Tourism development in resource-deprived areas following the example of Bócsa

1Bettina Tóth – 2Lajos Káposzta – 3Gyula Nagy

1PhD student, University of Szeged Department of Economic and Social Geography

2Tourism economist, event organiser

3University assistant, University of Szeged Department of Economic and Social Geography

The research was conducted with the support of the PADOP-2.1.4-CCHOP-16-2016-00001 priority project titled “Development of the human resources management and internal training system of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade” and the New National Excellence Programme of the Ministry of Human Capacities under number UNKP-18-3.

Bócsa is a village in Bács Kiskun County with approximately 1,800 inhabitants, and is located in the district of Kiskőrös approximately 25 km South-Southwest of Kecskemét (Figure 1). Main Road 54 runs through the settlement, so it has a significant amount of transit traffic. The village has the largest farming territory in Kiskőrös district, with about 45% of the village’s population living on a farm. Of the 9,703 ha area of the settlement the urban areas make up only 1.65%, i.e. 160 ha.[1]

Figure 1: Location of Bócsa[2]

Bócsa is located within the territory of Kiskunság National Park. Meadows, salt plains, salt lakes, sandy plains, sandy forests and juniper groves make the landscape unique.  Nowadays, the seeking out of a tranquil, peaceful and pleasant environment for both tourism and settlement is becoming more and more popular.

1. Industrial and agricultural production of Bócsa

In recent years, Bócsa has been on a spectacular development path in both production and tourism. There are several companies in Bócsa that provide a large number of jobs and export their products abroad. As there are more job opportunities in Bócsa than there are inhabitants within working-age, thus people also commute to work here from the surrounding settlements. The largest company of the settlement is the Poli-Farbe Kft. paint factory, which started its operation in 1989 as a family business with the support of a Bavarian paint factory. Since then, the company’s product range has been continuously expanding, together with its production. After success on the domestic market, the company began exporting its products in 2005. The share of exported products is increasing and the number of foreign partners is also growing. Nowadays, they also deliver products to Austria, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. The work of the company is not only recognised by consumers but also by its professional representatives, as the company has already received several awards, for example, it has previously received the Hungarian Product Grand Prize. The company employs approximately 200 people. The local government has a good relationship with the head of the company, mutually supporting each other for the development of the settlement and the company. According to the Mayor, “Bócsa is a business-friendly settlement and is pleased to have a settlement-friendly entrepreneur, Poli Farbe Kft.”

Weinhaus Kft. is located in Bócsa, and is one of Hungary’s largest grape processing plants and wineries. Their good-value wines are widely distributed. In Hungary, you can their products on most of the super and hypermarket shelves, in addition to which also they export abroad, for example to Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Japan, the USA, Germany and Austria[3]. The local government also maintains a good relationship with Weinhaus Kft., and the company regularly supports the events of the settlement with its products, as well as tourism development.

The breeding of aquatic birds in Bócsa is a great tradition, so many families are engaged in breeding ducks and geese in both smaller and larger plants. An important goal of the local government is to support these plants and build a good relationship with entrepreneurs.

2. Bócsa tourism

The local government in Bócsa derives good tax revenues from the operation of these and other companies, but the it is also striving for the settlement to have diversity. Recognizing the potential of tourism, it is focusing increasingly on the development of tourism as it offers additional income and job opportunities for residents. As the settlement does not have any specific natural attractions or interesting heritage other than the assets of the national park, the recently created, man-made attractions in the settlement’s tourism portfolio dominate, such as hotels and experience offering events and festivals. According to the Mayor “sometimes supply has to be developed in order to have demand rather than waiting for the demand and then developing the supply accordingly.”  In order to create a tourism portfolio, the local government supports small-scale tourism enterprises (restaurants, accommodations) in the their establishment and the attracting of guests. Due to the conscious development of local tourism, the number of beds has risen from a few dozen to over hundred in recent years. Increasing the capacity of accommodation in the settlement is particularly important, as it provides accommodation for visitors of neighbouring settlements rich in tourist attractions, generating revenue for entrepreneurs in Bócsa.

The dominant attraction of the settlement for tourists are its events. Every year, many (11, of which 4 are larger on size) authentic events related to village customs and traditions provide entertainment in the village. According to their original purpose, the events were not organised to attract tourists, but to build and entertain the Bócsa community. According to the mayor, “The events play a great role in local identity, in which hundreds of Bócsa residents work and participate at the same time. This has an effect on everyday life, and successes continue to push people and shape their image of the settlement.” The village management noticed that there were more and more non-local visitors who were originally guests of Bócsa residents or arrived from the surrounding settlements. As a result of the increasing number of visitors, the organisers of the events are also open to serving the needs of tourists, further increasing the interest in the events.

