- miniszterelnok.hu - http://www.miniszterelnok.hu/prime-minister-viktor-orbans-speech-at-the-tourism-summit-2017-conference/ -

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Tourism Summit 2017 Conference

Good afternoon,

I would like to congratulate the organisers on having brought together this industry event and conference. When I accepted your invitation, I thought a great deal about what meaningful message about tourism a prime minister could tell tourism experts. I came to the conclusion that there’s little if anything I could tell you. I’d rather talk about the wider context in which tourism exists, and will continue to exist in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Those of us who have gathered here today have been brought together by a simple notion: we believe that Hungary is a beautiful, safe and liveable place inhabited by hospitable people. Those present are also united by the fact that we don’t want to keep this experience to ourselves, but would like to share it with others – so that they, too, can see how wonderful our country is. The Government believes that we have a golden apple, and it is quite clear that we cannot serve it on a paper plate: the least it deserves is a silver tray. It is not enough that in our eyes the country’s beauty speaks for itself: we must also convey this message to others appropriately, in a way which they understand. Therefore, Ladies and Gentlemen, in the Government’s eyes tourism is not merely a source of income, now it is not just an exceedingly high-performing sector of the Hungarian economy that – it seems to me – at times excels itself. In the Government’s eyes tourism is a form of patriotism – and patriotism is a mission. The strategy presented to the Government – the National Tourism Development Strategy 2030 – is right in setting the following as its goal: “To tell the story of Hungary, and to ensure the growth of the country through the development of tourism”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

So here we have a country in the middle of the Carpathian Basin with extraordinary attributes. The first question we had to answer was this: after the fall of communism, why did we have to wait another two decades for tourism to be finally given the respect and recognition that it truly deserves? I’m sure that many people have many different answers to this question. Maybe there are as many different answers to this question as there are people here in this room today. I also have my own answer: I believe that the answer should be sought deeper down, outside the realm of marketing strategies. The premise I start from is that the structure of tourism as a sector in the national economy is based on the faith we have in our own values. If we don’t love our country and if we’re not proud of our own natural treasures and cultural heritage, then no one else will bother to see them. I’m sure that quite a few people in the past must have shared this view. Yet let’s not forget that it used to be fashionable to speak about our country in a derogatory, disparaging tone, claiming it to be inferior to other countries. I believe that something happened in 2010, however: we regained faith in ourselves. Now I can say that it’s clear that we have faith in Hungary being one of the world’s most beautiful places, and we also believe that the Hungarian people can be successful in the modern world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Looking back briefly I can conclude that tourism was once the Cinderella of the national economy. Here, too, the greatest problem was that tourism found it extremely hard to cope with the situation that emerged after the fall of communism, the fall of the Iron Curtain. It would have had to retain its foreign and domestic markets, while its open nature literally overnight forced it to face the kind of competition it had not experienced for decades. And on top of that, in the chaotic years that followed the fall of communism, when – if you’ll allow me to put it this way, as I’m here in Pest – we were up to our necks in it, economic problems also led to the sector losing a significant percentage of Hungarian tourists. Despite all these troubles, however, the foundations remained intact. We’re in a good location, and we’re rich in exceptional natural features and sights. Our history is legendary, and the Hungarian people are hospitable. We’re always happy to welcome visitors, if they come here with peaceful intentions. Our gastronomy and wine culture are world-famous, our thermal baths are excellent, and without any prejudice I can claim that our cultural assets are nothing short of amazing. God created Hungary as a country in which tourism could be one of the economy’s driving sectors. And over the past few years, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have managed to build superb enterprises on the foundations of these values. You have achieved outstanding results. In Hungary a festival culture has come into being, wine regions which were previously little known have come to the fore, hotels have been built to the highest global standards, and we’re also seeing ever more achievements in the field of gastronomy. There is something missing, however.

We felt the need for a general, modern strategy extending across the entire country which interconnects individual achievements in Hungarian tourism. How does one create such a strategy? Here the “how” is at least as important as the “what”. We therefore rejected the idea of renewal directed from above: we decided it would be wiser to devise a new strategy together with those who earn their living in the sector. Over the past decades restaurateurs, festival organisers, hotel owners and a great many industry experts have fought their own battles – sometimes individually, bur more effectively in collaboration with friends. Hungarians who have kept tourism going for more than twenty years, not taking no for an answer, they’ve gradually strengthened it and have made it ever more successful. So we had people we could turn to, people to involve in the design of this strategy.

The other weighty question is the position of tourism in the government machinery. Believe me, it is no easy task to find the right form of coordination and supervision. State administration is also a craft. After several attempts, I believe mostly on the basis of your recommendations, we decided to put an end to the old approach and structures, and instead build new structures on the foundations of a new approach. We eventually decided that the Hungarian Tourism Agency should be the cornerstone, and we set it up a year or a year and a half ago. We entrusted this organisation with control of the management and coordination of tourism, and with making Hungary one of the most popular and most desirable destinations for tourists.

