IBUSZ, because travelling is fun

Organised tourism is a relatively new activity, founded by Thomas Cook, who established the great-tradition Cook Travel Agency in 1845. Tourism has a rich history, of course, as good guides have been in demand since ancient times. In our current selection, we focus on IBUSZ, a major player in the Hungarian tourism industry.

The Tourism and Travel Company Ltd. (IUV Rt.) was founded 120 years ago, in 1902, and can actually be considered the legal predecessor of IBUSZ. The first president of the company was Count Miklós Esterházy, as the establishment of the company was supported by the aristocracy of the time. Soon after its creation, the new company entered into partnership with the Budapest office of Thomas Cook and Son. It replaced the ticket offices of the International Sleeping Car Company in Budapest, Brassó, Fiume and Temesvár, and from then on, it also functioned as the Central Ticket Office of the State Railways. 

The company was unique in the way it combined tourism propaganda with the traditional role of a travel agency. What did this mean in practice? On the one hand, IUV acted as a travel agency, selling theatre tickets as well, but also offering currency exchange and accident insurance.

What did tourism promotion consist of in the early 20th century? The rooms of prestigious hotels in Budapest were decorated with wall calendars with information in English, German and French. The magazine Ungarn und das Ausland (Hungary and abroad) was sent to 128 tourist associations in Europe. Country image brochures were produced and distributed free of charge to the public. From 1905 to 1938, they published the brochure Útitervek (Itineraries), which contained practical travel advice as well as suggested programmes abroad.

Naturally, the company also excelled at organising events; one of the earliest tourism events organised in Hungary was the Danube Festival in 1903. Perhaps few people know that IBUSZ also organised the repatriation of the ashes of Ferenc Rákóczi II.
Tourism is still a driving force today, but it may have been even more important for our isolated country after the defeat of the First World War. IUV and the railways have a long history, and in the post-war crisis, MÁV (Hungarian State Railways) stabilised IUV's position by buying up 40% of its capital stock. As MÁV had a majority shareholding in another company as well, the merger of the two companies was decided in 1926. The Tourism and Travel Company Ltd. was merged with the General Supply and Transport Company Ltd., founded in 1912, and thus the Tourism, Supply, Travel and Transport Company Ltd. was born, receiving the well-sounding name IBUSZ (from the abbreviation of the first letters in the Hungarian name).


IBUSZ's success was due to its innovative ideas, such as the first sightseeing buses in Budapest and the company's "penny trains". The company soon gained the right to operate bus services throughout the country. Thus, foreigners visiting the capital could be taken on excursions to places like Mezőkövesd, Buják and Kékestető, and the Hortobágy puszta also started booming during this period. Soon after, the company's fleet of coaches was significantly expanded under an agreement with MAVART (Magyar Vasutak Autóközlekedési Rt. – Hungarian Railways Car Transport Co. Ltd., later MÁVAUT). MAVART - in fact, the predecessor of VOLÁN - was founded by MÁV in 1927, and was a passenger and freight transport company, but its activities were mainly related to the railway network. After taking over 43 buses of the Post Office in 1934, it became the largest road transport company, renamed as Road Motorcar Plant of Hungarian State Railways (MÁVAUT) in 1935, which already operated buses on 224 routes.
After the Second World War, boosting tourism was not a priority among the national tasks, and the government decree of 1948 abolished all tourist organisations, except for IBUSZ. In 1949, IBUSZT was also nationalised, but at the same time, the company had a monopoly position, which was one of the keys to its later success.


It was only after 1956 that international tourism could be developed, first to Eastern Europe and then, from the 1960s, to Western Europe. From that time onwards, the monopoly of the IBUSZ was essentially abolished and more and more travel agencies opened gradually. The period up to the change of regime brought several innovations in the IBUSZ offers. In 1962, equestrian tourism was launched and it later became one of the most popular sectors. In the same year, open-top sightseeing buses entered service, operated in partnership with MÁVAUT. The designed, brightly lit blue vehicles were spectacular themselves. In Budapest, the IBUSZ held exhibitions of folk art, and organised outbound and inbound trips to sports events and scientific congresses. As well as the IBUSZ was responsible for ticket sales for Formula 1, which started in 1986, and the first marathon race at the period of the change of regime was also organised by the travel agency.

In 1967, the famous "Goulash party" was launched. Besides the dancers balancing wine bottles on their heads, the host and a trained magician János Gálfi waited for the tourists. Hungary became fashionable in the eyes of foreigners, with 8 million people arriving in 1974. In 1985, the rural offices were transformed into regional directorates (six in total with Budapest). A few years later, the management decided to issue shares and the privatisation of the company began, which lasted until 1992. As a result, the National Commercial and Credit Bank (K&H Bank) became the majority owner.

Translated by Zita Aknai




Maczó Balázs: IBUSZ …mert úton lenni jó! Budapest, 2018.



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