In terms of geographic features Romania is one of the richest countries in Europe
One third of the country’s territory is covered by mountains. Another third is covered by hills, and the rest is field area. These are all good reasons for experts to say that Romania’s tourist potential is huge.
For reasons concerning environmental protection, many places have been declared protected areas. The largest of them are the national parks and nature reserves. Currently, Romania has 13 national parks and 18 nature reserves, adding to the famous Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.
Many investors have been attracted to the beauty of these areas and their sustainable tourism development. Mircea Verghelet, the director of the Piatra Craiului National Park, highlighted the need for such investment in protected areas.
Mircea Verghelet: “If this is done properly and in keeping with the existing management plans and regulations concerning protected areas, ecological tourism is beneficial. This is an activity encouraged by those who are managers of such areas too, because it is a means of capitalizing on natural resources without harming the environment. Besides bringing protected areas in the focus of attention, eco-tourism attracts lots of tourists and this is extremely important to the communities around such natural parks, from an economic point of view. Those who want to open guesthouses next to such areas benefit from huge natural resources, where lots of activities can be carried out. Therefore, both the administration of the protected area and potential guesthouse owners are interested in promoting – besides accommodation and cuisine – many outdoor activities, such as hikes, bike trips, actually all sorts of things that people can do in nature, which do not entail too much investment. “
There are clear rules for each type of protected area when it comes to building and the development of new activities. Here is Mircea Verghelet again.
Mircea Verghelet: “There is a difference between national parks and nature reserves. Usually, national parks in Romania do not include built-up areas. They only contain natural areas, and then development is done mostly outside them, therefore in the villages around the park. In natural reserves, however, where the main goal is to preserve the landscapes, including traditional mountain villages, for instance, such developments can occur in the inside too. Generally speaking, both natural parks and nature reserves are trying to preserve traditional architecture. I can give you an example from the protected area that we manage, Piatra Craiului. There are two villages inside the park, and we have managed to develop, together with the Order of the Bucharest Architects a set of rules. It includes several chapters, establishing various things, starting with the minimum surface of land, the maximum height, construction materials, materials that can be used for coatings or roofs, etc. The Park Administration’s Scientific Board has two specialists that help us analyse investment proposals. Also, in collaboration with the local authorities we are trying to maintain the traditional characteristics of the buildings.”
We asked Mircea Verghelet if additional requirements or permits are needed to build inside or near a protected area:
Mircea Verghelet: “The park’s management must endorse any building erected inside the park, but not outside the park. Outside the protected area the usual permits and licenses are required. Of course, the plot must be in the built-up area, and in this case the usual urban planning rules are applied.”
We also wanted to know if rules regarding constructions are really observed in these places. Here is Mircea Verghelet once more.
Mircea Verghelet: “Especially in the past years, owners and people from the local communities in general have learnt all about park regulations and management plans, and they observe these rules, especially because many of them use European funds. Of course there are still some illegalities occurring now and then, people attempting to build without permits, but, of course, there are penalties for those who do that.”