Will Romania be a new hotspot? I read a few weeks ago that Time Out Bucharest is now on the stands, which is a sure sign that hipsters and intrepid travelers are going there and sticking around a while. Now comes this report, which says that Romania is the 4th fastest-growing country in the world in terms of tourism demand. That’s starting from a very low base, I’m sure, so a dramatic rise is not so difficult, but it’s still noteworthy.

Flickr photo by zsoolt

Romania is actually replacing the Czech Republic in my next edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations. The latter has gotten a lot more expensive with the EU-alignment and the scads of moneyed vacationers popping in for a short time in Prague, so Romania is the next value frontier. (Joining Turkey, Bulgaria, and Hungary in the Europe section).

I have to admit I liked Bucharest a lot when I was there, even though I was there against my will. I naively thought that despite only spending $350 for a flight from India to New York I would be home in time for my welcome back clubbing plans. Four days later I got to New York, after a mandatory vacation for three days with no luggage. My flight was on Tarom Airlines–’nuff said.

I always figured that my favorable impression was influenced by the fact I had arrived there at just the point I was ready to strangle the whole population of India. Bucharest seemed downright efficient and super-civilized, the travel equivalent of a deep breath and a sigh. The architecture was interesting (what hadn’t been flattened during communism that is), the streets were clean, the subway worked, and the beer was good. I was a happy camper.

Of course the real payoff is in beautiful Transylvania, where I hope to get to before word gets out and it becomes completely overrun. If you’re heading to Europe sometime soon, put it on your list and beat the crowds.

Oh, and if you want to see what governments and tourism boards talk about in their branding meetings–read the report in the link above. It’s no accident that some destinations are better than others at pulling in the crowds. Give a good budget to the MBAs and the advertising execs and who knows what kind of rabbit will come out of the hat.