Sziget Festival, which takes place in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, is the country’s flagship event and biggest festival in Eastern Europe, welcoming 500,000 visitors over the course of one week.
Rockstar Photographers – Sziget City
Budapest has a lot more to offer, aside from a festival on the “Island of Freedom”
This year’s 26th edition welcomes Dua Lipa, Arctic Monkeys, Kendrick Lamar, Gorillaz, Kygo, Lana Del Rey, Mumford & Sons, Shawn Mendes, Liam Gallagher, Bastille, Stormzy, Lykke Li and many more, Aug. 8-15.
The event’s long-standing international consultant András Berta decided to launch a new project called Sziget City: an online travel agency with the goal of introducing Budapest to festivalgoers, in the hope of getting them to return to the city in the future.
We questioned Berta about his new pet project. It may still be in its early stages of development, but the man has a plan.
– Andras Berta
Project director of Sziget City, and international consultant for Sziget Festival
Can you describe the set-up of this endeavor? Are we talking a proper travel agency here?
It’s basically an OTA (online travel agency), which is the buzzword in tourism nowadays. Think about Booking.com, Expedia and co., and you know the competition we’re up against. What we offer is Budapest, a.k.a. “the Sziget City” in all forms. The major message is that although Sziget is the most important event of the city, there are also many other ways to explore and enjoy it. This can be during the festival, or at any other time of the year.
Obviously our initial target is the Sziget database that we’ve gathered in the last decades and we try and use the Sziget brand as a guarantee label, or a filter, something that people know and trust, so they will – hopefully – prefer our services compared to others.
But we’re also going a different way: instead of offering everything – like many of the OTAs do – we offer a selected range of programs. We’re still learning to see what’s the best price and quality range to aim at.
What kind of tourist offers are we talking about?
Hostels and hotels in the city centre and also many programs in the city, like pub crawls, walking tours, bike tours, bath visits, party boats, open mics. You name it.
The Sziget crowd is very diverse in terms of demographics. Do you have a way of targeting specific demographics with offerings that are relevant to them?
As a first step we try to establish this new sub-brand, so we’re mainly aiming at this year’s Sziget and Balaton Sound festival ticket-buyers, with some pre- or post-festival packages and of course some accommodations in the city.
We target many segments, from the youngest party people to the more laidback style travelers, but our dream target for the future is probably the 26-plus group: still into partying, still loving festivals, but willing to come back to Budapest at another time of the year to enjoy the city also without the festival.
What data indicates that this is a viable business model?
Ask me at the end of the year.
Seriously, this is more like a concept we would like to test. It’s still happening under the radar, and no massive resources have been allocated yet. We’re trying to stretch a festival brand to a travel brand, which is not a guaranteed success story. But we believe in our new product, which is this exciting city called Budapest, and we also believe in our own brand, so we decided to go for it.
Have you been in touch with hotels yet?
Definitely. We work with hotels and hostels, but that’s actually a tricky part, because they are doing great during the festival anyway, so they are mainly interested in cooperating during low season, when we’re still only starting our build-up phase. Anyway, we already have some cool hostels and hotels that we offer.
Financially, I’m guessing Sziget would make a certain commission from every ticket for other forms of entertainment that is sold through Sziget?
Yes, Sziget City is mainly based on these kind of simple retail coops, but our future aim is to also create our own “products” in the city. Mainly thinking about parties and concerts, but we’ll see.
What are the challenges you’ve encountered so far into the project?
Well, all sorts of challenges.
I’ve been a festival guy for the last decade or so and it’s a very weird situation to suddenly find yourself in a different industry. Also not an easy step for me personally to leave behind my old staff and start something new on a lot smaller scale, but at this current phase of my life I needed a new challenge and here I definitely have it.
Of course we want to keep the rock ‘n’ roll attitude, so we can be in some ways special and connect to the core brand, but the whole tourism market looks so much more simple from the outside, I can tell you that.
I also take it as an excursion to gather knowledge and change the perspective for a while, so I’m definitely not ruling out working directly with festivals in the future. But I guess the festival, I mean the product as we know it, also changes, using more and more patterns of the tourism industry – think about the potential of flexible pricing as an example – so I always like to play the game actively and see what’s around the next corner.
Fingers crossed there’s still a road ahead.