In the Government’s view, tourism is more than just a sector of industry, it is one of the determining ways of expressing patriotism. Hungary is appearing increasingly distinctly on the world tourism map, as is well proven by the hosting of this year’s World Tourism Day Conference”, Parliamentary State Secretary Csaba Dömötör from the Prime Minister’s Office said on the Conference’s opening day.

We have much to lose, because Hungary is a country that has fought for centuries for its freedom, and it doesn’t want to surrender it. It is a country that is standing increasingly firmly on its own two feet economically, that is proud of its thousand-year traditions, and which values is cultural and natural treasures, he added.

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The Conference is also proof of the fact that Hungary is increasingly visible in the world of tourism. This process is being facilitates by international festivals, up and coming wine regions, timeless natural treaties, prestigious sporting events and an increasingly distinctive gastronomy, he explained. Tourism indirectly provides 10 percent of Hungary’s GDP and employs 420 thousand people. Tourism is one of the Hungarian economy’s driving sectors, he stressed.

Mr. Dömötör also mentioned that in addition to vacation tourism, professional and conference tourism is also continuously increasing: according to the latest international rankings published by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Budapest moved forward into 12th place worldwide in 2017, an improvement of 4 places from the previous year. Budapest is one of the world’s most beautiful and safest capital cities, and security is becoming increasingly important, not just in tourism, he explained.

With relation to the topic of the conference, the State Secretary said he was avidly awaiting the comments and conclusions of experts, for instance with relation to how tax revenues can be guaranteed in view of the increased spread of internet accommodation sharing services. Hungary would like to be one of the winners of the digital transformation.

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Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Zurab Pololikashvili spoke about the fact that 16 million tourists visited the country last year, which he called a major success. Based on prospects, this number will continue to increase; more and more tourists will be coming to Hungary, he said.

According to the Secretary-General, rural tourism will play a significant future role in the sector, and Hungary’s regions have a diverse gastronomy and culture.

The main topic of this year’s Conference is digitalisation and innovation in tourism, in view of the fact that the effect of new technologies on the sector must be measured, he emphasised.

In reply to a question from Hungarian news agency MTI, Mr. Pololikashvili said tourism leaders from over 50 countries had arrived in Budapest to attend the World Tourism Day Conference’s events, and a total of some four hundred participants are expected to take part.

Based on the number of tourist arrivals, the world’s most popular tourist destinations are France, Spain, the United States, China and Italy. The Chinese spend the most on tourism, followed by the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

International tourist arrivals increased by 6 percent during the first quarter of this year, exceeding not only last year’s increase, but also the UNWTO’s 4-5 percent forecast. 2017 was already a record year with 1.323 billion international arrivals registered, 7 percent more than in the previous year. This is the largest level of growth since the first year following the recent global economic crisis, and growth will continue in 2018, he indicated.

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This year, the UNWTO and Spanish tourism group Globalia launched a joint competition for young tourism start-ups that could revolutionise travel and tourist experiences with innovative ideas. The World Tourism Organisation picked 20 applicants with the most interesting ideas, and the panel of experts will pick the winning enterprise here in Budapest. Hungarian tourism start-ups have also been invited to the event, which as a result will have an opportunity to exchange experienced and build relations.

The tourism sector has been celebrating World Tourism Day on 27 September of each year since 1980. The location is chosen from among the various regions on a rotating basis; Europe will next be hosting the prestigious event in 2024.