On the occasion of the Day of Hungarian Culture, celebrated each year on 22 January, the Oeconomus Economic Research Foundation published an analysis that found that although the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic placed cultural institutions, including theatres and museums, in a challenging position, their position has since significantly improved, but visitor numbers did not reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022 yet. As opposed to that, book publishing saw a significant upswing in 2020, which endured in subsequent periods.
According to the analysis mapping Hungarian cultural consumption patterns from 2010 up to 2022, Hungary stands out in European comparison concerning government cultural expenditures. Since 2013, Hungary’s governmental cultural expenditures have consistently ranked among the top five top among member states. Moreover, since 2018, Hungary has been the number one country in the EU with the highest cultural expenditures related to GDP.
The sustained high-scale state expenditures, even during crisis periods, remained crucial for the cultural sector and may have contributed to the rapid recovery. The analysis found that between 2010 and 2018, theatre attendance rose by 90 per cent, and for museums, the figure approached 40 per cent between 2012 and 2019 per thousand inhabitants.
While the positive trend experienced a setback during the coronavirus pandemic, a rapid recovery ensued. Nevertheless, by 2022, the sector had not yet reached pre-pandemic levels. Figures for 2023 are anticipated to be released by the Central Statistical Office (KSH) in June 2024.
Oeconomus foresees dynamic growth in the sector this year, citing the Museum of Fine Art’s exhibitions as indicative. Notably, two exhibitions, one featuring Renoir’s paintings and the one presenting Csontváry’s oeuvre on the painter’s 70th anniversary,
attracted over 200,000 visitors each by December 2023.
In the realm of book publishing, there was an approximately 50 per cent growth between 2010 and 2022, and this trend accelerated during the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of published books and booklets increased by 17 per cent annually.
Reading became a popular leisure activity during the pandemic, with a third of the world’s population reading more books and listening to audiobooks at home than before according to the Federation of European Publishers (FEP). In Hungary, a survey by the Association of Hungarian Publishers and Distributors (MKKE) revealed a similar trend, with 31 per cent of online respondents dedicating more time to reading books in 2020 than the previous year. Among online respondents, 18 per cent spent more time on digital books, and six per cent allocated more time to listening to audiobooks.
The analysis emphasizes that Hungary’s book publishing continues to flourish after the pandemic, as per the relevant data from the KSH. The analysis notes that Generation Z members in Hungary have a penchant for reading, particularly favouring printed books, as confirmed by the MKKE’s 2020 survey. Among the youth, self-help books are most popular, but genres like fantasy, sci-fi, horror, as well as superhero and romantic works also enjoy popularity, according to the Oeconomus Economic Research Foundation’s analysis.
Sources: Hungarian Conservative/Oeconomus/KSH