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An analysis of the tourist resort transformation in Lepsa, Gresu and Soveja.

Although the actual realities show distinct time and space evolutions for the three localities, we are of the opinion that a unitary vision at a local level (townhouse, local communities), as well as regional/national one might lead to a stable development of the local tourism. As advantages, we can enumerate the natural tourist potential, as well as the reevaluation of regional connection by means of DN 2D highway between Moldavia and Trei Scaune Depression, Transylvania included.

Many methods have been applied, from description (natural landscape, the condition of the tourist infrastructure), comparison (a parallel between Soveja/ Lepsa and Gresu, the region's situation in the national and international context), explanation (of some mechanisms that control the relationships between tourist phenomenon and environment, between the focused region and the nearby counties, between the population of these 3 localities and the tourists) to the modeling (upgrading the region-PUG, PUZ), the relief's general favorability for buildings, the secondary residence's favorability and the structures of the official housing regarding many parameters: exposition to Sun, the landscape's structure, field of vision, declivity.

The pursued objectives are the following:

1. Demonstrating the utility of a tourist resort (winter sports-ski slope-the existing natural tourist potential-relief, vegetation), closely related to the agrotourist and ecotourist function of the 2 localities; this 2 functions are not very well developed yet. As far as Soveja is concerned, the objective entails trying to demonstrate the necessity of attracting new categories of tourists (taking in consideration the spa function) by producing new forms of tourism-agro tourism, ecotourism-and modernizing the already existing base in order to maintain the current clients (old people, clients obtained via SIND Romania).

2. Demonstrating the necessity of interactions of the 2 areas by enforcing the communication ways and that of collaboration in order to maintain and develop some structures (tourist information, ski training and advertising them as a homogenous region in tourist magazines.

Taking into consideration sustainable development, tourism becomes of primary importance; Kurt Kraft, some of the pioneers of the modern tourist research, state that: 'the duality of the concept, human activity as well as technical-economic apparatus, (...) encompasses at the same time a subjective element, as well as a material substrate, being the basis."

Nobody can deny the mixture between the Economics, Sociology and Geography or Ecology, because there is a close, undeniable connection between the exploit of resources given by the tourist space, enhancing the life standard (more spare time, better salaries, lower space-time ratio) and better valorization of the tourist spaces. Considered individually, the environment issue and flow registration (tourists, financials) remain a problem.

The analysis of the housing base was performed as a parallel between Lepsa and Gresu on the one hand, and Soveja on the other. This method has been chosen according to the tourist features of the 3 towns; Soveja has a tourist history marked by efforts towards development in the communist period (equipment plans between the 60's and 70's), and to a lesser degree after 1990. On the contrary, Lepsa and Gresu are not the result of a post-December regime but a more preferential one.

Note the great number of guest houses for Lepsa and the emergent number of guest houses in Gresu (although, for example," Santa Lucia" Guest House is one of the oldest guest houses, ranked "4 daisies" in terms of quality standards). Soveja, on the other hand, has a low number of guest houses (3 out of the 8 guest houses have a closed circuit, unavailable to any kind of tourists). The explanation is the focus on organized tourism in Soveja's case (ONT, OJT, SIND ROMANIA) that refers especially to tourist structures.

Guesthouses in Soveja are located near the spa resort (in the area where the mountain meets the depression), the rest of the town providing no accommodation; the spread in Lepsa is more homogenous, emphasizing a more attractive character materialized through higher tourist character; Gresu is influenced by the flows concentrated in the Lepsa area, and it is less favored by nature compared to Lepsa (inactive terrain drifts, but with high risk of activation in case of potential human pressure--construction of holiday resorts).

It is important to state that most guesthouses in Gresu and Lepsa belong to private entrepreneurs, and not to the ANTREC, as opposed to Soveja, and this is the reason why guesthouse owners have a different behavior, offering only accommodation (refrigerator and kitchen) without including a traditional meal. This is an incomplete offer compared to the one included other areas (Bucovina offers complete package in its guesthouses--accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, entertainment). This deficiency is caused by the fact that guesthouse owners are not natives, they only come here seasonally, choosing to hire local personnel without any qualification.

In terms of the occupancy level, our study revealed many seasonal differences; the index significantly increases during summer and winter holidays (70%100% depending on the period chosen during the week), and spring, autumn and winter have lower indexes (10-40%). Concerning the room structure, in all three analyzed localities, 90% of the rooms have twin-bed rooms and only 10% considered a 3 bed system, this suggesting a certain rigidity in interpreting demand.

The analysis of the numbers in tables 1 and 2 shows Lepsa agro-tourist profile, the orientation towards organized hotel type tourism in Soveja, and the initiation of Gresu locality in tourism business with the tendency to copy the current model of Lepsa.

The same numbers reveal the static character of tourism in Soveja (just 2 guesthouses), tourist dynamism just at construction level (vacation houses, guesthouses, motel) in Lepsa and the incipient state or tourism in Gresu.

