Optimism and continuous growth. Such are the traits of international and domestic tourism, which have also defined the recently concluded 41st Travel Exhibition. 314 exhibitors from 23 countries introduce for more than 25 000 visitors at the HUNGEXPO Budapest Fair Center. The domestic guest of honor was Hévíz, whilst on this occasion, the foreign guest of honor was Morocco.
The most significant tourism gathering of the country and the Central Eastern European region, which in this year again focused on various forms of active recreation, once again addressed both the general public and the tourism industry. For the first time in many years, the exhibitors again filled two whole pavilions, allowing visitors to wander through a selection of the offers of offices, regions and countries across 25 thousand square meters.
According to the statistics of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), last year was a rather lucrative period for the industry: international tourism grew by 7 percent, thus there were over 1.32 billion tourist arrivals throughout the world. The background of the exceptional growth was that the general condition of the world economy has been rather good for four years in a row, which resulted in increased spending in the field of tourism – said Vice-President of UNWTO, Zoltán Somogyi on the exhibition’s professional day. The most extensive growth of 8.4 percent was measured in Europe, from which the Central Eastern European region achieved a growth rate of 5 percent in 2017.
Dr. Péter Princzinger, president of the Hungarian Tourism Association Foundation (MTSZA), highlighted the fact that the government adopted its strategy for Hungarian tourism for the next 10-12 years, the National Tourism Development Strategy 2030. The document outlines specific goals, including that the number of people employed in the tourism industry is to increase from the current 370 thousand to 460 thousand people, whilst its contribution to the GDP will rise from 10 to 16 percent.
The examples of Hévíz and Morocco
At the exhibition’s opening ceremony, Gábor Ganczer, CEO of Hungexpo demonstrated the kind of flexibility indispensable for the growth of the industry through the example of Hévíz. As he explained, the city which previously relied on the visits of Russian tourists was hit hard by the financial crisis, yet through the cooperation of the private and business spheres, it managed to overcome the slump after a few years with its regional partners and just closed a record-breaking year. In itself, the city accounts for 4 percent of Hungarian tourism and thus the barely 5000-strong settlement has managed to outclass entire counties.
Gábor Papp, the mayor of the city discussed how the additional developments at the Hévíz Balaton Airport and the accommodation developments of the Kisfaludy program or the local quality developmental tender subsidies will result in further achievements in the future. The mayor presented 12 items of planned developments at the Travel Exhibition. The plans include a pedestrian esplanade, a new bus terminal, a 44-room sports hotel and the reuse of the warm water sourced from the lake.
According to Mohammed Sajid, the Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Morocco, just as Hévíz is the driving force of tourism in Hungary, Casablanca is the same for Morocco, where he previously served as mayor. Morocco and Hungary developed closer ties in the field of tourism since direct flights were launched in the autumn of last year, as visitors can now reach Marrakech from Budapest in less than 3.5 hours and Agadir in nearly 4 hours.
A number of professional discussions and roundtable talks were hosted on the first day of the exhibition. The participants discussed the latest trends of international and domestic tourism, the labor shortage of the industry, experiences of online tourism and the activity of the startups involved in the industry. A separate section was devoted to gastro and wine tourism, health tourism, the issues of the development of domestic airports and the travel habits of the LMBTQ community and the tourism potential of this segment.
This year, a number of exhibitors decided to pool their resources and host a shared stand. From a Hungarian perspective, one of the most important examples of this cooperation was the shared appearance of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County and Zakarpattia Oblast. This gesture is indicative of the intentions of Hungary to maintain a continuous good relationship with the neighboring region of Zakarpattia, said Government Commissioner István Grezsa on the exhibition’s professional day. He added that in order to counterbalance the Eastern Ukrainian war’s unfavorable effect on tourism, they launched a joint travel program with the Rákóczi Association, thanks to which Hungarian groups have reappeared in Zakarpattia.
Just as in the recent years, the Gastro Courtyard was again a highly successful event, which showcased the various cuisines of the world.
The Travel Exhibition was accompanied by four auxiliary events.
The exhibitors at the Bike Expo presented their latest developments and accessories. A great number of visitors attended the spectacular trial show and competition, the BMX demonstration, the Bike Dash and – for the first time in Europe – the junior Eliminator CX competition. The Hungarian Bicycle Association presented its official competition calendar for 2018 at the Bike Expo.
Visitors at the Runner Expo had a chance to take part in performance tests with the assistance of experts as well as gain information on healthy dietary habits and the importance of remedial gymnastics and sport massages. Visitors could get participate in community runs, the MaskRun competition and peruse a selection of the latest running equipment.
For the first time this year, the Travel Exhibition featured the 6th Unwalked Paths Festival, where the country’s well-known travelers and bloggers shared their tales and experiences with the audience. The 22 various thematic screenings and podium discussions were also highly successful, which covered practically all fields of the traveling from active tourism to wine and gastro tourism as well as running and sport tourism.
The HTCC Africa Expo and Fair, hosted this year for the seventh occasion, was also attended by a great number of visitors.