Entrepreneurship · Lifestyle · PR

Why the Danube Delta needs better promotion & how I’d do it

We’ve recently visited the Danube Delta and I have to say it’s exactly how I had imagined. A raw, amazing corner of nature where man has interfered to a minimum. It definitely sits on my top 3 places to visit for their natural beauty. While Greece will forever be in my heart, the Danube Delta is closer to home and I’m helping the tourism in my country by visiting. The only thing I’d change about it is the way it is promoted. Read further to find out why.

From the very start, we were given a catalogue to choose destinations. It was very plain, with minimum details about the services included and the price range. It had not nearly enough info, so we had to do a lot of online research on our own. The catalogues could surely be improved and given a more professional look, with as many details as possible and HQ pictures. There could be a collaborative effort from the part of traveling agencies and the hotels or resorts. Visual content is a differentiating factor when you don’t have to worry about the prices.

It was a true adventure looking for the website of each resort. Considering you are surrounded by water and you can only leave on a boat, tourists are kind of obliged to spend all their holiday time in a single location. So that location better have many amenities included. I was surprised to see that some B&Bs did not have websites in this day and age. Naturally, we excluded them from the very beginning because we didn’t want any surprises, considering we were traveling with a 5-year-old. The ones that did have websites were not happier cases either. Perhaps for a regular person they may seem ok, but for someone like me who works in the field they looked homemade and had amateur written all over it. And that just won’t do it for a four star resort.

The way I see it, owners should massively invest in websites, since they are the only way of communicating with their audience. Of course, there’s word-of-mouth and holiday pictures posted on social media, but that is only a tiny fraction of their target market. Professional pictures and videos of the rooms, the location, the facilities and the surroundings are a must. Also, the content needs to be friendly and attractive, apart from informative. There is a general crisis in the area of content writing, but that is no excuse. If I were the owner of a resort, I’d hire a PR professional or agency to create and implement an efficient strategy. And I know I’d stand out from the crowd, because only a handful of other resorts are doing it.

We ended up choosing a high end resort, based on someone’s recommendation. We were thrilled it had both and outdoor and indoor playground. It’s something few places offer, and I never understood why. As a parent, you want to take your child on a holiday, and you might want to drop them off at a supervised playground or activity center while you’re lounging by the pool. Unfortunately, they did not have accommodation available during the period we wanted, so we moved to the next best thing. It was almost fully to our taste. The downside was that it didn’t have any sort of playground or children’s pool. On the plus side, we got to stay in a picturesque bungalow with thatched roof, X. found a spot where she could play safely in the pool and as a bonus it was heated, so we barely dragged her out of there at nightfall. The boat transfer from Tulcea was included, the staff were lovely, the whole place made me dream with eyes wide open and they had enough cats and dogs to keep our daughter busy. The problem of entertainment could be solved easily by installing a couple of swings and hammocks which can be used by adults and children alike.

They also offered trips to key locations in the heart of the Danube Delta, which were the highlight of the holiday. Too bad they partnered with locals who were not trained for the tourist industry at all. The cart ride to Letea forest was a nightmare, with a man who was probably drunk, stopped home to shout at his wife and show her who’s boss, then made the horses gallop and gathered all the dust around us so we could barely breathe. He casually showed us the 500-year-old oaks then hurried to get out of there. No word about the wild horses, except they’ve probably gone to drink water from a lake that was miles away. Had he been sober, groomed and well trained, it would have been a different story. Our group would have loved to be able to stop and take a closer look at the traditional houses in the village, to breathe the fresh air instead of sand and to take shots of the beautiful sun that was starting to set.

Luckily, on the boat ride back we went exploring around the canals, and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced. I saw the pelicans, egrets, cormorants and a gazillion other birds right at home, the yellow water lilies popping up here and there, a bunch of water snakes and a myriad of fish and frogs playing in the vegetation. Everything was quiet and so close you felt part of nature and you didn’t dare make a sound for fear you’d ruin the harmony. I was and still am amazed at how the boat drivers know the canals so well, the Danube Delta is one giant maze where you can’t find the way out on your own.

One thing I noticed during the boat trips along canals and the Danube was that most of the resorts and B&Bs did not have any name indicator. We recognized some from the images we’d seen online, but it was a true hide and seek game to find the destination. The boat would slow down every time it passed by a B&B, so we were confused. Name plates would easily solve this problem, I cannot understand for the life of me why they don’t have them. It’s a remote destination where you go and just relax away from civilization, but that doesn’t mean you have to literally feel lost.

The visit to Sulina was by far the most full of impact. You can feel the dirt and poverty all around, from the rusty town indicator to the sinking wrecks, to the dirty waters of the Danube and the sea. The sea was full of petrol and crawling larvae. There’s a reason why we decided to stop going to the seaside in Romania 3 years ago, and that’s the combination of filthy water and poor services. I would skip the trip to Sulina altogether, there’s nothing to see there except decay and locals trying to take advantage of tourists.

A few recommendations instead of conclusion:

1. Choose your destination wisely. It’s more expensive than the seaside or other holiday spots, but the experience has no comparison. Go all out on the location, facilities and food. Don’t miss traditional food. If you don’t like fish, don’t go there 😉

2. Apply sunscreen, lots of it. It’s hotter in the morning and the sun burns mercilessly. In the evening it’s chilly, but not the kind that can’t be solved with a sweater.

3. When you think of the Danube Delta, mosquitos inevitably come to mind. While we had to be extremely cautious not to let them through the door in the evening, they didn’t bother us too much. Letea forest though, that’s a different story. There were all kinds of insects and they stung every little piece of skin they could. I had to apply 3 coats of Autan before they let me be, but not before a huge mosquito bit my lip.

4. Choose motorboats, not the traditional larger ships. They are more pricey, but you spend less time between destinations. Be prepared for the wind to blow your hair (and everything else) away.

5. Pack comfy clothes. I practically lived in shorts and t-shirts during our stay, I packed a dress and 2 skirts for nothing. Keep in mind you will have to get on and off a boat several times a day maybe. Don’t pack your good shoes, they’ll get ruined in the sand. Flip flops are great for the pool, but don’t choose them when you go exploring. Go for sports shoes instead. Also, a pair of long jeans and a sweater or light jacket are a must. Don’t forget your polarized sunglasses and hat. Even if you don’t regularly wear a hat, you will once you feel that scorching sun over your head. And since we’re on this topic, you can pack light, most resorts think of your comfort and supply you with everything you might need.

6. Leave your car in a supervised parking lot, don’t choose free parking because you might not find your car when you return. Search for parking near the port, you don’t want to drag your carry-ons a long way. The seafront in Tulcea is full of bumps and cracks.

7. Make sure you go on organized trips. While it might seem thrilling and cheaper to go with the locals or simple boat transfers, resorts have better options. It’s safer, you will go with a group, you will have a guide, and they will wait for you if you’re late. Don’t miss the birdwatching trip. It sounds a little bit boring, but it’s the essence of the Danube Delta.

8. Take your camera with you. I chose to forego that step, and I kind of regret it. While my phone takes pretty good shots, I would have loved to zoom the landscape now and then.

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