At the end of 2016 we then buttressed the new tourism structure when the Hungarian parliament passed a sector-specific law. In this law we identified the regions to which we intend to assign a special role, and also specified the areas we wish to develop.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all we needed to raise funds, as tourism’s status as one of the most poorly capitalized sectors of the Hungarian economy was untenable. In 2010 the central budget directly allocated only 7.6 billion forints to the development of tourism. This year we allocated a total of 21 billion forints, and 2018 will be a record year, with more than 53 billion forints being made available in the sector. In addition to this, hundreds of billions of forints in development funds will be accessible. We have launched specific development programmes. The Kisfaludy Programme will seek to extend the range of hotel facilities outside the capital. We have a family policy, a family-centred policy, and as a branch of this we also plan to build a family-friendly Hungarian tourist sector. We’ve announced a development plan which will seek to create in Hungary as many places as possible where every generation of a family is catered for – from small children all the way up to grandparents.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We first launched the development of five priority tourism regions. I’d like to emphasise that in the medium term, however, we want to involve every corner of Hungary in tourism. No one will be left out, but there is a hierarchy of priorities, so that we can manage our resources wisely.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my opinion, all the measures we’ve implemented to date have demonstrably paid off. Hungarian tourism appears to be unstoppable. Never before has it mobilised as many people and as much money as it has in the past few years. Already 2016 was a record year, but the data for the first eight months of this year suggest that the figures for 2017 may even exceed those of last year. And if we compare these figures with those for 2010, we can see that the number of guest-nights has increased by 50 per cent, and the revenues of tourist accommodation facilities for the months from January to August have increased by 115.5 per cent compared with the same period seven years ago. In 2010 5.6 million guests stayed in tourist accommodation in Hungary, while in 2016 more than 8.7 million did so. In 2010 there were only 900 hotels and capacity for 123,000 guests, while in 2016 there were 1,090 hotels with capacity for 150,000 guests. But what I believe is most important, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that tourism now provides jobs for 360,000 people. As a result of the combined efforts of 360,000 workers and your own contributions, your sector now accounts for 10 per cent of our gross domestic product – our GDP. This means that tourism has become one of the engines of our economy. I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that the guarantee of our success today is that both Hungarians and foreign guests are able to enjoy a vast range of activities and experiences while at the same time feeling safe. I’m convinced that in the future this will be a key aspect of the tourism industry. Today we can claim that Hungary, and the entire Visegrád region, are among the safest places in Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When discussing this strategy we also saw that in the world today tourism is undergoing revolutionary changes, with effects that are both good and bad. Now it is easier and cheaper to travel, and one can reach almost every corner of the world on low-cost airlines. Neither do we need to spend a fortune on expensive hotels, as more and more people are prepared to share their own homes with tourists at far lower prices. We no longer read about our destinations in guidebooks, but on applications downloaded on our smart phones. In summary, we can see that travel is no longer the province of the rich, but a mass leisure pursuit. We’ve analysed the situation, and have seen that the wind has also changed direction. It is blowing with ever greater strength from an easterly direction. Most tourists coming to Europe today are from China, Southeast Asia and India. I’m not talking about coming to Hungary, but to Europe. And it is expected that for some time to come the direction of the wind will not change, but will increase in intensity. Over the next few years we can expect millions of tourists to come from the Eastern Hemisphere.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the other side of the coin, however, from ever more places in Europe we see news reports of local people who have had enough of tourists. In Venice and Barcelona people have protested against tourists, and in some places local people have even organised self-defence groups. Mass tourism also generates conflict. Hungary must also prepare itself for this. There is another source of danger: nothing less than international terrorism. Terrorists are looking for places where they can target the largest possible number of people through the simplest possible means.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Returning to Hungary, I can tell you that after we set our affairs in order and laid the foundations, the time has come for a phase of carefully considered and deliberate building work. For this we need a new strategy: a new strategy with which we can not only boost our growth, but also avoid any risks – or as much as at all possible. I believe that the tourism strategy up to 2030 is a plan that can attain these goals. I also like this strategy because it contains specific, measurable targets. I myself spent part of my life in a world where strategies contained vague generalities, and where the attainment of goals could not be confirmed to any extent – even after the period allocated to them had come to an end. One therefore prefers those kinds of strategy which contain clear, rational and quantifiable targets, even if this exposes one to accusations of voluntarism, as no one can predict with any degree of precision and certainty what will happen in twenty or thirty years’ time. Nevertheless we concluded that it’s better if the strategy contains specific targets, figures and plans.

