Dracula tourism in Romania

RO: În România, turismul care îl promovează pe Dracula este o combinație dintre istorie și ficțiune. Poveștile se conturează fie în jurul personajului vestic fictiv Contele Dracula, fie în jurul conducătorului Vlad Țepeș, cunoscut drept Dracula, care a domnit în secolul al-V-lea. Aceste personaje sunt adesea combinate într-un personaj unic în turism.

EN: Dracula tourism in Romania combines fiction with history. It is centred  on either the fictional Western vampire Count Dracula or the historical Dracula, the fifteenth-century Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler. These two characters are also often conflated, or sometimes even forged together, into one Dracula figure in Dracula tourism.

Dracula tourism in Romania is an interesting combination of history, tradition and fiction. In Dracula tourism tourists visit locations connected to the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, the ones described in Bram Stoker’s novel  Dracula , and some other locations in Romania that the different tourist agencies want to show to the tourists. There are many foreign and domestic tourist agencies that offer different kinds of Dracula-themed tours around Romania. Although the reaction from the Romanian government towards Dracula tourism has been ambivalent or even hostile towards the fictional side of tourism, the official website of Romanian tourism does have information about both Vlad the Impaler and the fictitious Count Dracula. There is, however, no section about Dracula tourism on the main page or even on the page for the main  attractions in Romania.

Although there are similar  types of tourism in which historical and mythical figures have been used, Dracula tourism is quite unique because unlike many other cases it combines a  certain historical figure with a fictional character that comes completely from outside of the history and culture of the original historical figure.

Dracula tourism is a kind of tourism in which tourists visit sites and places that are associated with both the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, and the  fictional vampire, Count Dracula. Dracula tourism is mainly connected with Romania, although there is some Dracula tourism also in Great Britain. The latter is associated solely with the fictional Dracula and the locations visited are in Whitby and London, whereas Dracula tourism in Romania  is associated with both the fictional and the historical Dracula. Tourists may visit the Dracula locations on their own, but most Dracula tourists usually go on Dracula tours organized by different travel agencies.

Dracula tourism can be hard to categorize as a particular type of tourism.  It can be seen as cultural tourism, literary tourism, movie-induced tourism or  dark tourism. In addition, it also includes elements of heritage tourism. Cultural  tourism can be explained as incorporating all movements of people to specific cultural attractions, with the  intention of gathering new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs .Heritage tourism is a special form of cultural tourism. One way to make a distinction between cultural tourism and heritage tourism is their relationship to the past. It can be argued that in heritage tourism the focus is, or at least has been, more on the past, whereas in cultural tourism the focus is on the present. Heritage is also a much narrower concept than culture, because heritage is selective.

While Dracula tourism has elements of both cultural tourism and heritage tourism, it can also be defined as literary or movie-induced tourism. Literary tourism is the kind of tourism in which tourists visit the locations that either have connections to certain writers, or that form settings for novels.

After the early years of state socialism, during which Romania was all but closed  to foreign tourists, the country began to turn attention to the development and promotion of international tourism in the late 1950s. During the 1960s, Romania became one of the most accessible socialist countries for Western tourists, and in the 1970s tourism was promoted towards the West primarily for political and propaganda motives. In the mid-1970s other forms of tourism around the country were developed as well. This was also the time when some Dracula enthusiasts from the West, who wanted to see for themselves the locations found in Bram Stoker’s book and in the Dracula films, started to visit Romania. This type of tourism was a minority interest in Romania since most of the foreign tourists were from other socialist countries and knew very little about the vampire Dracula. To most Romanians the only link to the name Dracula was from Romanian history and from Vlad Dracul. Also, most of the Western tourists visited beach or mountain resorts and Dracula was not an important part of their holidays. Dracula tourism was (and still is) a diverse phenomenon embracing a large range of interests and motives.

Dracula tourism was tolerated by the Romanian government, but it was not encouraged. Romania wanted to use international tourism to celebrate the agenda and achievements of state socialism and to raise the country’s international profile, and, as such, Dracula tourism based around a belief in the super-natural and vampires was fundamentally discordant with Romania’s identity as a socialist state

During the 1980s, conditions in Romania deteriorated as a result of President Nicolae Ceauşescu’s policies. Although there were still some tourists visiting Romania because of Dracula, the attitudes towards Dracula tourism  and the whole Dracula phenomenon hardened.

After the 1989 revolution, tourism in Romania started to grow, but at first this growth was uneven. The decline reached its bottom in 2002, when Romania received fewer foreign visitors than in 1989. However, after 2003, the number of foreign tourists started to grow again. Today Dracula tourism in Romania is operated by a number of different travel companies, both foreign and domestic.

Romanian history before the Middle Ages is probably not seen as that  interesting in this context, and the same applies to some other time periods. So the eras that are seen as important enough to be told to the tourists are Vlad’s era, the era in which Romania first grew closer to the West, the socialist era, which is seen as something strange and negative, and the present day, which is seen as more modern, free and western, especially after the era of socialism.

Although the Dracula theme is constantly present on the tours, most of the locations visited do not actually have any connections with the fictional Dracula.It seems, however, that most of the Romanian tourist agencies do separate the two characters, particularly by focusing the fictional part of the tour only on Bistriţa and the Borgo Pass, with the small exceptions of Bran and Sighişoara. Dracula tourism has been opposed because it has been seen as something foreign and even as a threat to Romanian culture and history. The argument has been that Dracula tourism could give rise to a wrong image of Romania. Romanian Dracula tourism is an example of how a local agent can negotiate with a form of tourism and culture that is foreign, without having to compromise or lose one’s own culture.

 

Munteanu Sergiu