The tourism and hospitality sectors are faced with serious problems, making it impossible to predict how many businesses are directly threatened by closures. In addition to the problems directly caused by the coronavirus, the indirect effects of the epidemic, such as brutal inflation, rising energy prices due to the energy crisis, and labour shortages, are also major issues. Due to the latter, we will probably meet more and more non-Hungarian guest workers.
At the sectoral level, the biggest victim of the coronavirus epidemic is certainly the tourism industry, in which, at the beginning of 2020, the usual operation stopped. The sector has since experienced several smaller ups during the more peaceful periods of the pandemic, but it is far from being back to normal.
During the winter, several iconic Budapest restaurants closed down, and pessimistic statements were made that a real wave of bankruptcies could start soon. According to many, up to 30% of restaurants in Budapest may close in the next period, although more optimistic forecasts say this rate is way too high.
The question now is not necessarily how many guests there are, but how much it will cost to provide the services, and who will be able to pay that amount.
The increase in the cost of labour, raw materials, and energy has now pushed up production costs to such an extent that a price increase of up to 30-40% could be expected, but this would not be tolerated by consumers everywhere.
According to Telex.hu, it was expected that after lockdowns, the workforce would gradually get back to the sector. But life in the hospitality sector is specific and stressful in many ways, and in most places, you have to work until late at night and on weekends. Those who went to work as a courier or retailer during the forced closures during the epidemic found that they could earn a similar amount there, while also being able to have a normal family life. So, it is no longer certain that they would return and see themselves staying in hospitality long term. This situation opens the door to guest workers.
The labour shortage has already reached such levels that a high proportion of foreign guest workers will be needed to improve the situation substantially. In 2022, everyone expects a much stronger season than in the previous two years, and this will require employees. We can hardly rely on Hungarians in this regard, as there are still more Hungarians working in the Austrian hospitality sector than in Hungary. The guest workers will mainly be Ukrainian, South-East Asian, and Indian workers. Employers would prefer to hire them for work “behind the scenes” as, in most cases, these are people who do not speak any Hungarian.