Hungary is still a successful wellness tourism destination

As reported in the World Economic Forum’s “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017”, Hungary ranks 49th out of 136 analysed Countries for tourism competitiveness and, as a destination, can count on policies which generate an significant expense dedicated to the national Travel & Tourism industry (32th), a strong international openness (25th), a particular attention paid to environmental sustainability policies (10th), an organised railway infrastructure and, above all, an high hotel price competitiveness (13th). On the other hand, weaker points of the destination are the lack of branding and marketing campaigns able to attract international tourists (91st), high air ticket and airport taxes (103rd) and a low number of airports compared to the wide territory of the Country and to the number of inhabitants.

According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, international tourists that visited the Country in 2015 were about 15.6 million, and grew by 18% during 2016, along with the number of overnights, which grew by 21%. In the previous year, the most important origin markets were the United Kingdom (+20%) and Italy (+17%).

In fact, according to the “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2017” published by the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2016 the foreign tourists expense represented 62,7% of the Travel & Tourism direct contribution.

Generally, in the same year, the direct contribution of tourism to the Hungarian GDP was about 4.5bn euros (HUF 1,440.2bn), namely 4,1%, and it is foreseen to grow up to 5,3% in 2027. The total contribution, including the indirect and induced ones, was about 11,7bn euros (HUF 3,667.4bn), namely 10,5% of total GDP.

In 2014, the Hungarian Government approved the Tourism Marketing National Plan, which aims to promote new market segments through branding strategies and international promotion campaigns. A National Plan for Tourism Development is also being prepared; it projects the intervention of some local stakeholders which are going to invest in developing attractive tourism products, in hospitality and in DMOs’ activities.

The Government is promoting several initiatives to deseasonalise tourism flows. The most successful one is the “Budapest Winter Invitation” campaign, which aims to enhance tourism flows in the capital during the winter period through several promotions and advantageous tourist cards.

Hungary, with Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, joined the project “Discover Central Europe”, which has the objective of promoting this region of Europe to potential tourists. Moreover, in 2014, the ChinaCEE CountriesTourism Co-ordination Centre opened in Budapest, which aims to increase the visibility of the Central Europe Countries, promoting them to the Chinese market as one destination.

Tourism in Hungary has a strong leisure connotation. Notwithstanding, as reported by the Hungarian Tourism Agency, the business segment grew during 2016, along with the events that can be referred to the MICE segment which rose by 27%. Another important segment is the wellness one, thanks to the several thermal springs in the Country. Recently, the Ministry of Economy announced a renovation plan of thermal baths to consolidate the success of the destination in this segment.

Many events are planned for 2017, from music to food and wine festivals, aiming to foster the number of tourists in the Country, both national and international. A particular attention is paid to the 17th FINA World Championship, holding in Hungary in July.

According to the UK Foreign Travel Advice, in Hungary there is a low risk deriving from international terrorism, but there is a significant petty crime rate in cities.

At Twissen we observed that tourism in Hungary is a sector which is mainly linked to its historical wellness connotation and, consequently, to the leisure segment. Notwithstanding, the Government is adopting deseasonalisation and differentiation policies of the tourism supply, to attract different targets from new origin markets.

Author: Francesco Redi
President and founder at Twissen. Manager in Local Development, Tourism Policies,  EU Funds. He cooperates with several European universities, public bodies, development agencies, DMOs and enterprises.

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