Tourism potential of small and medium historic towns (Romanian case studies)

After the Second World War, tourism spread worldwide due to the technology revolution in transport and telecommunications, as well as diversification of international relations. Tourism became one of the most powerful forces from economic, social, cultural, and even political point of view. Thus, considering its global development, tourism is considered an important tool for economic profit. Due to the market diversity were identified many types of tourism and one of the most important one is cultural tourism, based mainly on cultural heritage destinations. In this context, the most common forms of travel involve visits to historical sites, including built and urban settlements, ancient remains, rural and agricultural landscapes, places with historical events and places with outstanding original traditions. In this way, cultural heritage resources have become significant sources for tourism industry.

In the economically developed societies there are strong reasons for cultural heritage preservation, such as: fear of over-industrialization and fast modernization; national pride and nostalgia for the past; economic reasons; aesthetic and artistic value. In these situations, the efforts for heritage protection are still facing many difficulties, including: sites physical destruction by large numbers of tourists in high season; traffic problems, pollution and rubbish; modernization and quick urban development neglecting historical properties; inadequate intervention into the local lifestyle; lack of funds for cultural heritage managers; and so on.

In the process of its development, tourism often acts in conflict with the basic requirements of cultural heritage management, potentially compromising or even destroying its values. It follows the need for cooperation between the two areas in which there must be a realistic analysis both for their needs and for the way of solving their basic requirements. In this context, it is the effort of the studies presented in this paper. In this book it is briefly presented a methodology for realistic assessment in tourist destinations with cultural heritage values, both in terms of its tourist attractions and its ability to absorb tourist activity without affecting its heritage value (actually, its vulnerability to tourism development). Simultaneous analysis of these two directions defines the tourism potential of a destination and one of the main results is the determination of relative weights related to activities of tourism development and adequate capitalization heritage. This methodology is applied to a particular category of tourist destinations, namely small and medium-sized towns endowed with historical centers, their visitation having an important percentage in urban cultural tourism, including in Romania.

The tourism potential assessment methodology was applied to ten case studies of historic towns across Romania, covering a wide range of features. The detailed study of each of these cases is presented as a plug-type analysis of the main indicators characterizing both the tourist activity and cultural heritage, concluding a systematic presentation rich of information as well as practical conclusions for the relationship between the two areas. Finally, an overview of the analyzed case studies recommends the proposed methodology as a useful tool in formulating a realistic development strategy.

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