Hungary’s tourism industry is expected to expand rapidly over the next five to 10 years, according to Dr Gabor Galla, managing director of the tourism investment consulting firm Tourconsult.
Tourism currently generates 8.5 per cent of GDP or $7.4 billion, which it attributes to its diverse cultural heritage, gastronomic traditions, ancient viniculture, spectacular national parks, World Heritage sites and the city Budapest which welcomes close to four million tourists annually.
“There are a good many available project plans and ideas – which can also be seen on www.tourinvestment.com – that are beyond doubt the foundation stones of successful investments,” said Galla.
Opportunities exist for the development of health and spa tourism, plus conference and incentive tourism particularly in the areas surrounding Budapest and Lake Balaton.
“The country has drawn up its National Tourism Development Strategy influencing the development of tourism until 2013, and the fact that between 2007 and 2013 more than $1.6 billion from European Union development funds have been earmarked for tourism development to supplement developers’ own resources (in the form of non-refundable subsidies) testifies to the key role of tourism,” he said.
While Western Europe and Italy are the country’s main feeder markets, new business is coming in from Russia and Asia.
Traffic at Budapest’s international airport is growing dynamically, covering almost the whole of Europe, and the number of flights to the Middle East and the Far East is also expanding.
As expected, Budapest grabs the largest number of visitor nights, but a great many tourists go to Lake Balaton and health tourism centres in western Hungary.
On the tourism supply side not only are Hungarian service providers present but the big international hotel chains are also active and have an increasing presence in the market.
“Within the development of commercial accommodation, mainly the improvement of the quality and/or quantity of existing accommodation and services can be supported but there are also opportunities for the construction of new three- and four-star hotels in key areas,” Galla said.
Within this framework the development of the infrastructure of conference and congress locations can also be supported.
One more investment trend in Hungary growing ever stronger is the golf course building trend of recent years. Today the realisation of golf projects complemented by four- or five-star hotels, wellness services and apartments/villas is among the most popular forms of investment. “The golf tourism market has enormous development potential. At present the number of international level courses with at least 18 holes does not reach 10, but due to the demand for the Central Eastern European market there would certainly be a need for three to four times this capacity,” he said.
“Due to the greater saleability of high-quality products, demand for four and five-star hotels has perceptibly grown, resulting in a considerable lack of capacity in the segment mainly in provincial areas. The capacity of hotels offering 4-star spa and wellness services has risen by 250 per cent in the last three years, still remaining below the expansion of the market, which on an annual level reaches 60 to 70 per cent.”