Hungary and the Balkans set to welcome back Chinese tourists

Hungary and the Balkans set to welcome back Chinese tourists

After a difficult few years of enduring COVID-19 travel restrictions, Wen Zhenyang is all smiles.

Zheng, the name by which tourists know him, is one of the most sought-after Chinese tour guides in Budapest. The news that China will resume outbound group travel to Hungary is a bright spot for him.

Zheng also leads travel groups in the Balkans and other countries in central Europe, something he is looking forward to. He says those countries are eager to welcome Chinese tourists once again.

"In every single country, they stay one or two days, sometimes three days," says Zheng.

Viktor Vereb, from HISEAS International Tourism Group, agrees. His company specializes in Chinese group travel to Hungary and central Europe.

"The Chinese travelers' impact on the global tourism industry is massive pre-pandemic. The Chinese made 170 million international trips," says Vereb.

Before the pandemic struck, Europe was a major destination for Chinese travelers, and the numbers visiting Hungary boomed.

In 2019, a record high of 280,000 Chinese tourists visited Budapest.

'A golden opportunity'

It has been a difficult period for restaurant owners and other tourism-related businesses, so they are hoping the return of visitors from China will help them stay afloat.

"I think it's really good for the Hungarian market, especially for Budapest because they mostly come to the capital," said Andras Timar, CEO of Welldon Restaurant Consulting. 

"It's not just good for the hotels and shops but the restaurants too, especially the steakhouses, and they also really like the seafood dishes," says Timar.

The average stay of Chinese tourists in Budapest is about two days. 

However, Vereb and his company are promoting the country's lesser-known destinations, hoping Chinese travelers will become interested in exploring beyond the capital.

"For April, we have groups coming to Hungary to spend seven to eight nights only in Hungary, and pre-pandemic it was very rare for the Chinese to come to Europe and spend that many days here," explains Vereb. 

"This is also a golden opportunity because now we can show what we have in addition to Budapest."

Three new direct flights between China and Budapest were re-established last year, something industry experts say will help boost the number of visitors to a region that desperately needs them.