EXPLORING ROMANIA’S WINE TOURISM
Wine is an important appeal to a destination. However, it is not usually the main reason for long distance tourists who don’t just visit the winery for the winery tour and wine alone but plan a trip based on the presence of other factors such as attractions, culinary adventures and outdoor activities. In this respect, Romania’s wine tourism is still at its beginnings despite the creation of promotional websites and a cluster of wine trails. Romanian enotourism is promoted through CrameRomania.com, a database of Romanian wineries founded in 2013 by wine afficionados and Revino.ro, a subsite of CrameRomania.com that offers detailed info on wine tourism. As for Romania’s wine trail project, it has not been able to sustain an influx of tourists mainly because of poor infrastructure in the rural areas where most of Romanian wineries are located. In wine regions with poor road maintenance, sparse telecommunication networks and scarce accommodation, it is difficult to prolong tourists’ stay in the area. Out of 250 wineries in Romania, less than 10 have onsite or any nearby accommodation. As such, the epitome of the westernized concept of a multi-day wine trail with wine tastings, food and wine pairings, cooking classes, regional wine events attendance, visits to nearby museums, souvenirs and local produce shops does not exist in Romania. There seems to be no mutual dependence of wine tourism and local community, hence no sustainable wine tourism development. Moreover, Romanian wine tourism lacks national and international promotion resulting into low participation. The merger of vinitourism with the gastronomic and cultural ones would be a strategic lever for Romania to achieve competitive advantage in the international wine tourism market. In this context, Romania should see accommodation and food service as developmental tools for its wine regions and therefore improve infrastructure by increasing the number of guest houses, hotels and restaurants. Romania should also promote the interconnectedness between wine tourism and the local community whose active support through local products, crafts, traditions, cultural values, and extra services offered, are necessary, alongside wineries; on one hand to retain previous wine tourists, attract new ones, and at the same time increase local businesses’ economic development. This would lead to sustainable tourism in Romania, promoting green practices, the local community’s uniqueness and specificity of the region. In return, this would encourage the not yet widespread value of sustainable practices, which tourists consider when choosing a vacation destination. With a concerted effort from wineries to promote jointly their products within the wine trails, knowledgeable staff and excellent customer service, Romanian wineries would be able to turn happy wine customers into brand advocates. As such, loyalty schemes and word-of-mouth recommendations should be used as part of a wider strategy to increase Romania’s wine tourism country brand loyalty. Moreover, the government should offer grants to wineries for marketing and promotion and should incorporate all wine trails, wine events and wine services into a national website. All the above, combined with a clear long-term vision of wine tourism in Romania would achieve new economies of scale and increase wine tourism domestically and globally.
However, compared to other wine producing countries, Romania has a competitive advantage in wine tourism because of its heritage and great storytelling. The past presence of royal families in certain wine regions make some wineries in Romania historic destinations, along with the winery’s main attractiveness. Moreover, the unique stories about the birth of some wineries after the collapse of communism will surely engage the consumers on an emotional level. Wineries’ storytelling will imprint brands into consumers’ minds by capturing their hearts. For example, Tohani Winery tells the love story of Prince Nicolae of Romania and Ioana Doletti, an ordinary girl from the village of Tohani, whom he secretively married. As a result, the prince lost all his privileges of nobility, the only thing he was left with being the vineyard of Tohani which became his passion till the end of his days. Another vineyard of noble descent is Prince Stirbey Winery owned by Baroness Ileana Kripp – Costinescu, granddaughter of Princess Maria Stirbey of Romania, who together with her husband Baron Jacob Kripp reclaimed her family's vineyard in 2001 that now produces one of the best wines in Romania. Beciul Domnesc ‘The Royal Cellar’ is another example of great narrative. Proclaimed as a historical monument within Romania’s national cultural heritage, it was built during Stephen the Great’s rule in the 15th century and consists of 20 cellars boasting a collection of over 100,000 bottles with the oldest dating back to 1949. Another interesting tale is the one of Englishman Philip Cox, who used to import Heineken beer into Romania in the 1990s. Cox ended up buying former communist state winery Recas, which is now one of Romania’s largest wine producer. Or, the story of Italian-born Nello dal Tio, inventor of the single-cup coffee machine and founder of the largest coffee machine factory in the world, who decided to retire and make wine in the hills of Petro Vaselo in the Romanian Banat wine region. Such examples of compelling narratives can tap into the feelings of any wine drinker drawing them to the brand and to the wine itself. As such, storytelling marketing will make Romania’s wine stand out on any global competitive market. The image of princes, princesses, or any royalties, the unique profile and history of foreign investors should always be used as marketing tools to boost wineries’ sales by building brand loyalty and emotional connectedness between the wine drinker, the winery and the wine.
Moreover, behind the premium wines of Romania lies the expertise of foreign winemakers hired by companies to elevate the quality of Romanian wine to be on par with top wine producing countries. These oenologists and wine consultants, such as Davino’s Athanasse Fakorelis, Budureasca’s Stephen Donnelly, Prince Știrbey’s Oliver Bauer, Domeniile Segarcea’s Ombeline Pages to name just a few, brought innovative winemaking techniques to best express the Romanian terroir in the wines produced. One common method is to make dry wines out of grapes that are typically vinified sweet. Dealu Mare AOC is the region that has most of these wine experts.