Design and development of touristic products Main author: Gábor Michalkó Szilvia Boros, János Csapó, Éva Happ, Pál Horváth, Anikó Husz, Mónika Jónás-Beri, Katalin Lőrinc, Andrea Máté, Gábor Michalkó, Erzsébet Printz-Markó, Krisztina Priszinger, Tamara

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Figure 2: The Mary pilgrimage route

Source: (2010)

The construction of pilgrimage routes in continuous, but the number of their visitors lags far behind the figure typical in the Union member states. For the harmonisation of the developments, a Hungarian Institute of European Routes could be established.

12. Environmental conditions of the operation of the market

The Hungarian National Tourism Development Strategy deals with the issue of the theme routes, among other things. In the words of the Strategy, a theme route is “the integration of sights, attractions and programmes at different locations but connected to the same common theme into one single tourism product. The objective of the creation of theme routes is to integrate sights that are not major attraction in themselves; thereby the value of the joint attraction increases” (NTS, p. 16).  

In tourism development, the development of theme routes is an important opportunity, as they collect experiences important for the visitors, and makes it easier for them to satisfy their needs with the large amount of information that they get. In rural areas theme routes can become the primary development factors, because the total of the sights of interests and values is more attractive for the visitors who would not leave home to see the respective area for its individual values. Although the research on theme routes is in its infancy, it is certain that visitors to theme routes stay longer and spend more, which is an attractive alternative (also) for most rural regions.  

Theme routes are mentioned in the Hungarian National Tourism Development Strategy mostly as a means of cross-border initiatives. It is important for two reasons: on the one hand, because the neighbours of Hungary will show up as competitors in the short and medium run, due to their natural endowments and tourism attractions, the only competitive advantage of Hungary for the time being is the lagging infrastructure of the neighbours; on the other hand, it is advisable to use interregional cooperation possibilities much more efficiently, as they would allow the development of border regions and also of some tourism products, including theme routes.

When this achieved, for the Hungarian minority living in the neighbour countries a motivation would be there to make it easier for them to stay where they were born.  

Cross-border initiatives are among the horizontal objectives of the NTDS, including the strengthening capacity of the Hungarian inhabited regions over the borders to keep their populations by the development of competitive tourism activities, and the establishment of cooperations with the competitors – using the still existing competitive advantage – which will reinforce the role of Hungary as a regional tourism centre for the cross-border regions that will probably show a fast development in the future.  

In order to implement this, most important is the development of human resources and through this the promotion of access to European Union resources. Further important tasks are the establishment and development of various networks, and the creation of tourism destination management organisations in the cross-border areas at micro-regional level, and later the establishment of cooperations which will promote tourism and economic development on both sides of the border.

In developments, regions already possessing cross-border relations have an important role. Organisations responsible for the developments can be the Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad, businesses and the non-governmental organisations; their main tasks include planning and tendering.

13. Cooperation with other products, synergy effect

The development of theme routes into tourism products has become a major issue in tourism development in the recent years, as these routes offer excellent opportunities for the improvement of less developed and less popular regions and also for the establishment of local development cooperations. As a consequence, tourists not only stay longer but also spend more. Using the synergy effects creates stronger attraction, tourists travel to more places and their money reaches more stakeholders.  

Theme routes may also contain ‘pro poor’ factors, i.e. they may have factors offering business opportunities for the less affluent people. (Pro-Poor Tourism is a kind of approach to tourism development and management, in which the poorer can also participate efficiently in tourism product development and thereby can have revenues.) In places where small tourism businesses try to grow, an opportunity is to unite them in a theme route.  

Theme routes integrating the values of the respective region may be built on precious cultural heritage; in Europe the most common type is the wine and gastronomy related routes. In some other parts of the world the concept of theme routes is mainly for the development of the tourism of small towns.

14. The practice of theme route development

There are seven important factors that must be taken into consideration at the development of theme routes.

1. The creation of the theme route must be based on serious market research that identifies the target consumers and their needs and continuously follows the changing market demands. Stakeholders must make sure that the local concepts and strategies fit the latest tourism trends. If the budget is tight, the respective destination can be linked to local or regional tourism organisations or to the local universities or colleges so that students or volunteers can participate in the market research.

