If Romania is great at exporting tourists, which is encouraging for the local tour operators, the domestic tourism promotion is still a thorny issue. The main problems remain the situation of the Romanian flag carrier, Tarom, the high VAT in tourism and the poor promotional activities to lure foreign visitors.
Alin Burcea (photo), the CEO of Paralela 45 travel agency told a press conference that the business is growing on certain routes, such as Antalya, with a growing number of Romanian visitors choosing the travel destinations in the Turkey’s Mediterranean resorts.
At the same time, he warned over the mounting damages on the domestic market due to the lack of incoming, the lack of a strategy on the national tourism, the concerning situation at Tarom, the Romanian state airline, but also because the authorities are not endorsing the local tour operators.
Burcea said that the Tarom issue and cutting the VAT to 5 percent for the travel agencies should be a matter of priority for the next Government, while suggesting the vouchers should also be granted to stimulate the incoming of foreign tourists in Romania.
„The VAT of 19% is a big issue for the travel agencies It should be a first action to be taken. Moreover, there are not enough hotels in Romania, to accommodate tourists and there are neither facilities for investors to be stimulated to build hotels”, the Paralela 45 manager argued.
He also believes a radical change should occur at Tarom, both in terms of management and strategies. „Tarom’s main issue is the instability, the permanent change of directors is harmful. Solving the Tarom problem should be a priority for the next Government”, he underlined.
Burcea exemplified with the Paralele 45’s own experience with Tarom. „90% of our flights are not operated with Tarom. It is an example of good, but unstable brand, nobody takes care of it. We want the Tarom issue to be solved once and for all. When we resort to Tarom, they never know to tell us for sure on what planes we can count on.”
Nevertheless, charters operated by other airlines to the Romanians’ most favorite travel destinations have flown out this year. For instance, the charter flights for the Paralela 45 tourists had an average cabin factor of 94% in 2019. Romanians stay loyal to the Turkish seaside resorts, representing the 7th most numerous nationality visiting Antalya, after Russians, Germans or Brits.
This year, 42% of the total charter destinations through Paralela 45 went to Antalya, Alanya and Bodrum, leaving from 10 cities in Romania. 2018 represented a boom in terms of tourism to Antalya, and this year makes no exception. In 2019, Romania has sent around 243,800 visitors to Antalya, and Turkey, with over 25,000 of them through Paralela 45, which represents a 28pc increase compared to 2018.
According to Alin Burcea, things have gone so well that there is no chance for further growth in 2020, but only for consolidating the existing figures.This year, there were 19 weekly charters to Antalya from Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Timișoara, Târgu Mureș, Oradea, Arad, Suceava, Bacău and Baia Mare.
The summer updates were the weekly charters to Antalya from Oradea, Arad, Suceava, Bacau and Baia Mare. Overall, 35% of tourists left to Antalya from Bucharest, 13% from Iasi, 11% from Cluj-Napoca, 8% from Bacau. And, for the first time in 30 years, Paralela 45 will operate a charter from Constanta to Antalya as of next year.
On the cabin factor, the charter Antalya-Timisoara ranked first-97%.
Romanians prefer luxury accommodation, so the five-star hotels rule. There are 450 5-star hotels in Antalya, most of them all inclusive.
Greece also remains among the favorite holiday destinations for the Romanians, over 12,000 went on vacation in Greece this summer by charters operated by Paralela 45, with a cabin factor standing at 95%. Weekly departures were to the Greek islands such as Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Chania and Heraklion, Zakynthos, Samos, Lesbos and Corfu. Heraklion/Crete was the most sought-after Greek destination.
Charters to Spain also had a 98% cabin factor, with over 6,000 choosing Spain this summer, with 12 weekly charters to Costa Brava, Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol, Mallorca ad Tenerife.
Tunis was the novelty of this summer, as well as Egypt, to Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh.
Sightseeing trips reported a 455 increase this year, most of the tourists choosing to travel in April-May, August-September and December. The most-sought after sightseeing trips this year were to Turkey (including Capadoccia), Russia, Israel and Jordan.
Despite the shortcomings of the national tourism, bookings in Romania have also increased by one third compared to 2018, and that was due to the holiday vouchers. Bookings to the mountains destinations were up by 99%, by 96% to the spa resorts and only by 15% to the Romanian seaside resorts. The overall rise on vacation bookings in Romania with vouchers stood at 134% during January-September 2019, as against the same period in 2018.
Paralela 45 has fresh offers for the fall/winter season, both to exotic destinations such as Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Bali or Oman, and also to Dubai and Lapland, Santa Claus’ house.
As for 2020 forecast, Antalya seems to top the preferences, next to Egypt and Tunis. The tour operator has launched an Early Booking programme for 2020 since September, with discounts up to 40%.
For Egypt, there is a new flight from Sibiu to Hurghada operational for the upcoming winter holidays 2019/2020.
Paralela 45 estimates to close 2019 with a turnover of EUR 70 million, up by 20% compared to last year.