Editorial: The tourist market victim of the Russian-Ukrainian war

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The first day back in the office after the long Easter weekend brought some sobering news about what appears to be the first effects of the Russian-Ukrainian war on tourism here. The findings are based on a report by Hungary’s leading business daily Világgazdaság [Global Economy]and featured in our Hungary AM newsletter on April 19.

In case you missed it or don’t subscribe to Hungary AM (and if you haven’t, let me give it a hearty recommendation as a great way to follow your staff conversations on water coolers), you’ll find an overview on page four, but let me give you a bit more detail here. The subject, it seems, could be more complex than at first sight.

The first thing that stands out is that the North American market seems increasingly concerned with a war that, although undoubtedly in our vicinity, is actually quite far away. Air Canada has announced that it will resume its nine-hour Montreal-Budapest flight from May to February. The connection was one of 34 to return in its summer 2022 schedule, with the Canadian flag carrier saying the halted resumption of services during the COVID-19 pandemic was a sign that “recovery is well underway” . Unfortunately, that didn’t last long, and Világgazdaság says Air Canada again quietly canceled the route in the days after the war began.

Many Canadians and Americans would postpone travel or instead prefer to travel to the UK and France, both of which have seen an increase in North American bookings and are likely considered to be a safe distance from the front lines. While this news is disappointing, it’s probably not that surprising. North America is far from Hungary and lacks a detailed perspective, but the war is taking place in a neighboring country, and we are one of many countries receiving increasing numbers of refugees. Stranger than that, however, is the reaction of German tourists, with Világgazdaság writing that several experts in and around Budapest have reported that reservations at Hungarian hotels and restaurants of several prominent German groups have been canceled, citing the armed conflict. as a reason. .

If the Germans stay away now, it doesn’t bode well for the high season, when it was already certain that the packs of wealthy tourists from Russia and Ukraine were unlikely to show up. For years, German, Russian and Ukrainian accents have filled the air at destinations like Lake Balaton or Hévíz. That they’re harder to spot in 2022 won’t be good news for an industry that thought it was finally getting back on its feet as COVID restrictions eased and the world seemed more willing to live with the pandemic and travel. again.

This could also have implications for the hotel investor market, at least in the short term. Ever since the pandemic hit and brought tourism to a virtual halt around the world, the hospitality industry has at least been able to take comfort in knowing that the underlying fundamentals remain strong. Budapest is an “A-list” destination with its architecture, history, vibrant nightlife and booming culinary scene. That remains true, but a third year of restricted trade, whatever the cause, could mean the end of some businesses. There are all sorts of humanitarian reasons to hope that the war will end quickly and that peace will be restored. Increasingly, economic imperatives are also at stake.

Robin Marshall

Chief Editor

This editorial first appeared in the print issue of the Budapest Business Journal on April 22, 2022.

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