2. An in-depth survey must be carried out to explore the natural and cultural values of the given region for use in tourism. This may be important as it allows us to define those criteria on the basis of which the respective factors of the route might be selected; this safeguards that the theme route gives a single and high quality experience. The survey should look at the natural environment, the man-made environment and other human and cultural factors. In case of the already existing products we must make sure that their operation is up-to-date and follows the latest tourism trends. In addition, the association to be created must define a minimum quality level for its members, preferably at the level of an international evaluation system – or above it. Failing to do so may risk the actual existence of the quality experience.

3. All opportunities must be thoroughly looked at one by one, together with the specific market potential of the area, and the possibilities must be integrated into a macro-level national strategic plan to make sure that they fit into the planning practice and activity of tourism in the given region. It is very important to have consultations between the local and regional organisations on the strategies and the future tasks. This may guarantee that the plan of the route imagined is integrated into the macro-regional plans and also allows it to be integrated among the wider planning objectives.

4. The number and size of participating businesses in the given theme route must be precisely defined – their active participation is of vital importance for the success of the theme route, as they are the final mediators of the experiences towards the visitors. The individual service providers must well complement each other in the field of special endowments and general services; also, their participation must be secured right from the beginning of the theme route. It is of basic importance to work out individual portfolios for the participants, in accordance with the precisely defined strategic objectives, and each member should be able to meet the requirements in this portfolio. It is also important to include consultants in the management and in the implementation of the respective tasks so that the quality of the service providers’ attitude and skills should be continuously maintained. It is also important to have a diverse range of products and avoid the over-representation of certain sectors (e.g. accommodations), because each and every experience in the expectations of the guests must appear. It is also advised to avoid the dominance of certain members so that they should not be able to assert their individual or political interests in the management.

5. Members must create and market a well interpretable clear brand for the given theme route, depending on what markets they want to target and what demands the target consumers have. It is very important that the sights of interest on the route should be evaluated objectively; their value should be neither overrated nor underrated.

6. Members must decide on the management and operational conditions they wish to apply, in order to avoid problems in the maintenance of the theme route. They must have a clear and precise strategic plan for the creation of the work plan and organisation of the daily routine activities. This requires an operational plan, which guarantees good communication between the organisation and the members and the clear division of responsibilities tasks, so that the separation of the management and the rest of the members, which would jeopardize operation, can be avoided.

7. The last step is of critical importance for the survival of the organisation, for its planning and its financial stability. Members must have a long-term financial thinking in order to allow visitors to assess positively the given theme route. When calculating the return on the investments it must be considered that it takes 20 to 30 years for most theme routes to become mature and to offer basic economic advantages and give realistic results. On the other hand, feasible and realistic objectives and plans must be made in the short run too.

These steps are relevant mainly for developments initiated by entrepreneurs, but they can also be applied to the planning by the public sector. Effective tourism panning and operation require, after all, effective cooperation among the organisations of the public and the business sector responsible for tourism development in the given destination. There are functions that can operate more efficiently at the public sector level – like macro-level planning –, whereas the elaboration of the given programmes and services and their integration into the national plans is basically the task of the business sector. In connection with the development of the given theme route as a tourism product, basic elements are innovative product development, infrastructure and access.  

Innovative product development:  

Infrastructure: it means basic road and railway network allowing the traffic of the tourists, on the one hand, and it involves, on the other hand, signs, information posts, rest and sanitary places, public toilets, buffest, shops and fuel filling stations, and in case of longer routes also accommodation.  

Access: in regional tourism development, transportation access is a primary thing. Direct access from a motorway is a huge help in development. A theme route that is not within one day’s reach from its main sending areas must provide, in addition to the necessary attractions, a tourist centre and also an accommodation centre.

15. Research on theme routes, databases

In macro-economic sense the research of the theme routes is recommended at national and regional level. During national level researches, recommended research topics include the characteristics of marketing and branding, export revenues, tourism trends, taxation, regulatory and financing characteristics, the level of integration into the tourism sector, accreditation and the issues of quality.  

Researching regional features it is advisable to look at regional characteristics and features, image and brand, marketing and organisational features, infrastructure, the spending of tourists and the role of the municipal governments.   The hierarchical approach above is useful for tourism planning in the broader sense of the word, for both the public sector and tourism industry, but the micro-level stays out of these researches. This level can be approached by the research on small enterprises, service providers, tourists, marketing efficiency, and the success factors typical of the destination in general.


