Velo Popas - the first cycling certification in Romania

Velo Popas - the first cycling certification in Romania

Bike in Time brings to Romania the first cycle tourism certification. As you are in a wine application, you will see in the following text what this certification has to do with wine lovers.

With the slogan “Popasuri SMART, prietenoase cu bicicliștii” ( "SMART Stopping Places, friendly to cyclists"), Velo Popas  invites accommodation units, local restaurants & gastronomic points, as well as tourist attractions (where wineries are also included), to register on the platform with the same name that is available to cycling enthusiasts from several corners of Europe. Each individual company has to meet certain criteria (some mandatory, others recommended) to receive the certification; the criteria can be found in the images below.

Among the advantages of the certification:
  • The only national certification for service providers from which cycle tourists benefit
  • An international recognition, including by the European Cyclists Federation and by the relevant Romanian Ministry
  • International promotion, on websites dedicated to cyclists
  • Attracting a growing tourism niche
  • An effective marketing tool: clear definition of the target group, differentiation from other services

In Europe, "cycling friendly" certifications are a tool used by tourists, but also by certified units. Velo Popas is part of Cyclists Welcome network that certifies and promotes in each country (Czech Republic-Slovakia-Poland-Hungary-Romania) the reception units friendly to cyclists. Velo Popas is the first certification dedicated to cycling tourism services in Romania, the other countries mentioned above having similar certifications and platforms.

In Romania, Velo Popas certification is offered by POPASURI - the Association for the protection of heritage through sustainable and responsible activities; the certifier is "Bike in time" agency - an operator specialized in cycle tourism.

We spoke with Ionuț Maftei, the representative of Bike in Time agency and the one who brought this certification to Romania. We leave below what we discussed with him.

Carmina: How did you think about bringing this certification to Romania? What advantage do you consider it brings to the activity you have with Bike in Time?

Two years ago I was involved in a regional European project, with nine participating countries. Together we created national cycle tourism networks, made national cycle tourism strategies and promoted the use of bicycles in the Danube region. Everything culminated in a velo strategy for the entire Danube region. I took care (together with the Slovenian partners) of the tourism part of the strategy, and these "cycling friendly" certifications for service providers were discussed quite a lot as being important in the future, both for tourists and for service providers.

Because we didn't have anything like that yet, I thought about these certifications for a while. After some time I made the decision to create or bring such a certification. In this way I can contribute to the development of cycle tourism and build something real for Romania the end of this project. The project was called
Danube Cycle Plans and was part of the Interreg - Danube Transnational Programme, the Romanian partner being The National Institute for Research and Development in Tourism (INCDT); more details are here.

Carmina: I understand that the VeloPopas certification is part of a Central European group, along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. Each country has its own platform with its own name, but similar to each other. How do cyclists from other countries know that this platform also exists in Romania? Can they directly contact suppliers in the booking platform?

Tourists planning their vacations can find out about the existence of "cycling friendly" services from various sources, mainly online. Currently the most important online source is EuroVelo platform, which has a page dedicated to these certifications in Europe. In addition to the online part, there is also promotion by marking specific signs, logos and indicators near accommodation units, restaurants and tourist attractions. This would be a second phase of the project, but it is still developing.

Carmina: you organise a lot of bike tours and among them there are a good part at wineries. What is the feedback received from the foreign tourists that you work with and that you take to wineries in Romania? Do they like us? How is the wine? How are the bike rides in wine areas from Romania?

That's right, wine tourism combined with the active part (bicycles, hiking, horseback riding, etc.) works very well, not only here, but everywhere. The feedback is very good/positive, and because we are still asking tourists about the level of services, we also found out possible explanations. One I like very much and I heard it from several tourists who participated in similar experiences in other countries, so they could make a difference: we are at the beginning in wine tourism, we still organize tours and tastings with the people who are directly involved in the manufacturing process and the business; sometimes the guided we have at the wineries being the owners or managers. This brings tourists additional information, including from the technical, financial, etc. area, which no longer happens in countries with a more developed tourism tradition, where the tourist side is handled by guides - they know very well how to present, but they can't provide additional information. It's an advantage that we'll probably lose as the tourism side develops, but for now we're using it as an asset that tourists don't expect.

If the wine is good? I say yes, so far I haven't had guests disappointed with the quality, but more with the fact that they can't purchase it in their countries.

How are the bike rides around here? I would say that in relief and views we are on the same level. For example Dealu Mare and Dealurile Moldovei have the same altitude and the same difficulty as Tuscany, Burgundy or Bordeaux. What we're missing is some infrastructure signage, but that's likely to come in the near future and similar Velo Popas certifications have helped visualize points of interest along the trail.

Carmina: Velo Popas platform has 3 categories: "Accommodation Units and Campsites", "Tourist Attractions" and "Gastronomy" (restaurants and gastronomic points can be registered here). Wineries can be registered in the "Tourist attractions" section. Tell me more about it.

The wineries needed a separate discussion from the rest of the beneficiaries. Instinctively, we would classify wineries in the "gastronomy" category: they are not museums/monuments/tourist attractions and wine is part of gastronomy. But the presentation of wineries is very similar to a presentation of tourist attraction (a church for example), and the tasting itself is a "performance" made by the wineries' guide. So the tourist part of the wineries comes closer to the "tourist attractions" category than to the gastronomic one. In addition, the criteria of the "gastronomy" category would exclude most wineries, because they do not have a restaurant classification/authorization and cannot offer food. Moreover, if a winery wants to be certified in the "gastronomy" category and meets those criteria, we can place it in the "Gastronomy" category, or we can offer two/three certifications, if the criteria of each category are met.

Having said that, we invite you to enter the Velo Popas platform to see what it's all about and contact Ionuț Maftei directly for additional details and, why not, to obtain a certification on this platform if you are the representative of a unit accommodation, gastronomy or tourist attraction that wants to promote itself in the cycling community of Europe.

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