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Jul 16, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

Tourism reboot: #itissafeathome (#itthonbiztonságos)

After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, from one day to the next, the tourism sector collapsed worldwide. But with the largest economic protection package in its history, the Hungarian government has done everything in its power to provide the support needed to relaunch tourism here at home.

In May 2020, as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, the number of foreign guests in Hungary decreased by 99 percent, with the number of domestic guests decreasing by 87 percent. This resulted in the number of guest nights in Budapest and the Balaton region dropping to a staggering 1 percent of what they’d been in May 2019. Meanwhile, restaurant sales fell 43 percent in March and 75 percent in April.

To avoid the collapse of both the tourist sector and the Hungarian economy overall, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced April 6 a five-point economy protection action plan. Under its third point, the government provided HUF 600 billion (later extended by another HUF 150 billion) for development in the tourism sector, investments, reconstructions and other projects aimed at helping the industry, which employs some 400,000 people and generates more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP.

Furthermore, PM Orbán’s plan included additional incentives and support for tourism and related industries as well as other top-priority sectors, such as hospitality, entertainment, sports, cultural services and passenger transport. These measures included employer tax exemptions, a reduction in employee contributions, and a suspension of the tourist tax.

Hungary has won only the first battle against the pandemic, which means, as the prime minister highlighted at the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's economic policy forum, that the “2020 and 2021 budgets need to be revised to include ’several billions of euros’ of support for Hungary’s economic sectors – such as tourism – that will likely see a slowdown due to the coronavirus.”

Fortunately, according to the Hungarian Tourist Agency (MTÜ), thanks to fast and coordinated government measures, the 2020 domestic tourist season was relaunched in May, and based on data so far, annual domestic turnover may exceed previous years.

Now, to further boost traffic, MTÜ is reaching out to support rural tour guides with a new tender, backed by a budget of HUF 300 million, for special programs to entertain domestic travelers in the coming months — and keep these guides employed.