Tourism is for Romania an economic solution, which has not been sufficiently exploited. The spectacular mountain landscapes, the biodiversity of the Danube Delta, the beauty of Romania’s traditional villages or the numerous century-old historical monuments could be the starting point for developing tourism in this country. Tourism can be developed in Romania if efforts are concerted. The recent International Tourism Fair in Bucharest was an opportunity for many top travel agencies to present their business model, their innovations and successes when it comes to making tourism in Romania. Meidan Butnaru is the commercial manager of one of the most important Israeli tour operators that bring tourists to Romania. He was born in Romania, therefore he feels connected with the places and the people with whom he works here. He’s also familiar with the problems and challenges facing tourism in Romania. He was able to grasp the tourist potential of Romania, and consequently has come up with a number of tourist products, which have proved viable along the years.
“4 years ago I made the first city-break package for Bucharest, although everybody was saying that Bucharest was more of a business destination. I insisted that if you knew how to sell your product, tourists would buy it. Consequently, many companies have taken our model and today Bucharest is full of Israeli tourists. I have always looked at what can be done, not at what cannot be done. I have always thought that the key to development in Romania’s tourism is to organize charter flights. And I was right, we sold the city break packages quite well, we were very successful, so other companies took our example and introduced charter flights to this destination. Therefore, the airlines market is in full swing.”
The main destination sold by travel agencies is the Black Sea resort of Mamaia, located north of the city of Constanta. It is actually linked to the main city and port of Romania. As of late, Mamaia has become a pole of entertainment on the Black Sea Coast, boasting lots of luxury hotels and clubs. Meidan Butnaru has presented us with a different perspective on this resort:
“In Romania, the resort of Mamaia is promoted as a destination for entertainment. But we have promoted it as a destination for families. Thus, we have brought to Romania a lot of families. To give you a figure, 89% of the people on our aircraft chartered to Mamaia are families. It is easier and much profitable to sell packages to families.”
To meet the ever growing demand coming from Israeli tourists in a more creative way, Meidan Butnaru’s company had to come up with new products:
“In the past 15 years we have reported growth, our activity has been quite profitable. We have managed to grow our business from one year to the next. We had been selling only six- or seven-night packages until last year, when we introduced a circuit package of four days. Another route we recreated last year - and quite successfully, I would say – included seaside and mountain resorts in the same package. It was cancelled because many of our clients had been complaining that we lacked infrastructure, we didn’t have this and that. I believe we have everything we need and what’s actually important is how to present it to the tourists. And if tourists are satisfied, it means that you have everything you need. Surprisingly we managed to sell this package mainly to families with children. We’ve included in these packages all the seaside attractions for children such as the aqua park, the circus and the dolphinarium. We’ve extended these packages to include southern seaside resorts like Neptun. There used to be only 7-day packages just for Mamaia, but things changed. There is a demand now and we take tourists even to the Danube Delta. We have developed the product and the new thing is that we’ll have a plane only for these circuits which are to start in the seaside resorts.”
Of course the increasing inflow of visitors has created a series of problems to the travel companies who are bringing tourists to Romania. Here is Meidan Butnaru, commercial manager with one of Israel’s major tour operators.
“Hotels, particularly in Bucharest, have in the past two years raised prices in an awful manner. If they keep doing it, this might become an issue. We cooperate with all of them but I could bring even more tourists if I had more rooms at reasonable prices. Romania is cheap when it comes to restaurants, shopping, taxies but expensive when it comes to accommodation particularly in Bucharest. Even more expensive than Budapest or Prague or other destinations. Bucharest has developed, Romania has developed and the only impediment I see is the rising price for accommodation in Bucharest.”
According to Meidan Butnaru, prospects on raising the number of tourists in Romania are quite optimistic. However, we should not rely on prospects and forecasts to make profit out of tourism.
“We all say that Romania is beautiful, don’t we? It’s beautiful and one can do real business here. Some may say that we don’t have one thing or another, but that’s not the solution. We have proved them all wrong, we did business with what we had. It was difficult at times but people have changed, there are new opportunities out there right now …People have realized that they can do business, if that’s what they really want.” (Translated by L. Simion and D. Bilt)