In 2020, the total value of the tourism economy in Poland was estimated at PLN 104.3 billion – a decrease of 26.4% since 2019. This equates to an estimated 4.5% of Poland’s GDP (accounting for direct and indirect impacts). In 2020, 195 539 people were employed in the accommodation and catering sector, a decrease of 6.1% compared to 2019.

After hitting a record high of 21.2 million international tourist arrivals in 2019, Poland recorded just 8.4 million arrivals in 2020, a decrease of 60.2%. Germany remains the largest source market, accounting for 40.7% of inbound tourism. The second largest source market was Ukraine (12.1%). In 2020, international tourism receipts decreased by 60.7% to PLN 28.1 billion, accounting for 2.1% of total export earnings.

In 2021, international arrivals increased to 9.7 million, but remained 54% below pre-pandemic levels. Poland recorded a faster recovery for domestic tourism, with 46.3 million domestic tourists in 2021, only 7.4% below the 2019 level.

At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Poland experienced a decline in bookings across the country. Due to the persisting uncertainty of the multiple crises, the pace of the tourism rebound in Poland is difficult to forecast. It is projected that in 2024 international arrivals will come close to the pre-pandemic levels, and in 2025 it may exceed this level.

In 2021, the Minister of Sport and Tourism took over responsibility for tourism from the Minister of Economic Development. The Ministry of Sport and Tourism is responsible for all tourism-related matters, including the sector’s management, legislation and regulation.

The Ministry also supervises the Polish Tourism Organisation responsible for marketing and promoting Poland as a tourist destination and ensuring the development and operation of the Polish tourist information system. The organisation has 14 international offices located in established and emerging source markets and co-operates with regional and local tourist organisations and others involved in promoting and developing tourism at the regional level.

At the county and municipal levels, tourism development is the responsibility of regional and local governments. Local or regional-level tasks fall into two groups: tasks not allocated to other bodies under relevant legislation and tasks commissioned by the National Government. Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) are organisations within which co-operation is conducted between the local government (particularly at the provincial level) and tourism sector representatives. Joint activities focus on product and tourist information system development, consumer marketing, and promotion in Poland and abroad. As well as promotion, its role typically includes initiating, assessing and supporting tourism infrastructure development and modernisation plans and co-operation with the Polish Tourism Organisation. At the local level, there are about 130 local tourist organisations. Assigned tasks include tourism promotion of designated areas and supporting and developing tourist information systems.

The Minister of Sport and Tourism established the Tourism Experts Council for tourism development in Poland. The Council, made up of experts and practitioners, is designed to support initiatives in favour of a sector that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 2022-23 will be a period of formulating new medium- and long-term programmes related to the transformation and development of tourism at the EU and national levels.

In 2021, the tourism budget was PLN 66.5 million, an increase of PLN 4.7 million compared to 2020, including PLN 56.1 million for the Polish Tourism Organisation. In addition, in 2021-27, specific tourism sector projects are being supported by EU structural funds, such as EU Green Deal.

The Programme for Tourism Development defined goals until 2020. The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology has initiated work on developing a new policy document for tourism. Work is currently underway to develop a forecast diagnosis for the strategy document. The most important challenges for the tourism sector are mitigating the impact of the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine and the related price and demand shocks.

The Programme aims to define the direction of the development and transformation of tourism, boost resilience in any future crises and enable the sector’s continued development. The principles of sustainable development are an important element in all planned actions. The activities will include research and analysis, education and training, tourism product development and promotion support. Work is also underway on ensuring appropriate legislative solutions to assist these aims.

Poland is using the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to introduce innovations in tourism, accelerate the green transformation and make necessary regulatory changes. Financial support for the tourism sector has helped it to survive (see box below). In the short-term, substantive support and assistance in reconstruction helped the sector transition from a state of stagnation to full operational activity. Assistance in processing funds, training and strengthening competitiveness are priorities for the immediate future. Due to rising prices, Poland has introduced solutions such as the so-called ‘anti-inflation shield’. Moreover, Poland conducts activities to reassure all tourists that it is a safe destination.

The recovery of tourism is based on:

  • Sustainable development.

  • Improving the competitiveness of SMEs, which are the foundation of the tourism sector.

  • Research and transfer of knowledge, particularly using Big Data.

  • Development and application of modern digital tools in tourism, in the spirit of green transformation.

  • Using tourism as a tool for social and professional development, thereby offering opportunities to more marginal communities.

The pandemic required shifting priorities from long-term planning towards immediate actions supporting the sector. In the long term, the main objective of Poland’s national tourism policy is to strengthen the development of a competitive and innovative tourism sector by supporting organisations and initiatives while respecting the principles of sustainable development. The approach focuses on a modern tourism management system, the process of digitalisation and training in tourism-related occupations.

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