(Photo credit: Mircea Vergheleț, Piatra Craiului National Park)
Piatra Craiului National Park is one of the most representative high-quality tourist destinations in the Southern Romanian Carpathians, and widely considered as one of the “jewels in the crown” of the Romanian tourism industry. But it is also a region under great pressure and the MOVING project is investigating the potential contribution of certified ecotourism to its sustainability and resilience.
Following consultation with key experts, landscape composition was selected as the key ‘reference variable’ for the highly appreciated natural beauty of the area. Interviews, and an online survey with local stakeholders, helped to identify that the main driver of change impacting upon this valuable mountain attribute is the pressure from the growing visitor numbers and inappropriate patterns of physical development, including the chaotic and poorly controlled construction of leisure facilities and tourist accommodation.
Changes in land use and land cover. Photo credit: Mark Redman
A virtual workshop involving the Association of Ecotourism in Romania, university researchers, forest businesses and local youth representatives further confirmed the perceived vulnerability of the National Park and surrounding area to over-exploitation by more ‘classical’ forms of rural tourism, leisure and recreation. Furthermore, this vulnerability appears further compounded by changes in traditional agricultural land use (reduced grazing and the risk of land abandonment) and the declining local population.
In contrast, relatively few concerns were expressed about the impact of climate change – although it seems inevitable that these concerns will arise more and more in the coming years.
Meanwhile the stage is set for many more dynamic discussions with local stakeholders about the benefits of certified ecotourism for the sustainability and resilience of this stunning region.