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The Warsaw Voice » Business » February 23, 2012
Business & Economy
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Euro 2012: Tempting the Tourists
February 23, 2012   
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The UEFA Euro 2012 soccer championships will provide an excellent opportunity to promote Poland abroad.

Poland ranks high in league tables of the most attractive tourist destinations in Europe. Tourists are mainly drawn here by the country’s wealth of natural attractions as well as many historical sites connected with Poland’s turbulent history. This year an additional attraction will be one of Europe’s biggest sporting events.

The editorial board of a special CNN project, CNN Go, has published a list of the most attractive travel destinations in 2012. The Top 3 places to visit include South Korea’s Yeosu, Antarctica, and Poland and Ukraine—which will co-host the Euro 2012 soccer championships—jointly in third place.

CNN encourages people to visit Poland and Ukraine with the line “Who doesn’t love a major sporting event with ‘crazy road trip’ written all over it?” It adds: “Euro 2012—the 14th European Football Championship—looks like just the ticket.”

Euro 2012 matches will be played at eight stadiums in Ukrainian and Polish cities, four in each country. The capital cities of the two countries, Kiev and Warsaw, will host the quarter- and semifinals. Ukraine’s Kiev will host the final game.

Various estimates show that 750,000 to 1 million fans will come to Poland for Euro 2012. Many of these people will be first-time visitors to Poland and whether they return here in the next few years as tourists depends on what kind of service they get here. Meanwhile, tourist traffic to Poland is still unimpressive for a country of its size.

According to estimates by the Institute of Tourism, in 2011 Poland was visited by more than 13 million foreign tourists, 5 percent more than in 2010. Particularly strong growth was recorded in arrivals by visitors from countries that are Poland’s eastern neighbors. The number of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians visiting Poland—after a dramatic slowdown in arrivals several years ago in the wake of Poland joining the Schengen area—increased by more than 20 percent in the first three quarters of last year to almost 2.4 million. Of this, more than 1.1 million tourists came from Ukraine, 880,000 from Belarus, and 380,000 from Russia.

Among “old” EU countries, Poland traditionally draws the most tourists from Germany (3.5 million in the first three quarters of 2011), Britain (360,000), and the Netherlands (300,000), as well as Austria, Italy and France. Among the “new” EU countries, Lithuanians lead the way among those visiting Poland (500,000), followed by Latvians (250,000), Hungarians (160,000), and Czechs (150,000). There are also many visitors from further afield, mainly the United States.

According to forecasts by the Institute of Tourism, the total number of tourist arrivals will grow steadily. This year and next, 13.5 million tourists are expected to visit; in 2015 this is expected to grow to 14.3 million.

Tourists spending more

Research by the Institute of Tourism shows that from January to September last year the average amount a foreign tourist spent in Poland was $405 per overall stay and $80 per day. Average spending per person increased by 20 percent over the same period of 2010.

The average spending per stay by the tourists’ country of origin ranged from $172 for Lithuanian tourists to $792 for those from the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia. An increase in average spending was recorded for tourists coming from most major markets in the first three quarters of 2011 in relation to the same period of the previous year. Average spending fell only in the case of arrivals from Belgium, Italy and Britain.

Business tourists spend the most money. Data shows that the average business tourist spent more than $400 per day in Poland in 2011. This is five times more than spent by young people who visit.

Health tourism is another lucrative segment of the tourism industry. In 2010, around 300,000 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 physiotherapy services are still relatively low in Poland while the standards of such services—for example dental care, health massages and health spa treatment—are increasing. 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.

Transport challenges

Further growth in incoming tourism will not be possible without investment—and not only on 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. If the road building plans are carried out, at least in part, some visible progress will be made in this area. Poland has many tourist attractions, but some of these are simply difficult to reach today.

