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Budapest Becoming a top Spot for Winter Travel

Budapest can look forward to a strong Christmas and winter tourist season, with flight bookings to the Hungarian capital from long-haul travelers up 29.3% for the period from December 15 through January 15, according to research by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.

The Advent and Christmas Market at Szent István Basilica. Photo by Lerner Vadim/Shutterstock

The growth is the second strongest among the surveyed EU cities, with only Helsinki ahead of the Hungarian capital on a 29.6% growth rate. Two other capitals performed particularly well in the CEE region: Bucharest, which registered the third strongest growth (28.4%); and Czech capital Prague, with an increase of 16.5%, the ninth strongest performance in the EU.  

“When we look at the data, we see that Budapest’s strong booking position is due to notable capacity growth on routes from New York and Tel Aviv,” Jérôme Goldberg, global retail and travel retail director at ForwardKeys told the Budapest Business Journal.  

“However, there is more to it than that. Budapest is a stunning, elegant city that has a tremendous experience to offer visitors, including spectacular architecture, awe-inspiring museums and a rich historic cultural heritage.”

While it has been catching up with its Western European counterparts in recent years, it is worth noting that Budapest still lags behind in terms of the total share of long-haul bookings from outside the EU.  

Top three destinations London, Paris, and Rome possess a total share of 16.2%, 13.6%, and 7.4%, respectively. Budapest, with its 1.5% share is still well behind Munich, which occupies the last place in the top 10 destinations with a 3% share of the total.  

Targeting Austria

On the other hand, Vienna, the capital of Hungary’s most immediate Western neighbor Austria, does seems to be within firing distance. The city accounts for about 2.1% of total long-haul bookings, registering a year-on-year growth of 8%.

The Hungarian capital’s performance seems even more impressive, if one considers the fact that it has managed to actually beat some of its Western peers. Budapest has a larger slice of the pie of total bookings than Copenhagen (1.1%), Helsinki (1.2%), and Athens (1.3%).

Among direct competitors in the former Eastern Bloc, Budapest trails only Prague, which has a booking share of 2.7%. Bucharest accounts for just 0.5% of total bookings, with Warsaw also punching below its weight at 0.7%, despite the fact that the Polish capital’s population is similar to that of Budapest.  

Other underperforming regional cities include Zagreb, with a share of only 0.3%, and Ljubljana, clocking in at 0.1%. What’s more, these two cities actually registered a sharp year-on-year drop in bookings, with rates falling by 12.8% and 17.7%, respectively.

Budapest’s popularity among tourists as a winter destination, particularly around the holiday season, should come as no surprise. Last winter, a public vote for Europe’s best Christmas market, organized by European Best Destinations, saw the “Advent Feast at the Basilica” in Budapest gathering the second highest number of votes.  

This year, the Christmas Market on Vörösmarty tér has been open since November 8, while the fair at the Basilica opened its doors on November 22. Both are set to welcome visitors into January.