienna and Budapest, not for Bucharest or Cluj.
Certainly, the product strategy imagined here has the nuances and details that need to be revealed and developed. What would be the immediate results of such a strategy? The first and biggest wave would be massive investments, private, state or PPP in both tourist facilities and infrastructure. The second would be the investments generated by small investors in accommodation facilities and other small and medium tourist facilities (pensions, hotels). European funds would have a word to say here, both for the first and the second wave of investments. It would create an avalanche effect of investments in tourism, generated by the courage instilled by the coherent and visible strategy of the state. First of all, we must keep in mind that the investments in tourism are amortized up to 20 years and therefore the courage of investors must be stimulated by providing them with certainties and real data.
At this moment, apart from graphic symbols and other “communications”, RRomania does not show to the local and foreign tourism investors any sign of coherence and real development strategy – and I refer here, strictly to the product strategy. It is natural that no one will try to make any serious investments as long as you rely on “adventure tourism” and other similar strategies. This type of tourism stimulates globetrotters and adventurers who need a tent and a beer, and maybe a room at a lodge in order to take a shower. Even if Prince Charles recently did PR for Romania and Transylvania, it is a punctual communication measure and that’s it. The brand story must be built over the product strategy.
The effects must be seen through several relatively simple indicators: volume of investments in tourism, the number of tourists per year, average tourist expenditure in Romania and in-depth studies of “consumer satisfaction”.
Article published on www.mad3.ro on 31.01.2012.