Stimulating tourism in the Hungarian region of Zemplén

Project completed
Six Swiss musicians in traditional attire give an alphorn concert in the new climbing gym in the town of Sátoraljaújhely.
In summer 2015, a Swiss delegation visited Hungary to participate in the inauguration of a new climbing centre in the town of Sátoraljaújhely. Musicians gave a rendition on their Alpine horns. © FDFA

In the hilly wine-growing region of Zemplén in north-eastern Hungary, authorities and NGOs on the ground have, in cooperation with the SDC, implemented a major programme aimed at developing tourism and stimulating the local economy.  

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Promoting economic growth and improving working conditions
Regional development and employment
01.09.2012 - 31.12.2016
CHF  2’509’159

Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.

Tourism plays an undeniable economic role and, for many less-developed and developing countries and regions, represents a viable means towards sustainable economic development – particularly when the geographical areas in question have significant natural and cultural assets.

Situated in the north-eastern corner of Hungary near the Slovakian border, the region of Zemplén is a case in point. Although its unemployment rate is in excess of 15%, Zemplén boasts a rich cultural heritage, delightful countryside and an attractive culinary scene. Liaising with various local entities, the SDC is completing the implementation of a tourism development programme to complement the region’s existing infrastructure – an initiative in which Switzerland has invested CHF 2.5 million as part of its contribution to European Union enlargement. Initial results have been most encouraging.

Climbing walls, traditional water mill, and sightseeing train

Sátoraljaújhely – an important town in the Zemplén region – now has the biggest climbing centre in Hungary and the whole of Central Europe. Opened in 2015, the centre covers 300 square metres, with climbing walls of up to 21 metres in height. To encourage visitors from far afield, accommodation was built in immediate proximity to the centre. Given that the infrastructure is suitable for large-scale use by both professionals and amateur enthusiasts, the town now intends to organise international competitions and focus on attracting Hungarian school parties to the complex.

Only a short distance away, Swiss funding has also been used to renovate a two-hundred-year-old water mill – a medieval replica that houses a Hungarian family of bakers who make bread and cakes according to traditional methods as well as organising visits and other activities. In addition, the development programme has seen the inauguration of a brand-new miniature sightseeing train, which has been connecting the town of Sátoraljaújhely to the area’s main tourist sites since 2016. Several horse-drawn carriages have been purchased, providing tourists with an environmentally friendly means of transportation in good weather.

Attractions devoted to wine and other regional products

Sátoraljaújhely is situated in the heart of the Tokaj wine-growing district and, in broader terms, is the hub of a regional economy in which agriculture plays a significant role. In this context, the assistance provided by the SDC has resulted in the modernisation of visitor spaces and the construction of a small venue that houses exhibitions and activities related to wine. A number of shops have opened, selling regional products such as wine, cheese, preserves, honey and other local specialities. Producers benefit from marketing tools and from a sales network that helps them to market their goods and improve their sales.

As part of the programme, 29 jobs have been created to underpin the development of these new attractions. By spring 2017, a glass-blowing studio and an old post house converted into a museum and information point will have reopened their doors to the public.

Field trips and Hungarian culture in Switzerland

Since it began, the project has seen Switzerland and Hungary engaged in close collaboration. Switzerland has been leveraging its extensive experience in managing tourism in areas of natural beauty. On field trips to Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, Montreux and Saas-Fee, delegations from Sátoraljaújhely have been able to visit climbing halls, ride on sightseeing trains and partake in other activities that may provide inspiration in terms of managing their own infrastructure in future. For its part, Hungary has been showcasing its culture and traditions to the Swiss public. The country was guest of honour at the Montreux Christmas Market in 2015, subsequent to which a stand selling products from Sátoraljaújhely has now become a permanent fixture at the event.