If we take into account the classification of J.-M. Miossec (C.H.E.T., Aout 1976), who distinguished 4 phases in tourism special investment (pioneering, endowment, organization and saturation), we can see that in case of the analyzed area we have a transition period between pioneering and endowment for Lepsa and Gresu, while Soveja is in the third phase, going towards saturation.

Tourist function, seen from a broader perspective, may lead to a correlation between the number of accommodation places and the population number in that town:

TF=no. of acc. places/no. population in localityX100
Hence it results that:

For Soveja    2004 TF=438/2.760X100=15,86
              2007: TF=463/2760X100=16.77

For Lepsa     2004 TF= 452/294X100=106
              2007: TF= 665/294X100=226,4

For Gresu:    2004: TF=84/121X100=61,1
              2007: 86/121X100=71

We can see that the greatest tourist function is held by Lepsa, confirming both its tourist supremacy in the area, and the emergence state of the tourist degree for Gresu (still submitted to the flows existing in Lepsa locality) and the regression of Soveja, caused by the stagnation of accommodation units as result of the tourist profile imposed in that area by the quality of the interfacing infrastructure (roads, accommodation and entertainment resort, etc.), and by the large number of constant population in this area (compared to Lepsa with a constant population of 294 inhabitants, submitted to high demographic risks, from old people moving there in secondary residences to the migration of the young existing population to other areas where they can easily find a job).

Accommodation economic potential is necessary for understanding the economic value of accommodation in that area and may offer a hint on the touristy degree in the 3 localities:
  Accommodation       Tourist   Occupancy     Economic
    Type               offer      level        price

1 hotel room          =2lits    =40%-0,40   =400.000-4.0
Bed in guest house
One room              =2lits    =30%-0,30   =300.000-3.5
2-4 beds Guesthouse   =4lits    =20%-0,20   =210.000-2.1

Accommodation          Accommodation
Type                      economic

1 hotel room           =2x0.40x4=3,2
Bed in guest house
One room              =2x0.30x3.5=2,1
2-4 beds Guesthouse   =4x0.20x2.1=1,68

This analysis shows the fact that in our area the best profit for the ratio tourist no., beds no., room rate is obtained for hotel rooms. The explanation is found in the occupancy level, generally due to the guesthouse owners' capacity to advertise their offers.

The medium period of accommodation for the analyzed area is computed after the formula applied for 2005:

Ms=no. of nights/no. of tourists, Ms=68.816/24385=,8

This evinces a trend for weekend tourism.

The transportation factor: it is important for tourism, for the easy transport of the inhabitants of the area, for reinforcing the distance/time relation; the transportation factor shall be analyzed as a vector for spreading tourism, which facilitates the future extension of tourist polarization area and contributes significantly to the future area development. The communication map shows us a better picture of the access potential both to the target area and to other areas.

Access is possible through:

* E85/DN2 (Giurgiu-Bucharest-Focssani-Suceava-Siret), European road connecting the frontier points, which may facilitate the foreign tourist access to the Focsani City

* DN2D (Focsani-Tulnici-Lepsa-Ojdula-Tg Secuiesc) with an opening to Trei Scaune Depression, and thus to Transylvania

* DJ 205F (Panciu-Soveja-Lepsa-Tulnici), connected through DJ 204E(7km) to E85/DN2D

The main stake is placed on the renovation of the DN2D national road between Focsani and Tg. Secuiesc, which would do away with the isolation of the Lepsa-Gresu Depression, with increase in both human and financial flows, but also with a high phonic and chemical pollution risk for the residences near this access way.


The resulting tourist landscape and the impact on spatial-temporal dynamics in the target area

Landscape as a concept also included the tourism area, imposing itself as the concept of tourist landscape, subsequently becoming a cliche, as an incomplete image for tourist agencies. But for people, as individuals, it may be a more or less observed landscape, or even unobserved. From anthropological point of view we may refer to Lepsa and Gresu as spread localities, Soveja being a compact type locality; Lepsa has tendencies to become more compact as result of the great pressure exercised by the extension of constructions both by concentrating and occupying the mountains base.

The main aspect that must be emphasized is the one of the report between primary/secondary residences, an unfavorable one for the 3 towns: Soveja concentrated all its tourist infrastructure in the mountain area in contact to the depression internal sub-Carpathian area, enjoying the well-known benefits of the high ozone concentration, less secondary residences (that in the '90s, because now most have been transformed to primary residences), being located near the resort and Poiana Punga (role of Soveja cultural center in the communist period and with tendencies of growing value now) and primary residences occupy the sub-Carpathian area of the depression.

Lepsa and Gresu have a scarce constant population (until 1990 just hamlets) 291 and respectively 121 inhabitants; the difference is due to the increasing number of secondary residences until 2006 in Lepsa. It has been proven that the building grounds are insufficient in that depression, on areas with good natural conditions, considering the landscape parameters (slope, landscape fragmentation, cliffs orientation, altitude) and natural risks with subsequent manifestation and emergence in Gresu, with tendencies of copying the development pattern of Lepsa, but with precarious natural conditions (increased risk of terrain drift).