Another important segment of the settlement’s tourism portfolio is sport tourism, which is based on Bócsa’s wrestling traditions. A sports complex that is suitable for wrestling trainings and competitions has been created from a tender fund, and also includes a fitness and wellness section and accommodation. Participants of the cross country race held every year in the settlement often fill all accommodations in the settlements. The race is also organised in parallel with one of the most important gastronomic events of the settlement, the Bócsator, so the participants of the race can participate in both events.

For example, there are four hot-food restaurants in Bócsa, which are a must for a any settlement striving to develop tourism. The settlement is also rich in farmland, so visitors can tour those areas also if they wish. A unique feature of the settlement is that it has also introduces veteran agricultural vehicles such as dutras and ‘csettegő’-s into its tourism portfolio. Participants of the town’s events can travel on such vehicles in the settlement, which adds to the ‘Bócsa experience’.

Today, the management of the settlement is trying to attract tourists with the slogan ‘village of experiences’. According to the Mayor, “Bócsa’s tourism has developed organically, which means, without a planned concept. I do not like forced things, it is good when things are left to develop on their own. Of course, you can help, direct these processes and the local government does so.” Of course, the willingness of the residents and the well-trained human resources of the settlement were essential for the development. The Mayor considers the role of the local population in the development of the settlement to be particularly important. According to him, “The greatest local value is the mentality and attitude of the population. We can build infrastructure, but we can’t shape people.”

The young mayor of the settlement is currently in his second term and is trying to seize every opportunity that can help in the development of the settlement and actively support local entrepreneurs. The Mayor has the following to say about himself: “I am a problem-solving mayor with a management approach, willing and able to help businesses. I often use my project manager skills with businesses as well, assisting them.” He puts great emphasis on the importance of language skills, as he believes that “language skills can no longer be special: they are part of everyday life. Otherwise, how can we develop foreign relations and tourism?” The mayor’s work is also recognised by the residents and political leaders of the local and surrounding settlements.

The local representative body supports the mayor and they work together effectively. Indeed, local magistrates actually ‘lead the way’, for example, at the events, they are the first people to wear folk clothes and invite guests to dance. So they are in direct contact with local people and are motivated to strengthen the community.

The local government is aware that for the sake of development, the various local government activities should be entrusted to competent professionals to carry out. For example, a trained tender writer works for a local government who regularly monitors tendering opportunities and writes tenders or gives advice to entrepreneurs, for example. The number of rural accommodations has risen in recent years thanks to the utilisation of tender funds. If a local resident would like to provide accommodation on their farm or in their home they can freely ask for advice from the local government. The local government not only helps local accommodation and catering providers start their business, but also assists them with marketing. The hotels and restaurants are featured prominently on the town’s website, as well as in the tourist brochure about Bócsa, and the local newspaper. This is provided free of charge by the local government. This is a great help for local tourism entrepreneurs, as most of them do not have their own website, resulting in limited self-marketing activities. Online presence is not only supported by the local government, but also by the county, as the features of Bócsa accommodations are also available on the county’s website.

The local government also employs a trained tourism specialist. Thanks to his excellent knowledge of German and English and his many decades of experience in tourism, he has many connections in conscious tourism development and marketing. For example, at his suggestion, Bócsa participated in various tourism exhibitions, which are financed by the local government. They participated on several occasions in the Travel Exhibition, have already attended the Retirement Expo and the ‘Let’s see the World’ tourism trade fair, where they provided information to interested individuals directly, as personal communication is key in order to reach potential tourists. During their participation in the Travel Exhibition, there were years when some accommodation providers and producers also introduced themselves alongside the tourism professionals. This way visitors were able to taste local cheeses, local raspberry wine, fruit brandy and wines directly from the producers. At the tourism exhibitions, the e-mail addresses of interested individuals are collected, to which they will later send out newsletters about the programmes in Bócsa, thus promoting local experiences. They also prepare brochures for the exhibitions, which are created with financing from the local government. The brochure contains the Bócsa events by months and the characteristics and availability of the tourist services previously mentioned. The titles of the individual chapters are also included in the brochure in German, and draw the attention of foreign interested individuals to the possibility of requesting additional information by telephone in both German and English. In addition to these, establishing relationships with different tourism companies is also very important at the exhibitions.