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10. fejezet - Éva Happ - Anikó Husz: MICE tourism


1. Preliminaries in history/social history/culture history

MICE tourism is an acronym evolved from the shortening of the English phrases (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions). In Hungarian language the phrases MICE tourism, business tourism are used, which include the following segments:

-          Business travels, business meetings, meetings

-          Incentive travels

-          Organization of conferences and workshops

-          Organization of exhibitions

In the international tourism market, recently this type of tourism is also called Meetings Industry that has no appropriate translation in the Hungarian language yet.

MICE tourism means trips where everything is related with work. Thus the traveller is travelling during working hours, in interest of the employer and the expenses are covered by the employer.

MICE tourists are representatives of their profession, field, thus successful co-operations established during the business meetings induce development also in other branches. MICE guests often return to the same destination as leisure tourists as well.

Over the past centuries, people started to travel to discover new cultures and locations, and sell their produced goods. The first business trips can be related to the Phoenicians and Romans later on, who maintained active trade relations within their empire. Desire to travel was inspired by the aim of trade extension and conquest. The “guest friends treaty” used by the Greeks was a seed of business meetings and agreements, since it ensured accommodation, catering and protection to the foreigner who identified himself with a symbolic object. Establishment of the Roman road network, launching of post carriages and building of so-called horse shift sites and lodging houses, enabled relaxation and undisturbed travel of soldiers and dealers already in the 1st century A.D.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, security, traffic and also trade relations were exacerbated. The Middle Ages were primarily characterized by the spread of Christianity, by Crusades. As MICE tourism, we can mention travels to changing residences of the kings and their households, and meetings of the nobility in estate assemblies, votes. As the main centres of scientific life, famous universities (Oxford, Vienna, Leiden, Pécs) were established during the 12th-15th centuries.

The Bourgeois class of the Renaissance era realized during travelling that the discovery of new regions can mean new trade markets, enrichment and power as well. Trips of the sons of rich aristocrat families participating in Grand Tours can be comprehended as study tours or even as business travels, since the youth later could utilize in their profession the experiences gained in large European cities.

The industrial revolution in Europe between 1750 and 1850 brought significant changes in tourism as well. In the middle of the 19th century business travellers appeared who introduced and tried to sell the product samples of their company, and participated in important business meetings. Establishment of railways and later on the launch of navy shipping enabled not only business oriented travels of people, but also the intensification of trade and business relations. Luxury ships and luxury trains became favoured places of company leaders and business meetings. Exclusive restaurants of hotels and cafés were typical sites of “business made at white tables”.

Appearance of aviation meant the beginning of a new era in business tourism and convenience and time sparing for business travellers.

Recently, due to computers and the Internet, business partners can hold video conferences, business meetings without leaving their headquarters. However, this cannot be called business tourism, since they do not require tourism services and they are not able to substitute personal networking.

The history of exhibitions and markets too can be traced back to ancient European markets which became regional centres over time, especially at the meeting points of mainland and water routes. After religious services, people gathered on the market square and offered different articles for personal use for buying and exchange. Written mentioning of the first market in a certificate is from 629 A.D., and it was St. Denis located next to Paris where traders used to meet. Historically underpinned trade centres existed in Cologne (973), Mainz (975), and in 1240 Frankfurt was first mentioned as a “market centre”.

Markets reflected the contemporary economic circumstances. Bartering of the early ages evolved to product trade by the Middle Ages, products had values and traders earned income based on the turnover. An extended trade network evolved, spreading from England to South-Italy, from Poland to Spain. From north towards south mainly delicate textile industry products were traded, while oriental products, such as spices, leather goods, furs and precious metals were transported from the south. German cities lying in the geographical focus point played an especially important role, among them Frankfurt and Leipzig retained this position.

Industrialization speeding up in the 19th century, and appearance of the railways initiated structural change in trading as well. Markets turned into exhibition centres of new industrial products. The first European “sample market” that can be seen as a predecessor of specialized markets was organized in Leipzig, in 1890. The success of specialized markets that are characterized by dynamism, flexibility and exchange of new ideas, is proven by the past 120 years.

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