Brasov is the undisputed darling city of Romania, but it remains largely undiscovered compared to certain other equal cities around the world. In this article, I would like to explore why I think this is, and what we could do, to improve it.
It is a sad fact that Romania remains among the lowest ranked in the world as regards tourism contribution to GDP. For Brasov, the latest figures suggest circa 1.4 million visitors spent around 130 million euro last year. Constanta and Bucharest faired better but notwhere near their potential, nor close to fair competitors.
This week, I have come to Lviv, Ukraine, a similar city to Brasov in many ways, am am keen to examine why the stark difference in tourism revenue. 2.4 million visors to spentL a massive 800 million euros and it’s very clear to seen why, and how.
Like Brasov, Lviv is a very friendly, safe, stunningly beautiful city with a lot of history. But there the similarity stops as regards tourism and there are some lessons for us who have interests in Brasov. Let me give you some examples.
The old town is filled with hundreds of small shops, bars, cafes and world class restaurants, at prices way less than most of, if not all of, the rest of Europe. Example, a coffee in the BEST coffee shop in Lviv is 2.5 Euro, and 1 euro in a decent coffee shop (nb, it is said Ukraine gave coffee to Europe when a 16th century Tzar brought the idea from Turkey, and opened a coffee shop in Vienna). It is the same in most classes of business, low prices, and all are full, day and night.
So, if it’s not high prices that bring high revenue, what is it? In short, benevolence, attitude, tourist information, passion for service and a real pride in their city, and in their nationality. Synergy, or teamwork, if you will. So what does benevolence mean? Example, you go to your favourite hair dresser, and let’s say she is good, the prices are ok, but she barks at you because you are 15 mins late. How likely are you to go back? Tourism works the same way – people need to enjoy the expereince, however annoyed by tourists you may be. Bucharest is the only capital in Europe with NO tourist information office. And the one in Brasov, last time I checked, was only open during office hours,t and it goes on from there, throughout every facet of a tourist experience.
There is a wine bar in Lviv square that sells only hot cherry wine, day and night, almost every day of the year. At 3 euro per glass you would not expect it to be flooded with clients, from mid morning till past midnight with a queue at the bar 10 deep. At any one time there are people standing around the 4 tiny outside tables, currently well below freezing without space heaters, from all around the globe. It is THE start point for any meeting of friends or night out, or indeed the end point for a nightcap. I cannot imagine their incomes but certainly it exceeds 5000 euro per day. Such a simple idea.
But behind this, there lies something much more important. Business culture is heavily supported here, assistance is readily available. I know when I started my business in Brasov in 2007, I had to break every rule in the book before I got things right, not because i am not honest, but because there was such a lack of business advice and helpful information available, and only misinformation/ fear about consequences. This is one of the reasonswhy 30% of Romanians left for other countries, because it is easier to make a success elsewhere. But it should not be that way. Romania is an amazing country, and I consider it a blessing to be able to live there, and Brasov is the star attraction.
If I had a magic wand, here is how I would improve tourism in Brasov, but the steps apply to any city/ area of beauty
Coding:symbol for responsible party
- Blue, State level action needed S
- Red: County action needed C
- Purple: Local business level action needed B
S C B
1/ Visibility / information
- High quality websites giving travellers clear multilingual information, from national/ state level down to coffee shops.S C B
- Businesses need to be clearly visible on the internet, for example update their opening hours on Google maps, to encourage testimonials and to respond honestly to negative feedback left. Readers need to hear both sides of the story, B
- Signage in and around cities should highlight what is worth seeing, S C
- Businesses should be clearly visible, inside and out. Don’t assume a tourist will hunt too hard to find you, or what you can offer – they are supposed to be relaxing, not researching.B
- City guides made available and maps with places of interst clearly market, C B
- Clear videos, and easily found, S C B
- Clear publication of uniqueness, advantages of businesses, areas of interest etc., S C B
- TV and Radio campaigns.S C
- Tourist information AT points of entry, including airports, OPEN outside and inside office hours. S C
2/ Travel and Access – at State level, a lot could be done to improve the ability to reach Brasov. The highway from the capital is realistically, many decades away from now. Assuming the long overdue airport is still years away (Lviv enjoyed 1.8 million air travellers passing through theirs last year) what else can be done to ease the ability to reach Brasov?
- Removing vehicle obstructions to quicker journeys such as under-street pedestrian tunnels every 100 meters, in road-block towns like Cormarnic, Sinaia, Azuga etc and removal of Police staff at crossings, S C
- Large off street parking in through-towns to free up roadside congestion, C
- No-stopping rules on all parts of the DN1, S C
- More passing lanes, to get past trucks, S C
- Restrictions of slow moving trucks during peak tourism travel hours, S C
- More regular buses and trains to Brasov with clear, multilingual timetable and pricing information, S C
- Clear, minimum and maximum speedlimits, S C
- Standby breakdown and emergency services, given the high accuracy in predicaabiliy of events, S C B
- Optimised use of traffic lights and roundabouts, and removal of time consuming and dangerous junctions, S C
- Optimised white lining for overtakining and education for safe techniques, S C
- Better staffed fuel stations with high speed pumps for speedier service, B
3/ Network / Influencers
- Travel companies, social media Influencers, known personalities should be incentivised to promote Brasov as what it is, C B
- Promotion on social media, travel programs, information sites such as Trip Advisor, S C B
- Discussion-inducing sites such as blogs,, C B
- Promotion of visitor generated content, C B
4/State level business support
- Business start up information services including departments of work, taxation, compliance, S C
- Reduction in Red tape and beaurocracy, S C
- Removal of fear culture and promotion of business creation culture, S C
- Multilingual state at Commerce Chamber, with easy to access information.S C
5/ At local business level
- Create a story, a theme. Don’t just rely on Dracula and skiing. In Lviv, every bar has a theme and they live it, much to tourist delight. Costumes, myths, history, play acting etc. In one Lviv bar, they mockingly ask you if you are a Ukranian hero or Russian traitor, to get in the door! And at any one time there is a queue 50 deep to get a table. C B
- Benevolence is everything! Make sure your staff smile, even when a shoppernleaves without spending. A smile goes very long way to create repeat business, B
- Quality – be the BEST at what you do! In my business, ai apply the Grandma rule. I want every client treated the way Iwouldnwant my grandmother treating, and its the reason we have 200+ testimonials on Google maps, B
- Price – think long term, create pricing that encourages traffic, not punishes existing clients, B
- Cleanliness – this goes without saying. A must, inside and out, C B
- Invest in your space. Create a place to be proud of, so clients enjoy and admire your place. B
- Promotions – create excitement, discounts, competitions, reaso ns to visit at quiet times, B
- Memories – give tourists something to remember you by, positive experiences.S C B
What ideas would work in Brasov that currently do not exist? Here are a few that spring to mind
- Theme bars or restaurants based on any one of these historical characters
- Coffee kiosks
- Healthy or fast food caravans at touristy spots, walks or panorama spots
- Guided city tours
- Ghost tours
- Communism era guided historic tours
- Hot wine stands
- Fancy dress restaurants or bars
- Park or main or secondary square band-stand with regular dancing (Folk, Tango etc)
What ideas do you have to share, that would make Brasov better at attracting and retaining Tourists? Please comment, and if you like the article above, give us a LIKE please at the top of the page.