The promotion of tourism is important not only among tourists but also among locals. The local newspaper regularly displays tourism reports on current successes, events, and suggestions for further development. Each article has a message that seeks to draw the attention of the locals to the importance of tourism and to encourage tourism. Perhaps the educational and motivational news articles are the reason why more and more people are becoming accommodation providers.

Owing to the marketing, the nurturing of good relations, the organisation of a wide-range of events, and the existence of quality accommodation and restaurants there has been a significant increase in the tourism of Bócsa in recent years. Among the visitors are not only Hungarian guests, but also foreigners. Tourist groups travelling by bus are not a typical occurrence, they rely more so on individual guests, as well as guests from the relationships of Bócsa organisations. The Hubertus Hunting Association of Bócsa regularly hosts foreign hunters who use local services (restaurants, accommodations) and also generate a decent amount of revenue for the hunting association, which can be used towards wildlife care[4]. Bócsa’s twin town is Rimetea, from where guests from beyond the border also arrive and take their experiences of Bócsa with them. Wrestling has a long tradition in Bócsa. Today, there is a facility in Bócsa, which is suitable for organising training camps. The Bócsa wrestling association regularly invites their foreign partners to the camps. One of the benefits of the Travel Exhibition was that the Mexican Embassy attended one of the events, Bócsator, in the settlement.

3. ‘Farming Germans’ of Bócsa

A very important segment of the population in Bócsa are the ‘farming Germans’. Approximately 40 foreign citizens live in Bócsa, mainly German-speaking retirees, who wanted to live their retirement years, in a peaceful and nice environment. Most of them regularly invite their friends and relatives from home to Bócsa, who of course spend the night in the houses of the Germans (or other Western citizens, such as Austrians, Belgians, Dutch), but they are eager to visit local restaurants. The ‘farming Germans’ contribute to the economic development of Bócsa not only by inviting their guests and their consumption, but they themselves bring value to the settlement. They typically spend a large part of their pensions received in euros, which is high in the domestic context, locally. They purchase and maintain the farm they live on, thus ensuring a cultured environment; they make purchases locally and use local services, e.g. auto services or hairdressers, and many of them use a local cleaning lady; they support animal shelters and, if not locally, they use a number of tourist services within the county. As a result, a certain portion of the income of entrepreneurs in Bócsa or in the surrounding area comes from the spending of foreign citizens. The local government is grateful for this, as it helps residents from abroad in many ways. Owing to the German language knowledge of the mayor, the clerk, the tourism specialist or the local German teacher they have someone to assist them in their official affairs before the Hungarian authorities. In addition to assisting in the handling of their affairs, the local government also seeks to integrate them into the Bócsa community. German speakers are in regular contact with them, but they are greeted in their own language for example at events, or during the advent programmes the Hungarian residents prepare a German show for them. There are some families who arrived with children. Their learning is assisted by local teachers who have experience in teaching foreign language students.

Summary

Bócsa is not the leading centre for tourism with a mass amount of visitors. However, the local government has significantly improved the status of tourism in the settlement thanks to the appropriate tourism developments which have taken advantage of all provided possibilities. The settlement is led by a young mayor who speaks a number of languages fluently, and who actively supports the tourism related ideas of the representative body and the tourism specialist. The local government of the settlement employs trained professionals. A trained tender writer works in the settlement, trying to grab onto funding opportunities and also advises inhabitants with an entrepreneurial spirit. The local government employs a well-trained tourism specialist who speaks foreign languages fluently and has good contacts and international experience, and who has good insights into successful tourism development and essential marketing strategies. The local government provides the marketing for the local tourist services free of charge on the website of the settlement and in a brochure, and the settlement regularly promotes itself at tourism trade fairs, as a complex product. For these reasons Bócsa can be a good example for settlements who want to develop their tourism in order to diversify themselves, as it has made spectacular progress through the combined work of enthusiastic and knowledgeable professionals. In addition, the local government also supports locally residing foreign citizens in overcoming language barriers when dealing with their official affairs, as well as trying to integrate them into the local community.


[1] www.bocsa.hu (downloaded: 25 March 2018)

[2] https://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B3csa (downloaded: 25 March 2018)

[3] www.weinhaus.hu (downloaded: 29 March 2018)

[4]Lajos Káposzta: Austrian guest hunters in Bócsa, game management in balance. Bócsa News August 2014