With a very dynamic global business environment, the Romanian economy is already adjusting to the new economic context, as growth settled to around 4 percent in 2019 from 4.4 percent in 2018 and 7.1 percent in 2017. With local elections coming soon, 2020 will be a challenging year for businesses. Still, there are some sectors which have registered robust development lately and thus have the potential to shine this year. Let’s meet the stars of the local economy in 2020!
Entertainment & wellness facilities in high demand around Romania’s big cities
Years of double-digit wage growth and poor infrastructure have stimulated the growth of new businesses in rapidly-developing Romania, and demand for entertainment and wellness facilities is booming, especially in the proximity of large urban areas.
By Sorin Melenciuc
If you’re thinking of visiting Therme, one of the biggest thermal water wellness centres in Europe, located some 20 kilometres north of Bucharest, you’ll have to be prepared to wait in a long queue to get in, as thousands of people living in or around the capital city choose to spend their time here on any given weekend.
The same phenomenon can be observed every weekend for similar attractions near other big cities such as Cluj or Timisoara, where large and expanding middle classes have benefited from the recent economic growth and have rapidly gained higher purchasing power over the past few years.
One of the major causes of this situation is poor infrastructure, generating difficulties when it comes to moving around the country. Visiting popular tourist attractions such as the mountain resorts on Valea Prahovei has become an awful ordeal for Romanians, as a 120-km trip from Bucharest to Sinaia takes five or six hours on average and requires a lot of patience. This problem has boosted one particular type of tourism in Romania: short-distance tourism, based on the proverb “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”.
Some tourism entrepreneurs have speculated this reality and have moved their investments closer to clients, inside or around big cities. Someone living in Bucharest can now visit several local attractions without doing much travelling, but the long queues prove that there is already a need for more such facilities.
Austrian group A-HEAT has invested around EUR 30 million in Therme Bucharest, the wellness center mentioned above, which opened in January 2016. The facility has an outdoor area of over 250,000 sqm and an indoor area of 30,000 sqm, and it can host 4,000 visitors at a time. It is split into three zones: The Palms (for relaxation), Elysium (wellness) and Galaxy (the family area that includes a playground). The investment has already proven successful. Within less than a year from its official opening, Therme Bucharest expanded its Galaxy area by 4,000 sqm, following an investment of EUR 10 million.
The expansion was carried out earlier than initially planned due to the unexpected success the centre had right after opening, according to Therme representatives. “Romanians were very open to the new relaxation, wellness and fun opportunities at Therme Bucharest. Expansion was a natural step due to our visitors in the Galaxy area,” said Stelian Iacob, general manager of Therme Bucharest. According to the company, three million Romanians and one million foreign tourists have visited Therme Bucharest in the four years since the centre opened. Other tourism investments close to the capital city have proven fruitful as well, as Bucharest inhabitants have had increasing difficulty in visiting resorts like Comana (30 km south of Bucharest) due to heavy traffic and insufficient parking capacity.
This reality suggests that there is a huge potential for investment in quality entertainment, relaxation, health and wellness facilities located in or near large urban areas in Romania. According to a recent A.T. Kearney report, the Romanian health & fitness market will reach a total value of EUR 360–380 million by 2023, up 45–55 percent versus 2018. Another connected market is the spa segment, which is still at a low level in Romania. There are a few dozen spa centres across the country, especially in hotels, and some day spa centers. In 2017, Romania’s spa market figure was around EUR 24 million, of which EUR 15.6 million in spa access (pool areas, saunas and other spa facilities) and 8.8 million in spa treatments.