Access to Poland in terms of transportation will improve with the launch of an airport in Modlin near Warsaw. The airport’s authorities have declared the airport will be ready for Euro 2012. In June, only flights related to the championships will be in operation, while regular traffic will begin there in July. Wizz Air plans to move its operations base to Modlin. The target capacity of the airport is 2 million passengers a year. Warsaw-Modlin Mazovian Airport is expected to complement Warsaw’s Okęcie airport. It will handle both international and domestic flights. The airport will primarily be used by low-cost airlines.

Thanks to the launch of the airport in Modlin, more tourists will be able to reach Poland by air. Inside the country they will chiefly travel by bus and train. The biggest Polish rail carrier, PKP Intercity, has prepared a special program, called the Polish Pass, for those traveling to Poland for the Euro 2012 tournament.

Tickets for PKP Intercity trains will be available under the Polish Pass program. Users will be able to freely travel on all PKP Intercity trains around the country. The Polish Pass system will also cover reservation of accommodation, medical insurance and purchase of tickets for various means of transportation, including urban transport, air and rail. The Polish Pass with a single ticket option for PKP Intercity trains will enable passengers to travel on all trains operated by this carrier around Poland on dates chosen by travelers. Three types of PKP Intercity tickets will be available as part of the Polish Pass program: a three-day ticket, a seven-day one, and a 27-day ticket valid throughout the tournament. The Polish Pass is only available via the internet.

No shortage of good hotels

Meanwhile, unlike transport infrastructure, the Polish hotel industry is already up to European standards. Although there is some shortage of mid-range hotels in large cities, there are a lot of four-star and five-star hotels. Most of these are new buildings and of higher standards than their counterparts in Western countries. It is no wonder then that foreign tourists praise them. Surveys by the Polish Tourist Organization (POT) show that 85 percent of foreign tourists give Poland the highest marks.

“Practically speaking, we have not built any new hotels especially for the European championships. The facilities we have are more than enough for the needs of the tournament,” says Rafał Szmytke, chairman of the Polish Tourist Organization.

According to Szmytke, Polish hotels meet Western European standards. “We have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to quality,” he says. “In terms of quantity, we have a sufficient number of beds. France, Germany, Britain, and Spain are the European tourism powerhouses, but the facilities there are 30 to 40 years old. In Poland, the hotels, sports infrastructure and roads are leading-edge facilities built in the last few years.”

Hotels and other facilities in Poland are ready for the arrival of fans. In Poznań, Wrocław, Gdańsk and Warsaw—the Polish cities that will host Euro 2012 matches—there are almost 450,000 beds, nearly twice as many as required by UEFA from the host cities. Preparations for the European championships have been under way in the hotel industry for nearly five years. According to a study by Instytut Hotelarstwa (Hotel Industry Research Institute), the effort has paid off. In contrast to the condition of the infrastructure, the state of the hotels offering accommodation during Euro 2012 is up to scratch. Many of Poland’s three-star hotels are of a higher standard than four-star hotels in Italy, according to the study.
Andrzej Ratajczyk

Selling Luxury
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has decided to expand its Club Prestige service targeted at corporate clients. Businesspeople will be able to watch Euro 2012 matches in special Gold and Platinum zones. The new proposal applies to select first-stage matches and both quarterfinals in Poland, including the opening match at the National Stadium in Warsaw.

During the upcoming European soccer championships, UEFA offers two types of packages designed for business customers. The first is the Club Prestige Platinum service, ensuring a private, exclusive lounge called a skybox with a panoramic view of the whole field, where guests will be provided with a top-class catering service in an atmosphere of privacy. The Club Prestige Gold service is for those who want to watch the matches of Euro 2012 teams from the best seats in the grandstands, and share their experiences with others in a common business area before and after the game. In addition to top quality cuisine, they will enjoy special artistic shows and a wide variety of soccer-related entertainment. In both cases, the Club Prestige guests may come to the stadium three hours before the match, take advantage of all the attractions, and stick around for extra business and entertainment for 90 minutes after the game.
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