Interview with Cristi Pitulice, co-founder Globe 365 travel agency, which launched Transilvania Train project.
Recently launched for the tourists eager to explore the most exquisite regions in Transylvania and to discover its culture and ancestral traditions, Transilvania Train is unique in Romania, proposing a true ‘Orient Express’-like train trip in the heart of Romania.
How have you come up with the idea of launching Transilvania Train? Is this the first such train trip concept in Romania?
The idea came as a result of my tourist train experiences in Europe and Asia; then, back in Romania and with Transylvania as the main engine of the image of the Romanian tourism, I thought it was time for us to also develop such a tourist package. Conceptually, regardless of their nature, touristic trains are part of the high-end travel area. I think Romania is beginning to be ready to offer such products.
How did you manage to convince CFR Călători to support the project? The experience on working with state companies in Romania has not been usually seen as an easy one.
The partnership with CFR Călători is perhaps the most important component of this project and, at the same time, the most costly one. It was indeed not easy, it took many months of meetings, discussions, negotiations and bureaucratic work, but we never took “no” for an answer. We knew the project couldn’t have existed without going through this step, without CFR’s help in this project.
From what you know so far, what is the feedback of other similar travel concepts in Europe, if any? In a speeding up world, where airlines are racing to lure tourists with tempting discounted flights, could the train be a competitor?
Tourist trains are unique concepts in the landscape of tourism. A tourist train concept does not compete with airlines, but the latter are rather complementary to tourist trains. We could say, if you will, that tourist trains are land-based cruises. The comfort level on these trains is high, we offer services that one wouldn’t find on regular transportation, and, finally, a certain charm.
Take, for example, the iconic image of the Orient Express, which started out as a luxury long-distance passenger train, a long courier. Why did this train survive? Why did it become legendary, when you can get from Paris to Istanbul in less than three hours today? We could say it’s because of its luxury and comfort. But no, it’s because of the unique experience. That’s why a tourist train ride can’t last for a few hours, but days.
What is the profile of your target customer? What kind of tourist would he/she be?
Transilvania Train customers are very different, they come from various areas of the country and the world. We get clients from elderly persons to families with children, both Romanian and foreign tourists.
The project, as we see it, is addressed both to Romanians wishing to better understand their country, history, heritage, and to experience authentic traditions and customs, and to foreigners curious to discover Transylvania’s “treasures”. And, anyway, Transylvania is becoming a well-known international destination.
You offer customized tourist packages including music concerts, food&drink workshops, etc. Is the customized tourism a more efficient trend in the industry?
The customization of the travellers’ experience is based, among other things, on predicting what they’d want, even before they want it. Also, a customized trip is, in fact, a unique adventure, offering an experience that fits perfectly with the tourists’ preferences and needs. So yes, this touristic trend has spread, and with good reason!
Anyone wishes to enjoy the things they love most on their holiday, even if that means paying more than they would for a standard offer. I think this type of personalized trip will become a defining element for travel agencies in the following years.
What do you think would also attract foreign tourists to Romania, besides medieval monuments/cities and traditions? As our online paper is in English, mostly addressing to the expats in Romania, I invite you to address them a customized message to convince them to join your tour.
I believe we’ve gone past the phase of presenting Romanian tourists with an old little wooden church, a traditional costume and some traditional cuisine tasting such as ‘sărmăluțe’. Romania can start showing off her combined assets on a world tourism stage. A new tourism generation was necessary. The people currently 25-40 years old, determined, and who have gained the additional experience of international tourism. In tourism, it’s very important to put oneself in the guests’ shoes, to feel what they’d like to know and offer them just that bit more than they expected. Transylvania is one of Romania’s regions that is ready for that. The authenticity, the slow rhythm of life, peaceful landscapes and architectural wonders right out of a history book made Transylvania a destination we Romanians can be proud of. But we must take care of it and promote it with all due seriousness and dignity.
I think Transilvania Train is an ideal way to experience and promote the heart of Romania.
Do your future also include an extension of this project to other Romanian regions?
First, we’ll focus on the Transilvania Train project. We want to make sure that the Transylvania Train touristic concept is well understood by the public, that it will grow as we intended it to, and that it reaches its full potential.
Then we can consider developing other projects, similar, in Romania.