Onsite: Oneworld, Malév Join Budapest's Winter Tourism Push

BUDAPEST-Travel Agent's Europe Editor, Jennifer Merritt, continues her report from Budapest.

For the second consecutive year, the city of Budapest is running its "Winter Invasion" campaign and its spend-three-nights-get-one-free promotion to entice tourists. For the first time, the event is being co-sponsored by the Oneworld airline alliance, of which Hungarian carrier Malév is a member. The campaign runs from December though March of next year-typically Budapest's slow tourist season-and also is being sponsored by the Hungarian National Tourist Office, the Hotel Association of Hungary and Budapest Airport. During the campaign time period, guests who come to Budapest and stay three nights at one of the participating hotels, which include the Four Seasons, Le Meridien, Marriott and Kempinski, will receive a fourth night's stay for free.

"Last year's campaign was very successful," Ákos Niklai, chairman of the Hungarian National Tourist Office, said at a press event held on Monday, a national holiday for the country, which celebrates St. Stephen's Day. "It resulted in 25,500 extra guest nights in Budapest."

The promotion isn't just meant to boost tourism to Budapest--though the city hopes to raise the number of business and leisure travelers this winter by 20,000--it also is meant to add value to an ailing Malév. "My initial impressions of Malév have been very good," said Lloyd Paxton, who joined the airline as CEO earlier this year. "I'm impressed by the experienced staff, the good network and the respected brand, but it has been experiencing financial losses for the last six years."

Paxton said his goal is to help the company break even as soon as possible. "We at Malév see this as a way to encourage people to come to Budapest, and also as an important element of Malév's turnaround plan." Paxton added that that plan also includes trimming the fleet and the network by two or three routes, though he assured that frequencies would remain the same.

Budapest Winter Invasion will be featured in various Oneworld members' in-flight magazines, as well as on TV and in airport advertisements. The campaign also has its own web site, detailing the program's participants and events that take place in the city during the winter months. Visit [www.budapestwinterinvasion.com].


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