Tourism Embracing ʼMake or Breakʼ Summer


We have all faced our challenges since a new virus appeared in what then seemed like far off China, whether it is looking after staff or looking after business (and frequently both), but few would wish to have had to play the hand dealt to those in the hospitality sector.

We are now approaching what would normally be high season, the European holiday month of August. While it is clear the streets of Budapest are beginning to fill up again, it is equally clear that very few of the tourists you do see are foreigners.

We had originally planned to bring you the Tourism Special Report in this issue at the very start of July. One thing COVID has taught all of us is to be nimble on out feet, however, so we shifted it back to the end of the month so we could get more accurate figures and better judge the current position.

Remaining ever mindful of the human health dimension but putting that to one side for the moment, the economic figures make for painful reading. Róbert Homolya, president and CEO of Hungarian State Railways (MÁV Zrt.) talked this week in a radio interview about the “brutal” loss of ticket and ticket revenue. Many will echo that sentiment.

Our excellent piece inside on the situation facing the hotel sector holds its own grim fascination, though it does also point to the one bright element, the recovery of provincial tourism. Budapest is the crown jewel for Hungary’s international tourism promotion, of course, and many, perhaps most foreign tourists will never get outside the city limits. That’s understandable, but they miss so much. It seems that many Hungarians have opted this year to staycation, a decision that strikes me as eminently sensible. The recent flare up of COVID numbers in areas of France, Germany and Spain, not to mention the grim picture in parts of Bulgaria and Romania, make buying a plane ticket to anywhere seem something of a lottery right now.  

(Having had the great good sense to marry a Hungarian, I was long ago inculcated in the delights of lakeside family holidays, and it is to Balaton that we will return this year.)

I have been struck by how matter-of-fact many business leaders I have spoken with are. My sense is that most are taking the view that complaining about coronavirus will not solve any of its challenges. True enough, but hanging with Damoclean foreboding over all of our efforts is the worry of a second wave. For many in hospitality, you suspect that would firmly move them from “make” to “break.” Control the controllables, they say, and let the rest take care of itself. That is easier said than done, of course, and I think I might just divert a little positive energy to praying for all our sakes that a vaccine is found soon.

This is our last issue before the print version of the Budapest Business Journal takes its traditional August break (the website, however, will continue to be updated as normal), so, whether you choose to staycation or vacation, I do hope you get a chance to get away from it all and rest and recharge. It has been quite a first half of the year, and I think we have all earned a break.  

Robin Marshall


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