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Budapest Christmas Fair 2020 Moves Online

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Savanevich Viktar / Shutterstock.com

The coronavirus has taken a huge toll on tourism, with the annual Advent and Christmas Fair just the latest high profile victim, but craftsmen who have missed the opportunity to cash-in from Christmas shopping in Budapest will be compensated with a webshop. As to the fate of the yearly event, Csaba Faix, the head of Budapest Brand Nonprofit Ltd. tells the Budapest Business Journal what can be expected in the near future and perhaps next year.

The traditional Advent and Christmas Fair at Vörösmarty tér in happier times last year. Photo by Savanevich Viktar / Shutterstock.com

BBJ: Now that there are so many precautions for COVID, what can we expect in terms of the Christmas markets?

Csaba Faix: We took the responsible decision to cancel the Budapest Advent and Christmas Fair on Vörösmarty tér very early, in the middle of October, because the effects of the epidemic were already felt and could be expected in the future as well. We could not have made this otherwise important event happen with sufficient [safety] assurance, and we did not want to expose either the vendors or the visitors to any danger. Since then, we have all agreed, that it is not possible to hold a fair (or any kind of event), which is why there will be no mass Christmas fairs and events in Budapest in the classical sense.

BBJ: What is “Plan B”? How are the artisans who would normally sell their wares at the markets trying to make up for lost income?

CF: Since the cancelation of the Christmas Fair, but also in the lockdown of the spring and early summer, caused a huge loss of income in the life of the craftsman, we thought that we would like to help them, and the Budapest residents and visitors as well, who have so far always been happy to come to the fair year after year. Therefore, with our team, we have started a Christmas campaign, which we will launch soon, and which will offer creations for purchase in an online space. We consider it important for traditional and handmade souvenirs to stay on the market, but we also want to create a festive atmosphere. That’s why we would like to ask everyone if you can check out budapestkaracsony.hu and choose a gift from there this year instead of Amazon.

BBJ: How could you cope with the fallout from COVID? How much revenue loss will it cause for the company?

CF: Due to COVID, the company is expected to have a loss of 86% of our market revenue this year, which can be offset from the profit reserve accumulated in previous years.

BBJ: What online solutions are you trying to find?

CF: Almost all of our exciting projects and events have been transferred to the virtual space, except for two: we were able to successfully organize the CAFé Budapest Contemporary Art Festival in October, and we coordinated the Hungarian and mainly the capital’s tourism organizations and we held the World Tourism Day, where we strengthened this cooperation. But going back to the winter; the Night of Music, the Christmas Fair, and several smaller programs are all successfully migrating to online platforms now, and fortunately, we found out that the people of Budapest have received all this well and they have adapted themselves to the current strange and unique situation.

Csaba Faix. Photo by Zsolt Reviczky

BBJ: Has there ever been a similar case in the history of Budapest Brand that caused as much damage and loss of revenue?

CF: No. Just as the losses are unprecedented for the whole profession, so they are for Budapest Brand, because not only our revenues related to tourism but also those to our Christmas shopping have disappeared.

BBJ: Breaking it down into various seasons, fairs and events, what have we missed out on this year?

CF: In the first wave of the virus, we missed the Budapest Spring Festival (April 3-20), the Spring Fair (April) and the Kingdom of Pentecost (June 1), and now the Christmas Fair (November-January 1, 2021). In addition to these, many of our projects and initiatives have been kept in the pipeline for the time being, and we are trying to come up with new solutions.

BBJ: What other sectors related to you will be affected by this?

CF: In terms of the significant and perceptible, the epidemic is most radically affecting the tourism sector, as foreigners do not come, cannot come, and this has a disproportionate impact on all the domestic segments and service providers. Also, I see that smaller businesses and services providers, for example the beauty industry etc., have also found themselves in a very difficult situation again.

BBJ: It is difficult, of course, to predict the timing of the final “disappearance” of COVID, but do you already have any plans for next year?

CF: I am confident that in 2021 we will be able to make up for and organize a lot of things, and tourism in Budapest will restart in a good, or even better direction than before. This period encourages everyone, including us, to be creative, and by working together, supporting and adapting to others, we can still get out of it. Budapest has not given in to this and is openly waiting for a fresh start!

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of November 27, 2020.

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