May 2 - A steady stream of Russian tourists willing to splash their cash helps a Hungarian spa town flourish amid the financial crisis. Hayley Platt reports on the small town of Heviz, which is now the second most visited place in Hungary after the capital Budapest.
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Lake Heviz in Hungary. Europe's largest thermal lake and a haven for holidaymakers, especially those from Russia. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RUSSIAN TOURIST, NIKOLAI AZORSKY, SAYING: "The Lake is very unique, the water is warm and it has some kind of magic. I don't know what but I had problems with my shoulders, my knees, my joints here on the wrists and it helps." Once under Soviet control. Now the Russians are welcomed with open arms. And the growing number of visitors are helping the tiny spa town of Heviz to flourish amid a deep economic downturn. The manager of Europa Fit Hotel says occupancy has soared over the last few years. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) MANAGER OF EUROPA FIT HOTEL, LASZLO KONNYID, SAYING: "We like the Russians for many reasons. They respect the traditional medical treatments that were developed in 1769 by local doctors in Heviz . And they recognize and appreciate the effects of the thermal water and the mud." It's not just the hotels that are reaping the rewards. Retailers too are enjoying the extra custom. And they say the Russians have plenty of money to spend. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) OWNER OF 'SILKA' AGNES KANIZSAI SAYING: "It happens a lot, once we dressed up a lady and we wanted to put beautiful Swarovski jewellery on her neck and she refused saying she would only wear diamonds." The tiny town of just 5,000 inhabitants recorded more than a million hotel bookings last year, making it the second most visited destination in Hungary after the capital Budapest. The local property market has also received a welcome boost. Some Russian tourists like the place so much they've decided to call it home. Together with their Ukrainian neighbours, estate agents say they make up 70% of their foreign clients.
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