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The Warsaw Voice » Business » February 25, 2011
Business & Economy
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Poland Sees Revival in Tourist Traffic
February 25, 2011   
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After several years of decline, incoming tourism is growing once more in Poland. The Institute of Tourism estimates that in the first three quarters of 2010, Poland was visited by 9.5 million foreign tourists, up by 4.5 percent compared with a year earlier, and the numbers are expected to rise further this year.

This rise is significant, considering the exceptionally difficult situation of the tourist sector in the region as a whole. Data from the World Tourism Organization show that the number of incoming tourist arrivals fell in 2009 by 4.3 percent worldwide to 880 million, with countries in Central and Eastern Europe taking the hardest hits. In these countries, the decrease reached as much as 10 percent and was sharper than in northern and southern Europe and the Mediterranean.

The revival in tourist traffic comes from the two directions that are especially important for Poland: from Germany, and from countries that are Poland’s eastern neighbors. In 2010, the number of German tourists arriving in Poland rose to 4.7 million from 4.6 million in 2009. This year, it is expected to grow further to 4.8 million. The number of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians visiting Poland increased last year to 2.6 million from 2.5 million a year earlier, after a sharp drop caused by Poland’s entry to the Schengen Area.

Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and France are the old European Union member states from which Poland receives the largest number of tourists. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania are the largest sources of tourists for Poland among the new EU member states. As for countries outside the Schengen Area, Poland receives the largest number of tourists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Poland is also visited often by nationals of overseas countries, especially the United States.

According to recent projections by the Institute of Tourism, the number of tourist arrivals will grow steadily for the next few years. After a drop to 13 million in 2008 and to 11.9 million in 2009, it is estimated to be rising again, to 12.4 million in 2010. The total is expected to grow further to 13 million in 2011, around 13.5 million in 2012 and 2013, and 14.3 million in 2015.

Where do they go, how much do they spend?
In the first three quarters of 2010, there was a slight decrease in the average time a foreign tourist stayed in Poland, especially as regards German tourists. But the length of stay by non-European tourists increased. Research conducted by the Institute of Tourism shows that the length of stay depends on the means of transport used by tourists to come to Poland. Those arriving by air tend to stay longer, while visits of those arriving by land are much shorter. In the first three quarters of 2010, the average length of stay was 7.1 nights for the first group of tourists and 3.1 nights for the second.

Data from the Institute of Tourism show that the provinces of Mazovia, West Pomerania, Małopolska and Lower Silesia were the most frequent destinations for foreign tourists visiting Poland. Mazovia and Małopolska were visited mainly by tourists arriving by air, West Pomerania mainly by tourists traveling by car and Lower Silesia by both groups of tourists. The Institute estimates that there was an increase in tourist arrivals to Małopolska, Podlasie, Pomerania and Lubuskie provinces and a drop in arrivals to Silesia, Lower Silesia and Opole provinces in southwest Poland, and—to a smaller extent—to ŁódĽ and Mazovia provinces in central Poland.

In 2009, the total revenue of the incoming tourism sector came to $9.5 billion, of which $5.2 billion, or 54.4 percent, was generated by tourists, with the remainder being revenue from one-day visitors. It is estimated that revenue generated by tourists stayed at a similar level in 2010, with a slight increase in revenue from one-day visitors.

Research conducted by the Institute of Tourism shows that in the first nine months of 2010, the average amount a foreign tourist spent in Poland was $338 per overall stay and $101 per day. The drop in average spending per overall stay was slight—around 4.2 percent—while spending per day remained almost unchanged.

The average spending per stay by the tourists’ country of origin ranged from $165 for Lithuanian tourists to $677 for the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Changes in the first three quarters of 2010 compared with a year earlier were not uniform, with an increase in the average spending by tourists coming from countries to the east of Poland, especially Ukraine, and from Slovakia, Italy and Austria coupled with a drop in the average spending by tourists from such important markets as Germany, Britain, France and overseas countries. In the first three quarters of the year, the average spending by a tourist per day ranged from around $47 for Hungarian tourists to $169 for Italians.

On business and for health
Business tourists spend the most. The average daily spending per business tourist in 2009 was $355, five times that spent by young people who visit. “Business tourism is the most profitable segment of the tourist sector,” says Rafał Szmytke, president of the Polish Tourist Organization (POT). “This is why our goal is to build Poland’s image as a country attractive as a location for all kinds of business events. We regard the development of business tourism as a chance for the whole tourist sector.”

The Convention Bureau of Poland is a separate unit within POT responsible for promoting the Polish convention industry. The bureau is the first contact point for all those who seek information about business partners and conference venues in Poland and who plan to organize a congress or a corporate event in the country.

Health tourism is another lucrative segment of the tourist industry. In 2009, 280,000 tourists came to Poland with the goal of improving their health. The presence of health tourists has been noticeable in Poland since its entry into the European Union. The prices of medical and rehabilitation services are still relatively low in Poland while the standards of such services—for example dental treatment, health massages and health spa therapies—are increasingly high. There is growing demand from foreign tourists for services provided by Polish sanatoria and health resorts, and for spa and wellness services as well as beauty and anti-aging treatments.

The health tourists spent around $294 million in 2009, much more than a year earlier. The average spending per person was estimated at $657 in 2008 and $892 in 2009. As in previous years, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands were the main sources of health tourism to Poland, with German visitors accounting for half of all such visitors. Visitors from Spain, Britain and Ukraine also had a significant share in the total number of health tourists.

Promotion needed
The tourist market has become very competitive and countries have to try to lure visitors through various promotional measures. The Polish Tourist Organization (POT) is one of the institutions promoting Poland as a modern country that is attractive to tourists, offering high service standards at reasonable prices. POT has offices in 14 countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Hungary, Britain, Italy and Ukraine. POT also works with regional and local tourist organizations and undertakes joint activities with them aimed at attracting the interest of Polish and foreign tourists in Polish cities, regions and tourist products.

POT’s marketing strategy for the promotion of Poland in the tourist sector until 2015 describes measures Poland should take on individual markets. The strategy takes note of preferences and expectations of tourists from individual countries with the aim of preparing specific tourist products to meet their requirements. A timetable of activities for coming years has been prepared, including the largest undertakings associated with such events as Poland’s EU presidency and the UEFA Euro 2012 football tournament. Promotional campaigns in Britain, Germany and France, the three most important markets for incoming tourism in Poland, will get underway in the near future.

Further growth in incoming tourism will not be possible without investment—and not only for tourist infrastructure. The greatest obstacle is the poor condition of Polish roads. This is why projects associated with the Euro 2012 tournament are so important; they involve not only stadiums and hotels, but also roads. Meanwhile, the Polish hotel industry already adheres to European standards. Although there is some shortage of middle-class hotels in large cities, there are quite a lot of four-star and five-star hotels. Most of them are new buildings and of higher standards than their counterparts in Western countries.

“Our surveys show that as much as 85 percent of foreign tourists give Poland the highest marks and stress that what they have seen in Poland has surpassed their expectations,” says Szmytke.
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