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[Enjoy Transylvania!] Sovata – a Tourist Resort of Over 140 Years

In the interwar period, Sovata was a resort renowned not only in Romania, but also outside the country’s borders. After 1990, local public authorities have developed numerous projects to restore its shine and reputation. For the most part, they have succeeded.

Located at about 54 kilometres from the city of Târgu Mureş, Sovata has earned, throughout the years, the reputation of a European medical spa, mostly due to the Ursu Lake. The lake was formed on May 27, 1875, at 11 AM, after a salt mine collapsed. It is the biggest heliothermic lake in the world (40,235 square metres) and it is unique in Europe. The heliothermic effect is due to the greenhouse effect produced by the thin sweet water layer that flows over the salt water lake. The maximum depth of the lake is of 17.5 metres. Its water is suitable for treating various gynaecological, rheumatism related, endocrine, metabolic and neurological health problems.

Sovata is classified a Resort of National Interest, and the town is listed as an administrative territorial unit with large and very large anthropogenic resources. Through the Government Ordinance no. 2151/2004, Ursu Lake and the forest on the high-salt land – with an area of 79 hectares – were included in the “nature reserve and natural monuments” category.

The local authorities of Sovata knew how to exploit this natural advantage, and tourism soon became the main sector for this town, attracting local investors. Sovata has no unemployment. Actually, potential employees are hard to come across.

Ambitious development projects also mattered in developing the area. Consequently, tourism infrastructure was supported by large investments in road infrastructure and in renovating and modernizing tourist attractions. These projects were mostly done with the help of European funds obtained before and after Romania became a member of the European Union.

Ambitious Investments

Since 2006, the municipality has been rebuilding the roads of the resort and the alleys around the salt water lakes, has repaired and extended the waterworks and sewage system, has modernized the water treatment plants.

Two projects started before Romania became a member of the EU and worth mentioning are the upgrading of the Sebeș forest road – financed through SAPARD (Special Accesssion Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development programme) with over 4 million lei (900 thousand euros), through which the seven kilometres of the Sebeș forest road were modernized and repaired between 2007 and 2009 – and the Phare programme of over 26 million lei (over five million euro), through which the urban roads of Sovata spa resort were repaired – namely, 14 streets and three bridges, stretching over 14 km. The project was implemented between 2008 and 2010.

These major projects have completely changed the aspect of the resort, and the modernization of Sovata continued through other projects. One of these is the National Centre of Tourist Information and Promotion, developed through a project financed through POR 2007-2012, priority axis – 5.3, which also included building and equipping this centre. The project was finalized in 2015 and cost over 500 thousand lei (105 thousand euro).

Repairing and extending the infrastructure used by tourists in the nature reserve “Ursu Lake and the forest on the high-salt lands”, landscaping the Tineretului Lake for leisure activities, building the Observation Tower near the lake area etc. were other important projects launched in the first budgetary cycle after Romania entered the European Union.

Repairing and extending the infrastructure used by tourists in the nature reserve “Ursu Lake and the forest on the high-salt lands” was done through a project financed through POR 2007-2003 – 5.2, amounting to five million lei (over one million euro) and was carried out between 2012 and 2016.

The Projects Continue

During the current financing period, the town of Sovata is implementing two projects amounting to over 15 million lei (almost three million euros) and which will make the resort even more attractive.

On November 5, 2018, the Mayor of Sovata, Fülöp László Zsolt, signed the financing contract for the project “Landscaping the multifunctional leisure space around Doina Cinema”, amounting to 6.4 million lei (1.3 million euro). The project provides the renovation of a public space of about one hectare and the establishment of new public leisure areas in Sovata, the town of Mureș County which has become synonymous with relaxing and balneary treatments. In the new leisure area near the Doina Cinema, the Sovata City Hall intends to build a green and natural oasis, minimally intervening in the public space, but with great effect for tourists and locals.

Therefore, by the end of September 2021, the place will be transformed in a modern public and leisure area, eco-efficient and protective, accessible to the general public and to people with disabilities, through building and setting up pedestrian alleys, park furniture, completely landscaping green areas, adding new light fixtures and surveillance cameras and couplings to all necessary utilities. The project is financed through the Regional Operational Programme 2014-2020, Priority Axis 7.

By the refurbishment of this space, the area will have higher value and will be develop into multifunctional outdoor leisure grounds. Local authorities have met the potential beneficiaries of the project. Both parties expressed their intention to invest in six areas in the region that will directly generate 34 new jobs. Officials estimate that, in five years’ time, the number of tourists in the resort will increase by 22% compared to the reference year.

The financing contract for the second project was signed this year. The project financed through REGIO 2014-2020 entails repairing a street network of over 5,4 km, through the project “Modernizing urban streets in the town of Sovata”. The project amounts to almost 9.27 million lei (1.94 million euros), of which the eligible value amounts to 9.19 million lei (1.93 million euros). The FEDR financing amounts to 7.815 million lei (1,6 million euros) and the contribution from the state budget is of 1.195 million lei (250 thousand euros). The difference is allotted by the Sovata City Hall. Through this project, 16 streets in the town will be improved over two and a half years.

Along with these projects, local authorities also intend to build an aquapark. “We have sent an application to the Ministry of Tourism. The Aquapark would have both open-air and covered pools. The main reason for building it would be to divert some of the tourists from Ursu Lake, in order to protect the quality of the water ther”, explained the mayor of Sovata.

The private investments in tourism and those of local authorities, started by the former mayor, Péter Ferenc, now president of Mureș County Council, and continued after 2016 by the current mayor, Fülöp László Zsolt, have raised the standards of accommodation, restaurants and leisure activities. Consequently, Sovata has now become one of the most attractive resorts in Romania.

“The Sovata resort is unique in the world, because of its salt water heliothermic lake, surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. Due to its natural attractions, but also thanks to the beauty of the whole region and to major investments, Sovata is a brand of Mureș County and a national brand. Because of the healing properties of the water and sapropel mud, we can see ourselves as an important tourism destination in Romania.

All those working in local administration have had a major role in what Sovata has become today. Especially in the last 15 years, with the money received from structural funds, and with the local authorities’ financial help, we have managed to transform this resort in an important tourist attraction. This is a great gain both for the city, as well as for regional and national tourism.
We will not stop here with our investments. We will continue to develop the city and tourism activity, especially through opening new perspectives in the leisure area.” – Fülöp László Zsolt, Mayor of Sovata

By Ligia VORO & Marcel SANDOR

(From the special edition of TB 86 – „ENJOY TRANSYLVANIA!” – May/June 2019)

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