During the Covid epidemic, restrictions typically led to a surge in domestic tourism, but after the restrictions were lifted, international tourism started to recover. This year, the impetus is being given by inbound tourism rather than domestic tourism, and this European trend is also characteristic of tourism in Hungary. This year, Hungarians have chosen foreign destinations instead of domestic ones, with many spending their main holidays in neighboring countries and seaside resorts.
Debrecen’s summer visitor numbers were good despite the change in travel habits this year, a challenging year for tourism and rainy spells. “The number of guest nights in the first two months of summer increased by 7% compared to the same period last year, and with a 5% increase in the three months of the high season, we closed a good summer season, beating the peak season of 2019 and last year’s strong high season,” said Enikő Tóth-Megyesi, tourism director of VisitDebrecen. After the “summer travel boom”, pre-bookings suggest an encouraging September, which could gain momentum in the Advent period.
Recent years have also brought changes in travel habits and trends. The search for “green experiences” and closeness to nature has increased, and complex water, cultural and gastronomic programs are popular, in which Debrecen is very well endowed. Instead of mass tourism, the focus is on sustainability and value creation. The attractive atmosphere of the four-seasonal Debrecen, its cultural heritage, its year-round colorful program, its international airport, and its quality services offer a wide range of opportunities for both leisure and business travelers.
The composition and travel motivation of guests arriving in Debrecen is mixed, including both domestic and foreign guests, cosmopolitan travelers, and families with young children, as well as young couples coming for a wellness weekend or business conferences. Most of the domestic guests come from the nearby counties, the capital and Northern Hungary, while foreign tourists come mainly from neighboring and nearby countries such as Romania, Slovakia, and Germany, but the number of guests from Israel is also growing more and more dynamically every year thanks to the regular flights from Debrecen International Airport. International sporting and cultural events, as well as foreign students and expats (foreign workers) living in the city, bring guests from all over the world to Debrecen. The ratio of domestic to foreign visitors varies. The proportion of domestic visitors ranges between 55-60%, while the proportion of foreign visitors varies between 40-45%. In terms of age group, the highest number of nights spent in Debrecen is in the 25-54 age group.
The most popular periods each year are long weekends and major international sporting and cultural events. In June, Debrecen hosted the U19 Men’s Basketball World Cup and the Theater Olympics, which generated significant international visitor traffic. The Campus Festival also brought a large number of visitors to the city, with 15,000 overnight stays during the five-day event, up 11% on a year ago. During the five days of the festival, 82% of the guests staying in the city’s hotels were Hungarian. The festival also proved to be an attractive event for foreign tourists this weekend, with most of them coming to Debrecen from Israel and Germany. During these periods, the city’s hotels were full.
The city’s tourist offer is constantly expanding. One of the summer’s most popular activities, alongside the colorful program of activities, is the water experience. Although the rainy month of June somewhat dampened the aquapark, July brought an increase: 15% more guests enjoyed the summer in the outdoor aquapark and the number of visitors to the thermal baths and the adventure pools rose. Despite the bad weather in the last week of July, the month saw an increase of around 90% in the number of foreign visitors compared to the same period in 2022, and a significant rise in the number of domestic visitors from outside the county.
Zoo Debrecen, which is 65 years old this year, was the main focus of the family program and celebrated its anniversary with a number of new features. The collection has been expanded, new programs and services have been added, and the zoo has welcomed several new residents. The Island Blue theme park, which is one year old this year, welcomed 280,000 visitors in its first year and offered a wide range of exciting and special activities for young and old.
The Debrecen Flower Carnival attracts more than 200 thousand visitors every year. Most of the visitors come with their families from home, but an increasing number of foreign visitors are taking part in the carnival. During the carnival week, the city’s hotels are practically full.
August is the strongest month for tourism in the city, with the highest number of overnight stays – almost 80,000 this year – mainly due to the Flower Carnival and its related events. The Wine and Jazz Days held at the beginning of the month, as well as the 3×3 Basketball World Tour Masters and the U18 World Championship at the end of August, also contributed to the increase in guest numbers.
In September, the Debreczen Zamat Festival offered a full program of events, and the Csokonai Theater, which reopened in the autumn, added to the program. Exhibitions at MODEM and the Déri Museum promise further experiences for visitors. In the nearby Hortobágy, a sunset safari in the wildlife park, guided tours in the footsteps of cranes and other thematic programs await visitors. Debrecen and its region is one of the most popular tourist regions year after year.