Budapest Sun
Tourism survives cyanide - so far

By Beáta Pál

Mch. 2, 2000

The Tisza River cyanide spill has provoked hotel cancellations in eastern Hungary, but its too early to say whether it will have a significant nationwide affect on tourism.

Since the January 30 spill of cyanide from a gold mine in Baia Mare, Romania the most significant economic impact here has been decreased fish consumption.

The scare has hurt fishmongers all over, despite a Government publicity campaign concerning food-safety inspections. Cabinet Member István Stumpf even made a publicity trip to District IX’s Vásárcsarnok to buy carp.

The spill will have some negative effect on tourism, but to what extent is still unknown, said Sándor Betegh, director of the Danubius Hotel chain.

The problem is that tourists from abroad tend to identify the problem with the whole country, though Budapest hotels have yet to report any problems.

"We have not lost any groups due to the spill. During the Kosovo crisis Americans called us up and asked whether we could see falling bombs from the windows," said Mária Kocsis, marketing director at the Marriott Hotel Budapest.

"On the other hand, one or two conferences have been relocated here from Austria because of the political situation there," she added.

The Danubius Hotels Group has hotels in Budapest and the western part of Hungary, but not in the eastern part.

"Tourism has not been traditionally as strong in the eastern part of the country anyway. Szeged might suffer from the lack of tourists but businessmen will travel there regardless," said Ildikó Budea, sales director at Danubius.

In Szolnok’s three-star, 96-room Pelikán Hotel the cyanide scare provoked the cancellation of 15% of its booked rooms or equivalent to Ft1.5 million ($5,900) in lost revenues.

"Szolnok has never been the greatest tourism destination on the Great Hungarian Plain but in the past two years the Kosovo conflict, the floods and now the poisoning have caused enormous losses," said hotel director József Rigó.

"We still have spare fish from December and January but there is nobody who would eat fish in our restaurant," he added.

By contrast, Szolnok’s smaller, 33-room Hotel Tisza has not suffered from the poison scare, said front desk clerk Mónika Csere.

"We still have regular guests, mainly those who come to work here," she said.

To ameliorate tourism losses, the Economic Ministry will launch an advertising campaign to attract more tourists and ensure their safety, said Péter Kraft, Deputy State Secretary of Tourism.

Kraft said that it was not necessary to spend extra amounts for the campaign.

The area around the Tisza lakes will get twice the subsidy it received last year, while underdeveloped settlements on the Tisza River will share a grant of Ft310 million ($1.2 million).

Last year 841,000 guest nights were registered along the Tisza River, accounting for 4.97% of Hungarian tourism.

Original article