Analysis. Ho ho go: local holidaymakers hit the road for the festive season

Newsroom | 11/12/2017 | 15:42

Romanians’ Christmas spending has been on an upward trend in recent years, and in an attempt to secure their piece of the (mince) pie, local travel agents have put together a wide range of packages for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

 

By Anda Sebesi

Despite a very turbulent year, with acts of terrorism shaking some of the most important European capitals for tourism and hurricane Irma leaving a string of small Caribbean islands devastated, it’s Christmas time and some are making big plans for the season. Many Romanians prefer to spend their winter holidays abroad or visiting local destinations and travel agents have started to focus on them since the end of the summer, adapting their offers to customers’ wishes. If they have ticked off almost all the European highlights, Romanians wanting more from their winter holidays choose their destination depending on the experience they want, traditional and local or foreign and exotic.

As Sorin Stoica, CEO at Eturia says, his customers often opt to spend their Christmas holidays outside Europe. “Their interest in brighter and hotter destinations than Europe is understandable, considering their keenness to ‘escape’ from the Romanian or European winter season. They have already visited the Christmas markets in European capitals and now choose exotic beaches and destinations,” says Stoica. He adds that Cuba, Cancun, the Dominican Republic, the Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles are some of the most popular destinations for the end of the year, while the Maldives, Japan, Peru, the USA, Tanzania, India and China are the hottest destinations outside Europe this Christmas season.

“In general, someone who is open to trying something new chooses from these destinations. They are looking for interaction with the specific culture and locals, are interested in high quality services and have found that these destinations have spa and wellness facilities that exceed their local or European experiences,” adds the representative of Eturia. According to him, Romanians spend on average EUR 1,800/person on holidays outside Europe and typically make reservations four months before the winter holidays. “They travel abroad from December 25 or 26. The number of Romanian tourists that travel at Christmas time is now twice that posted two years ago,” adds Stoica.

 

Which tourists…

Go exotic:

They want to try something new as they have already visited almost all European destinations

Are entrepreneurs, middle and top managers

Want to combine their vacation with an experience (a beach, an adventure, spa, wellness, a cultural experience)

 

Jingle bells at European Christmas markets…

From the middle of November until Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets. The aroma of Christmas baking and hot punch sets the mood in the run-up to the big day. As Raluca Anghel, tourism consultant says, in recent years, Romanians have started to discover the appeal of short holidays at the well-known Christmas markets held in big European capitals. Moreover, as Christmas is often about stereotypes, Vienna is at the top of their list.

According to Anghel, there is a visible increase in the number of Romanians who visit new Christmas markets each year, especially before Christmas Eve. “The campaigns that the large local tour operators run every year enhance Romanians’ appetite for discovering new Christmas themed markets. In addition, they have started to offer destinations that are usually less known for Christmas markets. There is an upward trend and I am sure that in time, it will generate profits for tour operators,” adds Anghel. Prague, Lisbon, Dresden, Frankfurt, Venice, Lille, Paris, Glasgow, Seville, Copenhagen and Tallinn are some of the European cities now attracting many tourists with their Christmas markets.

 

… while back home the aroma of cozonac fills the air

While some Romanians prefer to spend Christmas abroad, many choose to stay connected to local traditions and enjoy Christmas in Romania. “Traditional” is the word that best describes the vibe.

According to Marius Zamfir, general manager of Transilvania Hotels & Travel, Bucovina and Maramures are among the most popular local destinations at Christmas time. “I can see increasing interest in destinations that offer a mix of mountains, winter sports and wellness and spa integrated packages. So destinations like Baile Felix, Tusnad, Covasna and Buzias are now on tourists’ radar. But Brasov and Predeal are still favourites when it comes to spending Christmas Romanian style,” says Zamfir.

For example, in Baile Felix prices vary from RON 466 and RON 1,366 depending on the hotel’s star rating and the package of services (e.g. special events, spa). Asked about what local destinations Romanians like to visit during the winter holidays, Zamfir says that while Valea Prahovei, Brasov and Predeal are among the popular destinations for New Year’s Eve, Bucovina and Maramures are preferred for the Christmas holidays.

“Destinations that offer wellness and spa services have become very attractive to Romanians in the past two years and Baile Felix is in demand when it comes to winter holidays that combine different facilities,” concludes the representative of Transilvania Hotels & Travel.

As Anghel says, a Christmas holiday spent in Romania will become an emotional one, because through their offers, hotels allow tourists to relive many of their childhood habits and traditions. But let’s hope Santa is generous: “Often, Romania can be more expensive than other European capitals when it comes to spending a Christmas holiday,” adds Anghel.

Which tourists…

Stay Romanian:

Families with children

Have an average budget to spend on holidays and want to relax

Are attached to the traditional Romanian winter holiday and want the hotel that accommodates them to offer local Christmas traditions including gastronomy, thematic parties, wellness and spa services

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