Business Review continues its #MakeItHappen campaign to promote Romanian entrepreneurship. So far, we have presented dozens of inspirational stories about Romanians who transformed their passions, hobbies and knowledge into successful businesses. We’ve revealed the stories behind domestic businesses, regardless of their sizes and the sectors to which they belong, because we wanted to highlight the diversity and creativity of the Romanian business environment. Through this campaign, Business Review and CEC Bank are strengthening their commitment to be the primary source for information and financing for Romanian entrepreneurial initiatives. #makeithappen continues with the story of ZagaZaga Land, a family business that has turned the Siret river into a tourist attraction.
Five years ago, Camelia Dobrișan, her brother, Eugen, and his daughter, Ioana Francesca, a long-standing family living near the Siret river, wanted to pay homage to the landscapes of their hometown.
They found a wonderful place a few kilometers from the hometown, in the village of Doaga, located on the border between Vrancea and Galati counties. This is how the ZagaZaga Land resort was born, as a family business that brings foreign tourists to see the beauty Romania has to offer.
“ZagaZaga is a family business, and it was developed out of our love for the Danube Delta. We wanted to bring the delta as close as possible to our home and we built everything you see today from scratch, as the Siret delta. Until last year, the whole area was a swamp, you couldn’t take your boat through the channels like you can do today”, says the entrepreneur.
The total value of the investment was 10 million euros. The money came from two EU funds projects, one providing EUR 5 million without VAT, and the other EUR 2.5 million. The remaining EUR 2.5 million came from banking sources, through a partnership with CEC Bank.
“The funds from the first project were only for the fish farming part. We built the sturgeon farm, dredged the lakes and built the canals,” the businesswoman explains.
Five years later, several tens of thousands of tourists have visited the complex. “ZagaZaga customers are between 2 and 80 years old. We have organized many teambuilding events this year. We can say that corporate workers with above average income like to organize their events at the complex. We don’t have the exact number of customers, but there have been several hundred thousand,” added Camelia Dobrisan (pictured right).
Most customers are from Bucharest, as well as from the West of the country, while fewer come from nearby places, she explains. “For all the other activities within the complex, we have people coming from neighboring counties: Bacau, Vaslui, Braila and Buzau,” says the businesswoman.
In the entrepreneur’s opinion, the challenge for the following year is to attract as many foreign tourists as possible, by organizing festivals as well as through advertising campaigns. “In general, our clients come for three or four days, but we also have many who choose to stay for a whole week. In 2019, we hosted three concerts, namely by Provincialii, Vama and Holograf, which were a real success. Also this year, there was the biggest blues festival in Romania, the Focsani Blues Festival, which had the famous trumpeter Arturo Sandoval taking part,” she says.
The entrepreneur says that their busiest month is August, when around 20,000 tourists arrive. The entire business is supported by 60 employees. “By 2020, we plan to employ about 50 more people, for the busy season period,” says the woman.
Camelia Dobrisan wants to build fish farms in the near future, as well as fish processing capabilities to sell products in restaurants and shops. “We want to develop the whole complex and offer integrated services. We also want to increase our accommodation capacity from 200 to 800 places,” she explains.
“We will also develop the agro-tourism component – we will arrange a sheepfold, a microfarm with rabbits, birds, horses, and cows, where tourists will be able participate in the activities. We already have an orchard where tourists can pick apples, plums, apricots, raspberries or strawberries,” she adds.
The most important business lesson is patience, she argues. “We have learned that this is a business where patience is the most important thing and we have learned, as entrepreneurs, to be patient,” she concludes.