Exploring sustainable tourism practices: Highlights from MOVING’s cross-country visit to Romania

by | Jun 25, 2024 | MOVING

Author: Catalina Rogozan (HCC)

Between the 22nd and 26th of April, Highclere Consulting hosted a regional cross-country visit to Romania, welcoming three MOVING partners and their stakeholders who showed a keen interest in sustainable forms of tourism (sustainable tourism being either the main VC studied within MOVING or part of the assemblage). These partners included North Macedonia (rural tourism), Hungary (agroecological knowledge) and Serbia (Sjenica lamb Protected Designation of Origin).

The Cross-Country Visit began in the Zărnești – Piatra Craiului eco destination, the first certified eco destination in Romania. Participants engaged in a series of meetings and discussions with key stakeholders to explore the implementation of certified ecotourism in the area. The president of The Association of Ecotourism in Romania presented the steps taken to implement the concept of ‘certified eco-tourism’ in the country, as well as the main characteristics of this concept. Additionally, the director of the Piatra Craiului National Park described the status of national parks in Romania, the role and characteristics of Piatra Craiului National Park and strategies to integrate tourism into protected areas.

Participants discovered local value chains that contribute to the resilience and sustainability of the mountain area:

  • An eco-certified guesthouse and guiding service provider committed to community integration in its value chain and the local biodiversity preservation.
  • A young local entrepreneur who specialised in beekeeping and high-quality honey production.

Furthermore, participants could observe the negative impact of mass tourism in nearby villages and discussed the importance of preserving the local traditional architecture to maintain the natural landscape, the main asset of the area.

The Cross-Country Visit continued in Țara Hațegului – Retezat eco destination, where participants engaged with key members of the management unit of the eco destination. The manager of the Retezat Tourism Association, the management unit coordinating the development and promotion of the eco destination, introduced the association’s beginnings, strategic partnership in this area, as well as the role of the association and the main activities carried out.

Representatives from local natural, cultural and scientific attractions (Grădiștea Muncelului – Cioclovina Natural Park, Hațeg Country UNESCO Global Geopark, Retezat National Park) presented good practice examples in the responsible utilisation of natural resources and attractions. Their presentations emphasised the importance of preserving and conserving the local biodiversity while engaging and working with the local community. Examples included initiatives such as involving youth in the largest voluntary activity at national level, conducting education and awareness-raising activities on the profession of shepherding and the significance of preserving this tradition.

For a better understanding of the local context, participants visited the Geopark House, where they were introduced to the thematic trail, and explored two local producers:

  • Cămara din Totești is a family-owned small business that specialised in jams processing from local flora (lilac, jasmine, poppy, violets).
  • Participants discovered the preparation process of the ‘virșli’ – a sausage specific to Hunedoara County.

The Cross-Country Visit ended with a stop at Mălăiești Fortress, where the importance of cultural heritage rehabilitation for the well-being of the local community was discussed.

The feedback received from participants was very positive, highlighting the value of such cross-visit within the project. Participants appreciated the honest and insightful presentations, discussions, and networking opportunities with Romanian stakeholders All participants agreed that they were able to discover new possibilities, be inspired, and take home new ways of doing business in mountain areas.