Secondary residences in Lepsa and Gresu are not concentrated in one spot, the main feature being expansion on secondary valleys (Lepsa and Gresu, Strei) or in areas with plane ledges that were initially not considered of interest by the inhabitants (Poiana Porcu, the contacts between the slopes and ledges or even areas near the ledge tops). Primary residences have been developed especially along the DN2D national road.

Gabriel Rougerie and Nicolas Beroutchachvili (1991) divided landscape and building exposure efficiency depending on the quality of the sightseeing and the proximity of target natural tourist points in:

1. closed visual field (<40[degrees])

2. semi-opened/semi-closed visual field: (40-60[degrees])

3. opened visual field (>60[degrees])

This division was applied on our study area, most buildings being in the last two categories.

Tourist comfort and building quality may be qualified in favorability classes depending on landscape quality and variety, landscape structure, cliffs orientation, slope, human pressure.

Landscape quality and variety has been assessed by using survey polls [200 subjects); values were given from 1 to 3 (1 being for the most attractive landscape)]; we still had an index with a high subjectivity level. Landscape structure is based on G. Rougerie and Nicolas Beroutchachvili classification, value 1 being given to the (angle >60[degrees]) class. In the case of slope and cliff orientation, the TNT MIPS 6.9 software was used for modeling. Human pressure was computed depending on the residence number divided to the settlement surface, thus resulting:

1. Favorability 1 areas: Intersection of Lepsa and Putna (the right side), the secondary residences placed on the basis of the Piciorul lui Ivan cliff being exposed to East and South, and the buildings situated on the Putna right bank, East way from Piatra Ciutei and having a Northern opening, etc.

2. Favorability 2 areas: classified as medium are the buildings from Poiana Punga, Poiana Porcu, the ones on the superior side of Valea Strei, the ones in Gresu, etc.

3. Favorability 3 areas: villas on Valea Streiului from the middle and inferior current, villas facing South from the Tisaru Mare base and even cases of building in the minor bed, etc.

4. Non-analyzed areas: Dragosloveni and Rucareni villages, villages making up Soveja and where the pressure of primary residences is too great to allow new tourist structures.

Tourist suitability for constructions. Vrancea area. Lepsa, Gresu, Soveja

As a result of the analysis, several conclusions were reached: although the development of secondary residences may represent in a certain area a potential for economic development through the tourism function, there are some negative premises for these settlements--Lepsa and Gresu--not to develop into a financially profitable tourist resort with an increased life comfort but to become a village comprising solely primary residences.

These primary residences may develop if owners of secondary residences come to live here at an age that would no longer include them in the active population, thus leading to population ageing.

Population aging corroborated with the poor development in tourist infrastructure may easily lead to this situation in the first 15 years, out of the first secondary residence type constructions, only 25 guesthouses and 2 hotels were built, without any sport or spa resort).

A crisis situation may appear in case people living in the area would find it impossible to continue farming activities (transformation of 1st class land agriculture in 2nd or 3rd class grounds for construction) and tourism would be at a stalemate. The result would be unemployment for people in the area (logic may lead us to think that part of the population would migrate from the agricultural sector to the third-tourism sector), and thus, future social tensions will appear with population migration and abnormal population ageing.

The solution would be that guesthouse or secondary residences owners hired local personnel, thus ensuring training and economic stability through this job. Currently, any profit from existing week-end tourism goes to Galati, Braila, Constanta, Tulcea, Bucuresti, or Focsani counties, in the same county the guesthouse or hotel owners originate from, so this is not a contribution to area development.

The large stakes in these 3 towns are:

* The establishment of a Lepsa-Gresu tourist resort (entertainment, sports base, landscape, road trips)

* The need to invest in modernizing the tourist and interfacing infrastructure in Soveja, and to restore the tourist function of the Poiana Punga cultural complex (Soveja)

* The importance to use and promote modern forms of tourism (agro-tourism, eco-tourism); for Soveja there is the alternative of organized tourism (spa resort), incapable of self-sustaining the resort attractiveness, and for Lepsa and Gresu there is the solution of attracting more tourists

* Signaling the danger for Lepsa and Gresu to become settlements with no tourist attractions by turning secondary residences into primary residences due to owners moving in these areas.

* Renovation of the DN2D national road between Focsani and Tg. Secuiesc, as basis for the flows from Transylvania to Southern Moldavia and to the seaside and the delta.


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Sergiu PLESCAN *, Ciprian CHELARIU *

* "Al.I.Cuza" University, School of Geography and Geology
1. Housing Capacity Lepsa, Gresu, Soveja 2004

Locality   Housing capacity   Guest House   Hotel/ motel

Lepsa            452              308            80
Gresu             84              42             42
Soveja           438              95            335
Total            974              445           457

Locality   Other housing

Lepsa           64
Gresu           --
Soveja           8
Total           72

2. Housing Capacity Lepsa, Gresu, Soveja 2007

Locality   Housing capacity   Guest House   Hotel /motel

Lepsa            665              465            80
Gresu             86              44             42
Soveja           463              120           335
Total            1214             629           457

Locality   Other housing

Lepsa           120
Gresu           --
Soveja           8
Total           128
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Author:Plescan, Sergiu; Chelariu, Ciprian
Publication:Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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