Tourism has outperformed growth in the wider economy over the last decade. The sector directly contributed 6.5% of Hungarian GDP in 2017, rising towards 10.2% of GDP when indirect impacts are included. The same year, tourism directly accounted for over 418 000 jobs, or 9.6% of total employment. Travel exports represented 23.5% of total service exports in 2018.

Hungary welcomed a record number of visitors in 2018, following years of steady growth. International tourist arrivals totalled 14.9 million, an increase of 5.7% on 2017. The top source markets for inbound tourists are Germany (13.5% share), Romania (11.1%), Austria (9.3%) and Slovakia (8.7%), which collectively made up 42.7% of arrivals in 2018. Other markets of significant volume include the Czech Republic (5.5%), United Kingdom (5.2%) and Poland (3.3%). Bed-nights from international tourists reached 20.2 million. The domestic tourism economy is also significant, with 14.4 million domestic tourists recorded in 2018, similar to the previous year. Domestic bed-nights in all types of accommodation reached 22.1 million, a growth of 6.1% from the previous year.

Overall responsibility for tourism was recently transferred from the Ministry of National Development to the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister, demonstrating the importance the Government attaches to tourism.

The Hungarian Tourism Agency is responsible for the development and management of tourism. Established in 2016 to maximise the contribution of tourism to broader national policies, the Agency defines the tourism strategy, draws up the budget, supervises the allocation of European funds and manages the country’s brand. It promotes the country abroad, increases quality by developing related quality systems, and invests in priority tourism projects. In addition, the Agency is responsible for developing new products, allocating grants and providing advice on tourism education. It also plays a pivotal role in tourism-proofing any draft legislation that may potentially impact on the sector, and co-ordinates the work of different parts of government, as well as engaging with the private, academic and civil society sectors.The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also plays an important role in relation to bilateral dealings on tourism matters with other countries, including oversight of the China-Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) Co-ordination Centre. The Hungarian Tourism Association Fund is the umbrella organisation that co-ordinates across the activities of all the different tourism-related associations.

The National Tourism Development Strategy 2030 defines the short, medium and long term goals for the sector, and the tasks to achieve these, it identifies key intervention points, establishes delivery measures, and allocates resources. The Strategy also provides a framework where public and private actors can develop a common vision for the future of tourism in Hungary. It is a policy document that is fully informed by the national context and also aligns to EU development norms. The emphasis of the Strategy is a co-ordinated approach to destination-led development. Destinations are encouraged to develop the entire visitor experience, while drawing on support from the Hungarian Tourism Agency for development, branding and marketing expertise. Related infrastructure and facilities are also considered in context of the wider destination plan, which is designed to provide internationally competitive tourism products and services across the country.

The following principles underpin delivery of the Strategy:

  • Tourism developed in balance with local communities and the natural environment.

  • An emphasis on family-friendly tourism facilities and experiences.

  • A focus on accessible tourism, particularly for visitors with disabilities.

  • A clear offer and comprehensive guidance for visitors, including multi-lingual information, signage etc.

  • The creative and innovative use of technology through digital applications and support to businesses.

The Government has identified high priority tourism development areas with the greatest potential for scalable, highly profitable tourism that will attract international visitors. A current issue is the successful oversight of the development, management and marketing of a range of complex, high quality tourism experiences in these newly defined tourism development areas. Launched in 2018, the Kisfaludy Tourism Development Programme outlines the development path for destinations, products and attractions. To support this initiative, a new national Accommodation Development Framework is being piloted, which seeks ultimately to target the renovation of over 30 000 rooms nationwide, along with facilities such as lakeside beaches and adventure parks. Applicants for funds must comply with specific requirements relating to product development, training, promotional activities and collaboration with other local service providers. The aim is to ultimately help strengthen both the competitiveness and sustainability of the destination.

Improving the opportunities open to domestic tourists is another priority with the aim of more even distribution over time and space, and the development of coherent, sustainable and profitable regional destinations. By 2030, the objective is for tourism to be a leading sector of economic growth, offering quality, accessible experiences, employing innovative solutions, and offers a favourable and inclusive career path, as well as contributing to local communities and national values.

A range of legislation has been introduced that affects and benefits the tourism sector. For example, legislation now encourages employers through the use of quotas to positively discriminate when hiring staff in favour of people with disabilities. Employers with more than 25 employees are required to pay contributions if the number of disabled employees is less than 5% of the total. If the above quota is met, however, the contribution is waived and the employer may also be eligible for additional benefits. Such legislation has been beneficial for the tourism sector, which typically offers flexible and diverse employment opportunities for different types of people and is used to providing a welcoming environment for all visitors and employees. The principle of accessibility is fully reflected in actions set out in the Strategy. In addition, the National Tourism Data Supply Centre (NTAK) is currently in development, and aims to increase competitiveness through the digitalisation of accommodation data (see box). The initiative directly collects up-to-date and accurate statistical information from accommodation businesses to support better planning, measurement, and targeted marketing and traffic projections.

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