Romanian Newly-Nominated WHS and Current Tourism Development in the Associated Rural Localities

Romanian Newly-Nominated WHS and Current Tourism Development in the Associated Rural Localities

Cornelia Pop (Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania) and Cristina Balint (Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1423-8.ch012


The aim of the chapter is to investigate the current status of tourism development within the rural localities adjacent to the newly nominated natural world heritage sites (WHS) in Romania. The general methodology will be that of a case study, combining deductive and inductive approaches and the critical interpretation based on the available data. The results show a modest to non-existent tourist infrastructure and shallow tourist activity in the rural area adjacent to the 12 locations of the new natural WHS. The findings also show a low level of awareness regarding the WHS designation among the local authorities and the absence of real cooperation between the custodians of the related protected areas and the local communities. The new WHS locations have a long way ahead to become attractive and sustainable tourist destination by applying adequate destination management which should include the special status of these rural destinations.
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Natural protected areas (NPAs) have important environmental values (Mayer et al., 2010). Being traditionally located in peripheral areas, NPAs can represent unique tourist attractions (Mayer et al., 2010; Leon et al., 2015) and therefore have the potential to promote sustainable rural development for the adjacent localities (Mayer et al., 2010; Armaitiene et al., 2014). Tourism development related to NPAs can generate economic benefits for the local communities if the management plans for the respective destinations balance in an adequate manner the conflicting goals of promoting economic development and the preservation of the natural and cultural heritage (Kusova et al., 2008; Leon et al., 2015; Canteiro et al., 2018).

The designation of a NPA as a World Heritage Site (WHS) can be considered an enhancing factor to the attractiveness of the respective destination by increasing its (international) visibility (Jimura, 2011;

Chi et al., 2017; De Simone et al., 2018). Furthermore, natural WHSs seem to be preferred by international tourists (Su & Lin, 2014) and play an important role in boosting tourism demand mainly in developing countries (Yang et al. 2019).

Being a developing country, Romania should take advantage of this situation since it added a new natural WHS in 2017 to the existing seven WHSs.

The conservation efforts and the establishment of Romanian protected areas dates, in the modern era, since 1918 (Stringer & Paavola, 2013). In the post-communist period, the majority of Romanian national parks were nominated as such during the year 2000. The introduction and nomination of Natura 2000 special protected areas (SPA) and sites of community importance (SCI) started in 2007 through the Order 1964/2007 issued by the minister of environment and sustainable development. Romania is part of Europarc Network with the following protected areas administrative entities as members: Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, Retezat and Apuseni national parks.

According to INCDT (2009) and MoT (2018), the protected areas grew from 17.84% of the Romanian territory in 2008/2009 to about 23% in 2018. During the same interval, the number of national parks remains the same (13), the natural parks grew from 14 to 16, while the Natura 2000 areas grew from 108 SPAs to 171 SPAs and from 273 SCI to 435 SCI areas (INCDT, 2009; MoT, 2018).

The designation of the new natural WHS (Primeval Beech Forest) in 2017, with its 12 locations, adds new challenges and opportunities for Romanian central and local authorities and communities to enhance the nature-based tourism development on sustainable principles, mainly in the related rural areas. Though during the past decade, rural tourism grew (Pop et al., 2017), tourism in the rural areas related to NPAs raises specific problems (Erdely & Dinca, 2011). The 3 versions of the national strategy for tourism (INCDT, 2009; INCDT, 2015; MoT, 2018) recognizes the problems. However little advance was registered between 2009 and 2018. Nonetheless, one step comes from an analysis of tourism development in the protected areas and adjacent localities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Natural Protected Area: A defined location/geographical space where human occupation/exploitation of resources is limited through regulations and is managed in order to ensure the long term preservation of the respective natural resources and values.

Natural World Heritage Site: a natural area designated by UNESCO due to the recognition of its outstanding international importance and therefore being entitled to receive special protection.

Nature-Based Tourism: A wide range of tourism experiences directly or indirectly related to and depending on the natural environment.

Nature-Based Tourism Destination: An area that provides the needed infrastructure and services for tourists oriented toward the natural environment and where the conservation of this environment is (or should be) related to the offered accommodation and services.

Ecotourism: A form of small-scale tourism associated with the visiting of natural protected areas by featuring responsible traveling, enhanced care for environment conservation and supporting the increase of local population well-being.

Authentic Tourism Development: The process of developing a local tourist destination based on the respective place distinctive, original, natural, and traditional characteristics, including the tangible and intangible heritage.

Primeval Forest: an old-growth forest that reached an advanced age without significant disturbances and exhibiting a high level of biodiversity.

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