and Eastern Europe (CEE) is home for 20% of the European Union’s population and
has a GDP per capita growth rate almost
double that of the EU average.
countries have already reached a level of average wealth that makes holiday
travel accessible for most, as 60%
of the population travels at least once a year. Considering that about 80%
of that travel is domestic or regional, due to historical and financial
reasons, it can be considered a rather closed market.
has only magnified these trends, making the CEE domestic tourism industry one
of the highest growing segments of European tourism.
Group, a leading domestic online travel agency in the region, recently
published its comprehensive
report about the CEE region. CEO József Szigetvári
explains the purpose of the report and the potential for travel and tourism in
the CEE region.
you begin by telling us more about Szallas Group and the scope of your work?
Szallas.hu was founded as a Hungarian OTA company in 2007,
focusing on serving the needs of Hungarian tourists. With its domestic focus,
strong customer service and strong brand, Szallas.hu has become the market
leading OTA on the Hungarian domestic accommodation market. The 15% market
share in 2015 has doubled to 31% by 2021 overtaking all its global
As our strategy proved to be successful in Hungary, in
2018 we started to acquire multiple online tourism companies with similar culture
and business strategy in the CEE region. These acquisitions have given Szallas
Group the largest local OTAs in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland
with accommodation partners in Croatia and Slovakia as well.
With 87,000-plus accommodation partners, 2.5 million
yearly accommodated guests and almost one million yearly reservations, Szallas
Group is leading the CEE domestic market with yearly €180 million total transaction
We are dedicated to the growth of the CEE tourism sector,
and we believe that such comprehensive reports as the 2022 CEE Tourism Report
help increase the awareness of this booming market internationally.
is the first time Szallas Group has published its comprehensive 2022 CEE
Tourism Report – why did you feel now is the time to produce this analysis?
have the sense that, after the COVID years, the regional tourism industry is
going through some important structural changes. But having feelings about the
market is different than having data-based facts.
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So in the fall of 2021 we partnered with NielsenIQ and
conducted an online survey of more than 5,000 people, both consumers and
hoteliers in Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland and Croatia. Using
the data of the survey, combined with statistics from the regional tourism
agencies and Szallas Group’s own reservation data, we could compile more
insights than was ever before done about the CEE tourism industry.
By the end of the COVID period Szallas Group has grown to
a new level, becoming a major player of the region. And we believe that with
success and size, responsibilities come as well. That is why we have published the 2022 CEE Tourism Report
and made it available for free for all industry players.
were the most important trends related to CEE tourism that stand out to you
from the 30-page report?
The predominant impact of the COVID period is that guests
developed a stronger preference to book with accommodation providers that offer
free cancellation options. Although in some regions with high demand, such as
the Croatian seaside, hospitality suppliers could maintain their strict
cancellation policies, in most areas they became more flexible to secure a
higher occupancy rate.
A second important trend is the strong digitalization of the
industry at multiple levels. On the guest side, the increased share of
reservations made through OTAs was similar to the trends in other e-commerce
sectors, but an increased demand from guests for online payment solutions also
shifted the priorities. From the hotels’ point of view, the increased spread of
channel managers and PMSs in the region was also boosted by government
regulations in some of the countries. In addition, the greater focus on digital
solutions was a clear response from hoteliers to increased costs and the lack
of qualified workforce. So the COVID period brought a jump in the
digitalization of the whole CEE tourism industry.
And the third important trend to highlight could be the
increase of the importance of intra-regional travelers for the CEE hoteliers.
Due to the travel restrictions of the COVID period and the instability caused
by Russia's war against Ukraine, the amount and share of global travelers have
significantly dropped in the major tourist destinations such as Prague, Karlovy
Vary, Budapest, Balaton and Krakow. With the absence of global tourists and the
increased number of CEE tourists, the region became even more self-dependent.
Local and regional tourism agencies have also started to focus more on the
promotion of regional destinations for regional tourists.
mention the instability caused by the war in Ukraine. Can you explain more
about how that conflict affected
the CEE tourism industry?
Since the beginning of the war, we have been working
non-stop on supporting the refugees both as a business and as individuals. We
are sharing special accommodation lists on all our OTA products to help
refugees become aware of free or significantly discounted accommodation
In all the countries, we are receiving above-2019 level
reservation numbers, and we expect 2022 to be a year with the highest booking
value ever in our CEE domestic travel markets. It seems that the domestic and
even cross-country CEE tourism will continue to grow. Although there is more
instability and increased fuel prices, the desire of the 90 million citizens of
Central and Eastern Europe to travel is undoubtedly still there. We see all the
learnings of the COVID crisis extendable in CEE and in our industry to future
crises to come. If long-distance travel is insecure or expensive, then local
and regional tourism will grow even stronger than it would otherwise.
have local OTAs of Szallas Group become so important, and why is the CEE region
special in that aspect?
Central and Eastern Europe is built up from multiple
smaller countries with their local languages, local regulations and local
One of the main advantages of the local OTAs are the
accessible, friendly local speaking call center agents, which can be reached
for help even after a reservation is made. So the call centers of the local
OTAs have become the number one expert support in case of any issues regarding
the reservation or the accommodation. For example, in the COVID period when
regulations were almost impossible to be followed it was the local OTAs, like
Szallas.hu or Hotel.cz that provided the most accurate, easily accessible information
about the traveling possibilities.
Also, in most CEE countries local governments consider
tourism as a strategic industry. For this reason there are multiple
government-supported domestic payment solutions, like SZÉP card in Hungary or
Tichet de Vacanță in Romania. These special payment solutions are not supported
on global OTAs, so the domestic OTAs can provide the best payment solution for
the CEE guests.
And third, each country has its own history and patriotic
citizens who have a positive bias toward local brands more than to the big
global giants that may have great technical solutions but can also be viewed a
bit as the colonizers, dictating terms.
are the main trends forming CEE tourism, for example regarding dynamic
packaging versus standalone components?
This trend is only starting to rise, and right now we see
it mainly at the big hotel chains. There are many listing players that make it
difficult to have dynamic packaging. We estimate this trend to be strong in the
whole region in the next five years.
Right now, as our market research and our report say, the
main travel trends are “non-hotelization” – that is the
rise of isolated guesthouses and apartments; the rising popularity of
intra-regional trips; and the need for flexible accommodation booking and
modification options, as well as appropriate hygiene measures (due to COVID).
Accommodation providers try to keep up with these needs by digitizing their
ads, communications and payment solutions. We are also working on some developments
that make it easier for them to implement their payment solutions.
are your plans and projects for the future?
Well, apart from handling the huge volume of reservations
coming in to all Szallas Groups’s products, we are organizing a free
webinar about the 2022 CEE Tourism Trends on the June 1.
We will join forces with the leaders of Google CEE, D-EDGE CEE and Previo to
share data about the upcoming trends of the 2022 CEE tourism industry.
Find out more!
up now for Szallas Group’s webinar to learn more about its 2022 CEE Tourism