Where are the domestic guests?
According to the Central Statistics Office, all of Hungary’s tourist regions were affected by the fall in domestic arrivals. Year-on-year, the number of arrivals decreased by 4.7%, with an 11% slump seen in terms of guest nights. In hotels accounting for 76% of domestic arrivals, the number of tourism nights decreased by 10%. And it is evident, that the slump largely affects rural hotels as the majority of foreign tourists (around 40% every year) visit Budapest.
That is not to say there are not great differences among Hungary’s regions. In 2012, 70% of Austrians visited Western Transdanubia, and hotels in this region very much felt the beneficial effects of the trend. “Last year our occupancy reached 79%, we have set records in every possible sense,” said Dezső Orbán, director of the Hotel Famulus in Győr, the regional center of Western Transdanubia. “An occupancy rate so high is highly unusual for a city hotel,” he added, but admitted that he doesn’t expect such good results for 2013. “Unfortunately, the economic and market outlook won’t allow us to stay too long at the top. We expect this year will be 5-10% worse,” he predicted.
Near the Austrian border in the town of Sárvár, famous for its thermal waters, the wellness and spa Spirit Hotel has also felt the benefits. “Last year, more than 50% of our guests were Hungarian, while foreign visitors arrived from Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Russia,” marketing manager Balázs Víg said. The occupancy rate of the hotel, which opened in 2008, was 50-60%, but Víg expects an increase of some percentage points year by year.
At the other end of the country, the proportion of foreign visitors is significantly lower. “Two-thirds of our guests are domestic, foreign visitors arrive mainly from Romania,” said Dr. Gábor Hevessy, director of the Aquaticum Debrecen Thermal and Wellness Hotel, adding that the hotel is primarily interested in the leisure market and that conference tourism is less significant for them.
Helping hand from the state
“Promotion of the country is a key government task, as it is important from both an economic and a social point of view to establish a consistent and positive image of the country and to show our values and diverse, unique offerings in an attractive way,” said Marianna Tóth, CEO of national tourism agency Magyar Turizmus, at the presentation of the marketing 2013 plan last November.
Rural hotels might not feel the benefits of the government’s plans, but that doesn’t mean they do not have their own ideas of how to promote tourism to the country. “Infrastructure is the key word,” Orbán emphasized. “If thermal baths and spas were renovated and sufficient conference centers were built in the capital and rural cities, national marketing campaigns would find their target easier.”
In Debrecen, foreign tourists would be welcome, but access is not so easy. “Marketing an eastern and a western airport besides Budapest would be a great help, as would facilitating entry from Russian and Ukrainian territories,” Hevessy said.
Miklós Gaál, sales director of the Lifestyle Hotel Mátra in Mátraháza, admits that the industry would be at a great disadvantage without the help of Magyar Turizmus, but also has suggestions to make the tourism business more lucrative. “Reducing the tax burden on the hospitality business, increasing the national marketing budget for tourism, and making regional marketing more effective would increase the number of guests,” he insisted.
But Szabolcs Tari, director of the Szalajka Liget Hotel in Szilvásvárad, looks at the situation from a different point of view. “Is it necessary to further increase the number of tourists? Isn’t it sufficient to increase the spending effectiveness of the existing tourists? Or target more wealthy tourists? It’s not necessary to find something new, it’s enough to take a look at the best practices of countries ahead of Hungary,” he reasoned.
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