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Piatra Craiului National Park

Positive Economical Impacts of Tourism:
Stimulation of local economic cycles

Positive Economical Impacts of Tourism:
Stimulation of local economic cycles

Tourism can provide a boost to the local economy
Although “tourism” is a single concept, it actually consists of many different elements. Tourism development can result in advantages for economic sectors which do not directly belong to the tourism industry. The consequence is that tourism can initiate a boost to the entire local economy, if the goods and services needed for tourism are supplied by the local producers. This includes, for example, farmers (food production and supply), craftsmen (construction works) and local handicraft traders (selling of local products) as well as tourist guides, owners of accommodation facilities and restaurants, etc.

Case Study: Eco-tourism in the Northern Area of Piatra Craiului National Park — an example of local services development in Brasov/Zarnesti, Romania

Originally targeting large carnivore protection, the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project supported the development of sustainable tourism in the commune of Zarnesti in the Southern Romanian Carpathians. Large carnivores represent one of the main tourist attractions in this region. The economic upswing in and around Zarnesti due to this carnivore-based tourism was enormous and comprised all kinds of businesses in the region — from guides, to accommodation providers and handicraft sellers. In return, the economic advantage derived from tourism served as the best argument for large carnivore conservation.

In the Northern Area of the Piatra Craiului National Park, the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (CLCP) was established as a joint initiative of several national and international partners. The project began in 1993 with the main goal of creating a model area for the conservation of large carnivores in the Southern Carpathian Mountains. Since then, however, this goal has been expanded into a more complex approach that now focused on four different components:

research on wolves, bears, lynx and people;
management and conservation;
rural development;
public awareness.
The rural development component included two main elements: development of eco-tourism and the establishment of a fund to support local conservation and development. The eco-tourism element was designed to demonstrate to local communities that large carnivores are not just a burden for livestock production, but that their existence in the surrounding forest can in fact contribute to income generation. Both elements were designed to produce benefits for the local people, bringing sustainable development to the region and ultimately achieving greater awareness and acceptance of large carnivores on the part of the local population.

Eco-tourism was introduced to the region in 1996, mainly focusing on the community of Zarnesti, based on its specific attractions — the existence of wolves, bears and lynx in one of the most spectacular landscapes in the Carpathians. Already in 1997, a number of travel agencies included trips to the Piatra Craiului area in their catalogues, and eight international ecotourist groups visited the area.

All of the tourism development aspects of the project were performed with a high degree of professionalism, aiming at a high quality tourist experience supported by solid local services that could compete with any other eco-tourism offer around the world.

The activities on eco-tourism development were channelled in three directions:

Creating a tourism infrastructure in the town of Zarnesti and the communities around Piatra Craiului based on local, small-scale family businesses;
Designing attractive tourist programmes with a focus on large carnivores;
Marketing and bringing tourists from Western Europe into the area of Piatra Craiului.
The number of tourist groups (from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, UK, Sweden, Norway, and USA) sent by international travel agencies increased from eight in 1997 to more than 100 in 2002. Also the number of individual travellers rose notably from a very small number of individual tourists in the year 2000 to already 380 in 2002. The total number of tourists is still increasing today.

Before 1997, Zarnesti had no tourism-related infrastructure at all. Therefore, the main challenge that CLCP faced involved stimulating the development of eco-tourism services, starting from the ground up. Over the years of the project, an increasing infrastructure was developed, including several guesthouses, a tour operator, 10 trained and licensed nature guides, a bike rental business, horse-cart transport services and a handicraft shop for the merchandising of local crafts.

This enumeration makes it clear that the upswing of tourism in the region had effects on a broad scale of businesses directly or indirectly related to tourism. It can be safely concluded that tourism development in the area of Zarnesti boosted the local economy.

Even after the CLCP officially ceased to operate in 2003, most of the local services and infrastructure it gave rise to kept developing. For example, the handicraft shop opened in 2000 with one local producer. By 2006, there were already 85 local residents supplied the shop with handmade products. During a good tourism season, the local producers could earn the equivalent of an extra salary selling their handicrafts. Considering that the unemployment rate in Zarnesti exceeded 50 percent, and most of the local producers were either housewives or unemployed, the economic impact for them was significant.

Generally, the revenue generated through eco-tourism has been monitored by the CLCP in order to effectively communicate the economic power of eco-tourism development at the local, regional and national levels, and to gather support for conservation measures. One of the most important characteristics of eco-tourism in the Zarnesti area was that a large portion of the revenues remained at the local level. The income was high enough for the local market to represent an attractive economic alternative to unsustainable land-use practices. Figures collected from the CLCP demonstrated that eco-tourism did have a significant economic impact with respect to local development and conservation in Zarnesti.

In 2001-2002, the local portion of the total revenue generated by the eco-tourism programme was about 46.5 percent. This demonstrates that a substantial amount of money — EUR 400,000 (about EUR 140,000 in 2001 and EUR 260,000 in 2002) — remained at the local community level. In 2001-2002, the average income in Zarnesti did not exceed EUR 1,800 per year. Thus the local money generated through eco-tourism represented the equivalent of more than 100 full time jobs over two years.

* The information contained in this case study was taken from the 2001 and 2002 Annual Reports of the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (www.clcp.ro).

For more information please contact:
Andrei Blumer, Association of Ecotourism in Romania (former eco-tourism officer of CLCP)
E-mail: Andrei.Blumer at radp.ro