By Daniel Stroe - BucharestGastronomic tourism could become part of Romania’s country brand, along the painted monasteries in Bukovina, the Danube Delta and the seaside, the head of the National Tourism Authority (ANT), Razvan Filipescu, said during an opening ceremony of the International Congress of Culinary Traditions hosted by Bucharest.Romania will host, between 13 and 16 March, the first International Congress of Culinary Traditions attended by 36 countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa.“Gastronomy is an important part of rural tourism and gastronomic tourism is intensely promoted at rural fairs and festivals across Europe. Rural tourism has developed over the past years both on an international level and in Romania thanks to its specific characteristics, among which preserving the environment, the local traditions, cultural values and participation in the gastronomic activities of the locals” Filipescu said in his opening remarks, as quoted by Agerpres.Over the four days of the congress, chefs from across the world will have to cook, beside representative traditional menus of their countries of origin, a traditional Romanian dish, too. Romania is the only country that brings a team of military chefs into the contests organized during the congress.Filipescu also pointed out gastronomic routes are becoming sough after tourism products. According to a study done by the World Tourism Organization, over 88 per cent of its members said gastronomy is a strategic element in defining the brand and the image of the destination, while 67 per cent pointed out their country has its own gastronomic brand. As concerns the tourism products, the same study showed gastro-economic events are the most important (79 per cent), followed by gastronomic routes (62 per cent), cooking workshops and courses (62 %), visits to local markets and producers (53 %), the Romanian official also underlined.The congress itself is organized with the very purpose to promote Romania’s culinary tradition. But agri-tourism in Romania is severely underdeveloped, representing less than one per cent of the whole rural economy which mainly consists in agriculture (more than 60 per cent). In Europe, the average weight of rural tourism is more than 4 per cent while the medium annual occupancy rate of rural hostels is about 60 days while in Romania this is around 25-30 days, official numbers show.At the same time, low incomes amid poor economic recovery have forced one in two Romanians not to make holidays plans this summer, a recent poll shows. About a third said they will make arrangements for a holiday only in 2015, according to a study by Mercury Research. Last year, about 22 per cent of Romanians above the age of 18 did not go on holiday, the data show.