Our most important goal is to increase Hungarian tourism’s direct and indirect contribution to GDP from its present level of 10 per cent to 16 per cent by 2030. Over a period of 13 years we’d like to increase your sector’s contribution to the national economy from 10 per cent to 16 per cent. By 2030 we’d also like to see the number of people working in tourism increase from the current 364,000 to 450,000; this means that we expect approximately one hundred thousand new jobs in your sector. We hope that you’ll be able to provide livelihoods for this many more people. The goals identified in the strategy will also serve as a yardstick for all tourism developments. This is designed to counter the fragmentation that you yourselves may have experienced. We’ll only allocate funds to developments which are in harmony with this strategy; in other words, only those programmes which are in line with the goals identified in the strategy will be eligible for funds from the 828 billion forints allocated to the strategy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Where do we want to develop? First of all, I have to say that Hungary cannot be successful without its capital city. Budapest is more than just a city: in the eyes of those who travel in Europe and the world, it is a conception. It attracts a vast number of people here, from all over the world. While in 2010 only 2.5 million people visited Budapest, last year we had 3.7 million visitors: this means that in six years their number increased by 45 per cent. According to international surveys, our capital is one of the most liveable in the region: we’re ranked higher than Prague, Bratislava and Warsaw. Budapest is the home of those who live here, but is also the capital of the nation: it is the beating heart of a nation of fifteen million. The capital and its mayor are responsible for the home of the people of Budapest, while the Government is responsible for the heart of the nation. Consequently, Budapest will not be abandoned by the Government. So far we have spent more than 600 billion forints to make Budapest worthy of Hungary, and worthy of the Hungarian nation. Budapest is also the centre of the Carpathian Basin, and the capital of the Danube. All these facts lead us to conclude that Hungary cannot be strengthened without Budapest.

But it’s equally true, Ladies and Gentlemen – and I can say this with full certainty, as a man from the provinces – that we must not stand on one leg, because those who do so may easily fall over. Tourism will be truly strong if it stands on a thousand legs. This is especially true now, with the increasing popularity of places closer to the natural environment, in addition to big cities. According to expert predictions, within ten to fifteen years just as many people will want to see the treasures of nature and the countryside as cities. We can already see that a great many people are seeking tranquil and healthful places far from the noise of the modern world. Hungary and the Hungarian countryside have many such places. We have much work to do, as we must bring order and renewal to the Hungarian countryside – all the way from the Upper Balaton Region, through Lake Fertő and the remote farms of the southern Hungarian Plain, to Tokaj. In this strategy, therefore, the Hungarian countryside has the same importance as the capital.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In tourism, “where” is not the only factor that matters: what we can provide is equally important. In this regard, the Government’s strategy designates three areas. We are a sporting nation, and this is something which now not only manifests itself in our sporting achievements, but also in sporting events. Having hosted a number of world events, I have good reason to state that we have become a great power in terms of the organisation of sporting events. We’re able to organise any world sporting event to world standards – with the exception of the FIFA World Cup. In the future sport and sporting events will remain one of the main directions of development. The Government is also spending more than ever on the refurbishment and showcasing of our cultural institutions. This is our second priority area. In my opinion, today the cause of Europe’s weakness is the gradual abandonment of its Christian roots. At the same time, Hungary’s strength derives from its insistence on these roots. We are one of the guardians of Western Christian culture. We can also be proud of the fact that in 2020 Budapest will host one of the most important events in the Christian world: the International Eucharistic Congress. So the second area is culture. The third strategic area is health and health tourism: there will be increasing demand for places which help people to preserve their health, or where they can seek therapeutic services which employ the best available knowledge and the latest technologies. Hungary is a country rich in thermal waters and highly qualified physicians, and therefore in the period ahead health tourism will also be a priority development area for us. In summary: sport, culture and its healthy environment can make Hungary a truly attractive destination. This is the essence of our attractiveness to tourists. Consequently, we shall develop these areas more intensively than ever before.Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, recently we’ve also established that we must also pay increasing attention to domestic tourism. It’s good if our developments also offer Hungarians the chance to take holidays and short breaks here, in their home country. Hungarians are now spending almost as much as foreigners on holidays here. I believe that the strategy is also about this; expert studies predict that increasingly the scales will tip towards domestic tourism. You yourselves can see that wages are increasing, inflation is not rising or barely rising, there will be more and more money in people’s pockets, and Hungarians are increasingly interested in their own country. As part of our joint efforts, I’d like you as people active in tourism to always bear this mind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We’re not just a medium-sized European state, but also a medium-sized Central European state. This brings with it both responsibility and duties towards our neighbours – especially now, when we’re holding the Presidency of the Visegrád Four. The V4 cooperation has never been as strong and united as it has been recently – and this is particularly true in the area of tourism. Figures show that large numbers of tourists are not only attracted to Hungary, but also to the entire region. It is therefore worth uniting our efforts, and it is worth taking joint action on the market. You must be aware that every year, together with the V4, we have developed a joint marketing plan; and with this plan, together we can present ourselves on the markets of countries from which the largest numbers of people may be expected to visit our region. We are conducting joint Central European campaigns primarily in the United States, Latin America, Russia, former Soviet states, India, China, Southeast Asia and South Korea.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I sincerely hope that this meeting and industry conference today – with its wider introduction, endorsement and detailed discussion of the Strategy – can open a new chapter in tourism. I’m convinced that if we complete this work together, then together we can achieve sensational results. With the strategy introduced today, there is a good chance for Hungary to occupy a place that is worthy of the Hungarian people: the place that it deserves on the tourism map of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hungary is counting on you, and so is the Government. Thank you for your attention.