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Forget the controversy – Romania's tourism brand is pitch-perfect

Shockingly - Romania’s new tourism brand is an intelligent, realistic and humble invitation for new visitors, which recognises, highlights and plays upon the best qualities of the country.

September 2010 - From the Print Edition

The tagline - ‘Romania: Explore the Carpathian Garden’ - does not promise sandy beaches to rival the Costa del Sol or the dizzying beauty of Alpine vistas - it realises that tourists do not and will not rush to Romania just because it boasts both mountains and a seaside.
The brand understands that visitors to the country will not encounter anything spectacular, but are sure to discover something unique, such as the Carpathians’ peculiar beauty, icons painted on caves next to nesting bats, a graveyard overflowing with comic epitaphs mocking the dead in rhyme or a 19th century castle constructed by the ghost of a teenage poet.
At the core of the new brand proposition is an ambition which can be put into practice - to attract more of the kind of people who are already coming to Romania and enjoying the experience - the arty middle-classes with a high pain threshold.
To bring more of these hikers, hipsters and twitchers to the country will help further develop the tourist infrastructure, so that in the future this nation may be able to graduate on to luxury tourism or even mass tourism, if this is necessary.
The brand fixes on the cultural and natural qualities of the country that continue to impress - the Danube Delta, Sighisoara, Sibiu, the Maramures wooden churches and the fortified churches of south Transylvania, the Merry Cemetery, the Bucovina monasteries and rambling across the Carpathians.
It avoids promoting the places that tend to disappoint travellers - such as Bucharest (a capital with no idea how to seduce, surprise or guide tourists), the Constanta seaside (no amenities, no identity, cheap in every way but its prices) and Bran Castle (a cultural icon empty of mystique).
There are some mistakes in the new brand’s aims, such as its desire to market spa tourism - which is seriously undeveloped in Romania and needs careful and long-term investment. The brand also argues that the country is a holiday location for people with a healthy lifestyle - which will be news to those familiar with the fat content of Romanian cuisine.
The brand’s logo - a leaf which represents the ripples of a mountain range, underlined by a river - has a problem. Created by Spain’s THR Asesores en Turismo, Hoteliere Y Recreacion, this resembles an image-for-hire from royalty free picture database Shutterstock and was recently used to advertise an English eco-bus. It is hard to prove copyright on a shape and the designer may have only ‘stolen’ the item unconsciously. But if the campaign has to ditch the leaf, this will not be a loss.
But the cleverest trick of the brand is opening with the word ‘Explore’, which gives the country an excuse for its desperate lack of infrastructure and the chronically bad state of its public transport. This acts as a kind of apologia for any bad toilet, inedible schnitzel, mosquito-infested hostel or rude waitress that tourists will probably encounter at some point in Romania. It can attract those looking for a wilderness and promote this attribute - as it implies that Romania is one of the last places in the European Union where a traveller can be assured of an adventure.

Michael Bird

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