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"EU membership has brought new ideas, new attention and new fund”

Interview with Hajnalka Penz in charge of content at BVA Budapesti Városarculati Nonprofit Kft.

How would you describe the destination in a few words?

Hajnalka Penz: Lively, surprising, elegant, open, young, diverse, sustainable It is a resilient destination that was at the forefront many years ago, especially in textiles.

How would you have described it 20 years ago?

Hajnalka Penz: Curious, energetic, ambitious, stimulating, in search of greatness.

What, in your opinion, are the main drivers of this change?

Hajnalka Penz: In 2004, Budapest became one of the top ten cities in the world's largest economic alliance, establishing itself on the international scene. EU membership brought new ideas, new attention and new funds. Internal borders quickly disappeared, making the city more accessible than at any other time in its history.

What were their concrete consequences on the number of visitors to the destination?

Hajnalka Penz: The people of Budapest have always been proud of the city and their hospitality. The opening of the Schengen borders gave them a historic opportunity to rely on tourism as an engine of growth and job creation, with the central government, city council and local businesses working together to strengthen the city's ability to attract and absorb tourism expansion.

From your point of view, what were the milestones in this evolution?

Hajnalka Penz: After joining the EU in 2004, Hungary joined the borderless Schengen area in 2007 and has become one of the main destinations of the emerging low-cost airline sector along the way. This effect was multiplied after the economic crises of 2008- 2009 and 2012, when it became increasingly successful in the race for tourists in a booming sector. The construction boom and Budapest's adoption of the shared economy also contributed to an unprecedented expansion of hotels, apartments and other accommodation options.

How many development projects (with an impact on tourism) are currently underway?

Hajnalka Penz: The cityscape is increasingly occupied by the many new hotels, sports facilities, sites under construction and also events that attract international visitors: SZIGET, the Budapest Spring Festival, the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Art Festival, the UEFA Super Cup, the Giro D'Italia, the water polo and swimming championships, Formula 1, to name but a few.

What are the next steps? What are the objectives for tomorrow's destination?

Hajnalka Penz: Flexibility, partnership, responsibility: these will be the key words in the post-coronavirus era for live event organizers and industry players. Unity in the tourism sector and the development of trust, not only within the industry, but also towards other key players such as visitors, after these difficult times, is vital. 

How are BVA Budapest City Branding Nonprofit Ltd. and its members taking part in these developments?

Hajnalka Penz: The company's main role is to act as a link between the many stakeholders, take stock of the demands and create a compelling narrative for the city, sharing its story with the widest possible audience.

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