The region of Piatra Neamt, with its beautiful surroundings – nature parks, medieval fortresses, traditional villages, monasteries and year round festivals – is a travel operator’s dream.
It’s a place that is bursting with tourism potential, and yet, it just hasn’t happened. The problems lie not just with the local authorities, but with local tour operators too, part of a vicious circle that afflicts so many wonderful regions in Romania.
With so much to do, where do we begin? Refurbishment would be a start, and indeed this is exactly what local authorities have done, spending 2.8 million Euros to reconstruct the great Neamt Fortress, with many other projects also in progress.
Many of these should be excellent draws for tourists, like the cable car which will connect the impressive Cozla Mountain with the city center.
But despite this, government austerity measures continue to take their toll on local resources. The issue of employees is one of them – there simply aren’t enough. To attract more visitors, entertainment is the key to bringing to life wonderful sights like the Neamt Fortress, yet with only four employees to do so, it simply hasn’t happened.
And it’s not only the attractions that are suffering – there is also a lack of personnel in the city’s tourist information office, which has to close once the summer is over.
What’s needed is for private operators to start running the sites, says the city’s MP Mihaela Stoica, but this is yet to happen.
“The state by itself simply cannot support the region’s tourist industry,” says Stefan Lungu, an advisor to Romania’s Minister of Tourism.
He also says that promoting the region should not just be left to the government.
Piatra Neamt’s City Manager Bogdan Puscasu echoed his concerns, saying “It’s not only about promoting ourselves, it’s also important that tour operators promote the local attractions too.”
“Tourists who come to Piatra Neamt want to see more than just the comfortable hotels where they stay, and promoting our attractions will keep them here for longer.”
The barriers to this are significant however; A lack of proper training and know-how, reluctance to work together, interests of self-sufficiency and the often illegal status of many tour operators show that the industry has a long way to come.
Piatra Neamt’s story, like that of many destinations in Romania, is one of underachievement. Even so, steps are being taken to make things better. Good communication is vital to developing the tourist industry in the region, and it’s something the authorities seem to understand.
This much was said in a recent round table chaired by MP Mihaela Stoica on the region’s tourist industry.
And the prospects look bright. The confidence and determination is there. As lessons are learned and as experience begins to tell, Piatra Neamt will surely begin to shine.