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hvg.hu

More tourists stayed the night in Hungary than ever before last year, with hotels earning record sums. But the overall situation remains poor.

There were some good signs last year. Budapest won the bid to host the world's largest amateur sporting event this summer, the World Corporate Games. This international festival will bring several thousand athletes to compete in 20 different sports under their company's flag. Less encouraging was that, unlike in Austria, which has spent vast sums on the Mozart anniversary, few even in Hungary know that 2006 is Bartók Year.

Last year, the number of nights spent in Hungary's hotels passed 19m for the first time, according to the statistical office, bringing in a record HUF214bn. István Kolber, the minister in responsible for the hospitality industry, emphasised that a greater proportion of these than ever were staying in higher-class hotels. Interest in spa hotels was also rising. Domestic tourism also increased, though this is partly the result of the new HUF7.2bn holiday cheque programme.

"There has indeed been a significant rise in demand, but supply has increased by more," said Sándor Betegh, the outgoing chief executive of Danubius Hotels. The largest hotel chain in Central Europe considers it a huge achievement that the HUF27.4bn in revenues booked by Hungarian hotels in 2005 has finally surpassed the level of 2000.

Despite the rise in numbers, however, revenues are still 30 per cent lower than five years ago.

Attracting guests is not hard, according to Betegh, but it is not worth doing at any price. Overdevelopment in Hungary has meant that room prices no longer even cover costs. In 2000, rooms in the Buda Castle Hilton cost an average of HUF36,000. Now they cost only HUF27,000. The profitability of Danubius's spa hotels has also fallen.

The formerly profitable hotels at Lake Balaton have become loss-making, despite continuous development.

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The return of the Corvinas

The Corvinas, the name given to books that once formed part of King Matthew's library, have recently been added to the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage, where they rub shoulders with the 42 existing Gutenberg bibles and the manuscripts of Hans Christian Andersen's works.

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After 2010

A recent statement by Viktor Orbán suggests a victorious Fidesz would probably abandon the present government's goal of introducing the euro by 2010.

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University rankings

The Miklós Zrinyi University of National Defence came top in HVG's first ranking of higher education institutions this year. The ranking, published last week, shows that a university's reputation and its objective ranking do not always coincide.

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