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Kraków: Poland's spiritual home draws increasing volumes of tourists

Kraków, the capital of Lesser Poland, a major economic center with many multinational corporations, is also the number-two tourist destination in the country. In a positive national context for tourism, the city presents several assets to attract a new clientele and hotel investors. The city continues to affirm its position as a tourist destination and will be in the spotlight this summer when it welcomes World Youth Day.

Culture and events, two attractive assets

The historic and royal capital of Poland until the 16th century, Kraków is currently the second largest city in the country. Traversed by the Vistula River, Poland’s oldest city has a rich heritage that makes it the leading cultural city in the country. It is dominated by a fortified hill, on which Wawel Royal castle stands adjacent to Wawel Cathedral where Poland’s monarchs were once crowned and in which they have rested since their deaths. This historic site, listed as UNESCO World Heritage, overlooks the old city with its streets, churches, Grand Market Square –the biggest in Europe- which combines baroque, gothic and renaissance styles, the former Jewish quarter Kazimierz and the ancient Royal route. The city also has fifty or so museums, including the former factory of Oskar Schindler, the famous industrialist who saved hundreds of Jewish lives from the Nazis and who gained renown from the movie produced by Spielberg. To attract leisure tourists, the city promotes its assets, particularly through thematic tours. A survey of visitors in 2015 shows that its monuments are the primary attraction; they are mentioned by one third of those surveyed. Religious reasons also offer a strong appeal; an important center of Catholicism, the city is known as the “Rome of the North”; it is also the birth place of Karol Wojtyła, Pope John-Paul II. In the summer of 2016, it will host World Youth Days – an event bringing together young Catholics from around the world that was created by John-Paul II in 1985. This symbolic dimension should thus once again draw crowds to Kraków .

The city’s notoriety grew particularly following its designation as European Capital of Culture in 2000. Kraków is establishing itself as a destination for festivals and major events, helping it attract young clientele: more than 40% of visitors are under 30. Each year it organizes around 400 events for an annual budget of 76 million euros. Moreover, in 2014, three modern infrastructures were inaugurated to host them. In October, ICE Kraków Congress Centre opened its doors. Dedicated to cultural events (concerts, theater, ballet), as well as to conventions, the Congress Center has a total capacity of 2,815 seats. In addition to festivals and concerts, the all new Tauron Arena Kraków entertainment and sports venue hosted volleyball championships in 2014, men’s handball in 2016 and the Volleyball Champions League Men in 2015-2016. Complementary to this equipment, Kraków Expo, an exhibition and conference center, hosts professional salons and events. While it was not yet known as a business center, new equipment allows Kraków to affirm its positioning on this segment. This city proves to be particularly well supplied in terms of equipment for events and professional conferences, allowing it to diversify its clientele.

New clientele gained steadily

For several years now, the number of visitors interested in discovering Kraków has grown, as seen in figures from the tourist office. Between 2010 and 2015, figures grew from 8.2 to 10.1 million visitors, for 23.3% growth. The number of tourists who have stayed in the city for at least one night, has grown by 34.7% on the same period to reach 8.2 million. Figures from Kraków’s airport were up 11% over 2015 with more than 4.2 million passengers, confirming this growing appeal.  A new airport terminal was inaugurated at the end of 2015, and a railway connection to the city center was realized in order to improve service to the airport. Estimates from the tourist office for the year to come suggest this positive trend will continue: thanks in particular to the World Youth Days, the city expects 8.5 million tourists in 2016, including 2.8 million foreigners.

Domestic travelers to the capital of Lesser Poland are growing, representing close to 70% of arrivals, versus 2.6 million foreign visitors. The British are the city’s leading clientele with 15.8% of arrivals in 2015, followed by Germans (13.2%), Italians (9.4%), the French (8.4%) and the Spanish (7.9%). Russia was also among the first supply markets (4%). Recent trends show a diversification of market sources, testifying to the growing awareness of the city among European tourists. There has thus been overall growth in the share of clientele from Western and Northern Europe, while neighboring and Eastern European source markets –except Russia– are seeing their share diminish on this period.

The city also enchants hotel operators

To welcome increasing volumes of clientele and accompany the development of tourism infrastructures, the city is also growing in terms of accommodations. According to data provided by the city, in June 2015 Kraków had 464 hotels and similar accommodations, or 30 units more than the previous year, for a total of 19,100 beds, up by 8.6% over 2013.

The chain supply is already relatively well developed in the city. It represented 25 properties and 4,080 rooms as of January 1, 2016, according to data from Hospitality ON, for 24.2% growth across the year. AccorHotels leads Kraków’s market with 1,100 rooms in three properties under the Novotel and ibis brands. The American groups Hilton (702 rooms) and Best Western (656 rooms) follow. Vienna International (379 rooms) and Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (348 rooms) complete the top 5. Three new openings enriched the city’s hotel supply over the course of 2015, providing new room supply as well as equipment for business clientele. The Best Western Plus Q Hotel Kraków opened last August with 154 rooms just 50 meters from the new ICE Congress Centre. Hilton also gained two units: it introduced its upscale brand DoubleTree to the city in October 2015, with a new 232-rooms unit, offering a large space to host professional events. In addition, its midscale brand Hampton by Hilton will make its foray onto the market in May with a 161-room property.

Performances of properties owned by hotel chains in Kraków also improved. According to data from HotelCompSet, in 2015 the occupancy rate grew by 5.8 points and reached 79.5%, or a level 10 points higher than the national average. The average daily rate also increased (+3.6%), allowing the RevPAR to grow by 11.7%. On the first four months of 2016, this positive trend continues: the occupancy rate grew by another 2.3 points, and the average daily rate posted an 8.4% increase leading to a RevPAR taking off by 12.2%.

The city hopes to encourage and accompany this positive trend, by ongoing diversification of its tourism supply, highlighting new themes, and strengthening communications to showcase its assets.



Also Read:

  • Poland: heritage that appeals to visitors and hotel operators
  • Poland: Wroclaw creates a place for itself under the spotlights of international tourism
  • Courtyard by Marriott opens hotels in Poland and the Netherlands
  • Carlson Rezidor announces two new hotels in Poland

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