Pensiuni in Romania: Rediscovering and Reinventing the Countryside through Tourism

R?dan Gorska, Maria Miruna (2016) Pensiuni in Romania: Rediscovering and Reinventing the Countryside through Tourism. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Full text available)

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Abstract

Rural tourism is a long-established practice in the industrialised West, but it is a comparatively recent and on-going development in postsocialist contexts. This thesis examines the development of rural tourism in Romania and draws on fieldwork carried out in one of the oldest and most popular destinations of the country, as well as in a newer and less visited location. As homestays are central to rural tourism, my research has an extensive focus on what happens with guesthouses and their owners. Countryside tourism is a practice grounded in a discourse that praises images of unspoilt nature, close-knit communities, material and cultural heritage and natural healthy food. Discourses about rurality also suggest that for city dwellers, village stays in their own countries can provide a way of getting in touch with their national identity, building, at the same time a sense of belonging. In Romania, such discourses are promoted by NGOs, state institutions and tour operators that aim to develop rural tourism. In spite of their efforts, in the destinations that I studied, rural tourism has strayed away from the ideal model. Instead of bucolic cottages inspired by the vernacular architecture of the region, hosts welcome their guests into large, modern villas equipped with state-of-the art amenities. Tourists too show a strong concern with material aspects of their accommodation, they rarely venture in outdoor pursuits and have little interest in notions of ‘heritage’ or ‘traditions’. My findings show that the lived experiences of local entrepreneurs have shaped worldviews that in many respects are at odds with the ideal models and best tourism practices promoted by various institutions. I also show how hosts and guests share similar notions of achievement and success and how this has turned rural tourism into a house-centred event. In explaining why discourses have little grounding in reality, I pay close attention to the economics of tourism, trying to understand guesthouses as businesses interlinked both with the wider forces of the market and with the socio-economic history of rural Romania. I show how the development of pensiuni was influenced by specific material and social constraints, arguing that a long history of living under oppressive regimes actually endowed locals with qualities that made them ready to embark on entrepreneurial pursuits. I also examine how kinship can be both a catalyst for growth and a factor that contributes to the stagnation or decline of businesses. Most notably, however, it was the unstable and burdensome legislative environment that had perhaps the strongest impact over the evolution of guesthouses, determining over half of the owners to stay in the shadow economy. My findings raise questions about the effectiveness and utility of many of the norms currently imposed on tourist entrepreneurs and I conclude by discussing a few ways in which institutions could respond better to the needs of guesthouse owners.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Uncontrolled keywords: rural tourism, anthropology of tourism, destination imagery, post-socialism, Romania, entrepreneurship, informal economy, hospitality
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GR Folklore
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2016 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2016 11:37 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/54973 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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