The Romanian Ecotourism Association (AER) participated for the first time in an event organized in Brussels, dedicated to alternative two-wheeled transport. The event took place on March 25-27 and was hosted in the newly renovated building of the Maritime Station. The fair was attended by traders and manufacturers of bicycles, equipment, and accessories for two-wheeled transport (classic bicycles, electric, transport, scooters, etc.), as well as tourist destinations and tour operators in Belgium or other countries.
Why did we choose to attend this event?
Such alternative events are our favorites because here we find our target audience: active people who are interested in the offer of outdoor activities and cultural programs offered by AER members and ecotourism destinations. Moreover, the cost-benefit ratio is very good, the participation costs being low compared to large tourism fairs and a much larger audience. In fact, some countries also officially participate in such events, knowing exactly what kind of tourists they want and where they can find them. This is the case of Slovenia, which three years ago participated in Photo + Adventure, a much more specialized event in Vienna, or of Poland, which had a stand at Bike Brussels.
How was our experience?
In short, very good! The public interest was far above expectations and until the end, we gave almost all the information materials, something that has never happened before. We were also surprised to find that many Belgians already know Romania or want to discover it. Not infrequently we were greeted in Romanian or they told us about the beautiful experiences they had as tourists or during their professional trips. But the positive image of Romania in Belgium is largely due to the very large community of Romanians in this country because not infrequently visitors have told us that they have Romanian colleagues.
What kind of experience do Belgians want?
First of all, the visitors to the stand were very diverse: seniors over 70 years old, families with children, or solo travelers. They generally prefer cycling programs in flat or hilly areas, with routes that are not very demanding. Quite a few are looking for adventure on cross-country or mountain biking trails. On the other hand, families with children are looking for safety, and this translates especially into bicycle lanes separated by the road, the type of bicycle infrastructure that is completely lacking in Romania. In addition, visitors also asked about the European cycle tourist route along the Danube, EuroVelo 6, from which Romania did not build even a meter.
The Belgians would like to come and visit our country, but we are not ready to receive them. At least not everyone. We cannot expect people to choose a holiday destination that does not offer them security, without tourist infrastructure and specialized cycling services.
However, people understand that the development of bicycle infrastructure requires time and money and for this reason, they are forgiving.
This article was made within the PET Romania project, developed by the Romanian Ecotourism Association, in partnership with the Ţara Dornelor Ecotourism Association, the Retezat Tourism Association and the Măgura Ecotourism Association, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014-2021 .
The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the EEA and Norwegian Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org.