Transylvania notices its missed opportunity: Dracula tourism

They may get on track to promote tourism based on the horror story.

This is a press release from the Romanian Federation of Tourism and Service Employers:

FPTS: Dracula project to promote Transylvania as tourism destination to be the most profitable strategy.

[L]ocal authorities in Transylvania understood that the Dracula myth represents an unrivaled vehicle for promoting tourism in this region. Building on this should be spectacular and uninhibited by such preconceptions that kept hidden in a drawer until now the most valuable country brand of Romania.

It’s true that they have not done a great job at marketing this idea for tourism. Paranormal/horror/entertainment tourism is big business – consider Loch Ness, Siberia, Salem and Roswell. I’m not at all surprised by this and there is nothing really wrong with it. The attitude is a bit concerning…

The Dracula brand existed for a long time, we only need to exploit it and wrap it properly and then sell it in a modern manner. The highest problem so far in doing this was the hesitation of a certain part of the public opinion in associating Romania with the legend surrounding Vlad Tepes.

Exploit? Ok… People are interested in the legend but it gets dicey when the legend becomes detached from historic reality. I’m curious if they will focus on the horror of Vlad Tepes (it’s a good point they don’t wish to associate themselves with that) and how it will be linked with the literary Dracula. It’s not a bad idea at all but it can go horribly wrong. Remember the Dracula theme park idea?

Check out this piece from Smithsonian from 2003 on this exact issue and why Carpathians are a bit torn on the idea.

See Bran Castle on Wikipedia.

Bran Castle ("Dracula's castle") which is attached to the Dracula legend in Romania.

Bran Castle (“Dracula’s castle”) which is attached to the Dracula legend in Romania.

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  3 comments for “Transylvania notices its missed opportunity: Dracula tourism

  1. Halidom
    July 12, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    The people may not want to be associated with Vlad but he is part of history. I think if anything it will add a bit of allure to the tourism attraction. The idea of a real bad guy compared to Stokers myth will give the chills that some like.

  2. spookyparadigm
    July 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    I suspect, though I could be wrong, that you both have the problem backwards. Vlad is a complicated character, but he has been seen by many as a hero (populist who attacked nobles, law and order honesty, defender of Christianity against Islam, and national hero).

    Instead, I suspect that the real problem (and this is alluded to in the article Sharon linked to) is three-fold. On the one hand, the problem of this all being a bit silly and declasse, and making the country look cheesy raising the ire of intellectuals with some media sway. This dovetails with the second problem of the misuse of real history (Vlad Dracula) especially taking a national hero and using a foreign novel and films to turn him into a cartoon character. And then you have the third problem, which may be the biggest, and that is conservative opposition to themes of occultism, and to young alternative tourists seen as troublemakers. This could be easily painted as promoting the occult, with a likely audience including an overabundance of goths and the like. Think of how Burkettsville, MD was angry about the Blair Witch Project’s subsequent popularity, and proceeded to target Blair Witch visitors as interlopers who were not welcome.

    Here’s my insight for the day: tourism that plays with history, either as amusement or for paranormal tourism, has to be done grassroots, in this day and age it cannot be done at the high level of a big project like a theme park. There are too many moving pieces that opponents can use to derail the process, and too much money for a project to be dicey. I’m thinking of this case, but I’m also thinking of Disney’s early 1990s plans to build an American History theme park in northern Virginia near Manassas battlefield. Even though it would have been a massive potential tourist draw (a Disney park, and smack dab in the heart of a region where there is already major tourism themed towards American history), opponents were able to defeat it with multiple lines of attack. It was attacked on the usual angles of zoning and traffic and impact. It was also hit by affluent locals of the horse farm and vineyard set who wanted to defend their bucolic rolling landscape, albeit one a short drive from DC (and hence, they had a lot of media influence). Parallel were the preservationists who argued from the concern for damage to Civil War sites. And then lastly, and in some ways perhaps most damagingly, on a national level historians and intellectuals and opinion makers railed against the park because it seemed to trivialize American history (there was going to be a ride recreating the Underground Railroad; video game recreations of WWII dogfights; and the Monitor and Virginia fighting in a fireworks show on a pond every night). Disney ultimately scrapped the park, even though it probably would have been a success.

    One can have an objectionable tourist attraction. One can even have a whole town full of them. But it can’t be as part of one big project. Look at Salem, where there are several ridiculous Halloween-ish attractions that have nothing to do with even a cartoonish version of the witch trials. Or Gettysburg, where ghost tourism snuck in a tour at a time (and where there used to be cheesy museums and gift shops and other businesses not much better than the worst of Salem or Roswell). These all happened in small fits and starts, small businesses that as long as they got basic licenses, could do as they wish, and weren’t very big so communities didn’t rally against them. And then when they were successful, others followed suit. And so on until entire tourist districts of these towns were t-shirt shops, paranormal tours, and “museums.”

  3. Richard
    July 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I’m going to Romania in October to visit my godson, and we are planning a drive up through the Carpathians to the “Dracula” sites (Borgo Pass, Bran Castle, the Painted Monasteries,etc.)

    When I was there in 2008, I was amazed at the shrines and memorials to Vlad: although a horrific, even sociopathic human being, he is revered for the Rule of Law, his defense of the Orthodox Church, his battles against not just the Moslem Turks but other invaders, his establishment of monasteries and cathedrals and schools (some of which still exist). He’s a complicated character

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