Hungary has long been a standard inclusion on most Eastern European tour programs. Now, although it’s not yet a stand-alone destination for the majority of U.S. travelers, Hungary is attracting a more diverse range of visitors.
“We’ve moved from ethnic travelers visiting Eastern Europe to a new generation who are going for the delights of Budapest and Hungary’s cuisine, wine and history,” said Bob Drumm, president of General Tours.
“Hungary has grown immensely in popularity because it’s a beautiful country with great food and nice people – and prices are still reasonable,” added Laura DiCarlo, managing director of Eastern Europe for Isramworld.
The country and its capitol city of Budapest offer great value, particularly compared with other European cities, according to David Lutz, product manager for Collette Vacations.
“For a capital city, you’re talking about a great value compared to Paris or even Vienna,” he said. “Travelers can get a glimpse of Old World Europe – the pre- and post-communism days – and stay at a comfortable Marriott.”
Tour operators involved in the market offer agents a number of practical pointers on how to position Hungary to convert growing interest in the destination into increased sales.
1. Sell first-time visitors on a river cruise.
River cruises provide travelers with an excellent introduction to Hungary, according to Lutz. “The amazing thing about Danube River cruises is that they all begin and end in Hungary,” he said, adding that shore excursions into Budapest pique traveler interest in delving deeper into the city and the country on an extended land tour.
“River cruising is generating a lot of interest in Budapest,” added Drumm. “People get a taste of the place and go back.”
2. Promote the diversity of Budapest’s hotel accommodations.
“Many new hotels have opened which offer travel agents new and expanded opportunities to sell Hungary to different types of clients,” said DiCarlo. “In the five-star luxury category there’s the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel which was originally the Gresham Palace, and the very deluxe Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. There are moderate deluxe offerings like the Marriott – with all Danube-facing rooms – and the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal. There are also good four-star hotels like the Eurostar and a new Marriott Courtyard.”
3. Sell to well-traveled, well-heeled Baby Boomers.
“Consider selling Hungary to Baby Boomers in their mid 50s who are well traveled and fairly affluent,” advised Marc Kazlauskas, president of Insight Vacations. “They’ll see this part of the world as a little adventurous.”
Hungary is an ideal destination for Baby Boomers, who characteristically demand highly experiential vacations, Lutz told Travel Market Report. “They’re more demanding and looking for truly cultural experiences.”
4. Emphasize Hungary’s history and culture.
“Familiarize yourself with the opportunities Hungary and Budapest offer,” said Nico Zenner, president of Brendan Tours. “Budapest is often referred to as the Paris of the East, a city composed of two cities, pedestrian areas, recent and more distant history – and above all magnificent architecture,” he said. “Hungary is very well-suited for travelers who have been to Europe before and are interested in history and architecture.”
5. Position your clients for a repeat visit to Hungary as a stand-alone destination.
Drumm suggested that during the qualification process with clients agents emphasize that Budapest and Hungary are a highlight on any Eastern European tour – and feature a formidable number of attractions that warrant more in-depth exploration. “The countryside to the west and southwest is very storied and untrammeled by a lot of modernism, so you can get a sense of Old World European life,” he said. “It has its own cuisine, fine wines, a lot of history, and a tempestuous past.”