After a considerable fall in the number of foreign visitor arrivals in 2009 (down an annual 14%), the most recent data for January-August 2010 shows an improving trend but the number of visitors was still largely unchanged compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. Resident departures abroad also continued to decline during the same eight-month period, down nearly 8% year-on-year (y-o-y), following an annual fall of 11% in 2009.
Figures for January-August 2010 record an overall deterioration in the hospitality sector in recent months, mainly due to poor domestic tourism, while foreign tourism is in recovery mode. The total number of tourist nights in all accommodation establishments fell by 11% y-o-y, with nights by domestic tourists down a sizeable 13% y-o-y. By contrast, foreign tourist nights rose 2.3% y-o-y and accounted for 17% of total overnight stays during the period. In August, foreign tourist nights were also up a healthy 7%, compared with the same month a year earlier (domestic tourist nights though fell almost 18% y-o-y).
We continue to expect a slight recovery in foreign visitor arrivals to Romania in 2010 but have edged down our forecast this quarter to annual growth of 1.5%. Stronger recovery in arrivals is anticipated from 2011, as economic conditions improve in the country’s most important source markets. Economic growth in the key source region, the eurozone, has been revised to 1.5% in both 2010 and 2011, picking up in 2012. In Hungary, meanwhile, an important source market, relatively strong economic recovery (2.3% growth) is not expected until 2011. Concerning the leu, weakness of the currency against the euro in 2010 has helped the recovery in foreign tourism, and we do not see scope for a firm leu rally through the near term. Over the longer term, however, BMI forecasts an appreciation trend from 2011, which could constrain the growth of foreign tourism over the forecast period.
Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport
In the wake of a sharp fall in passenger numbers at Romania’s largest airport, Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (BHCIA), in 2009, latest data for H110 show a favourable rebound, with passenger traffic up 10% y-o-y. Of the passengers who boarded at the airport, 65% travelled to Schengen destinations.
In September 2010, the Romanian national flag carrier Tarom announced the launch of a branding campaign as part of its new promotional strategy. This follows Tarom’s full membership of the global SkyTeam airline alliance in June. During the winter schedule (December to March) 2010/2011, the airline will commence a service between Bucharest and Salzburg. In the first seven months of 2010 there was a buoyant increase of just under 25% y-o-y in the number of Tarom passengers, with the company expecting a 20% increase in August, compared with the same month in 2009.
In December 2010, Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air added a fifth aircraft to its Bucharest operating base and increased frequencies on many of its popular routes: Barcelona (Spain), Milan Bergamo, Rome Ciampino, Catania, Naples (Italy), Paris Beauvais (France), Brussels Charleroi (Belgium), London Luton (UK), Madrid and Valencia (Spain), as well as launching a new route to Larnaca (Cyprus). In summer 2011, a new service to Malaga (Spain) will also be launched.