Written by Melanie Kay Smith (Institute for Social Sciences)
1 April, 2019
One of the most debated subjects in city development in Budapest right now is the problem of so-called ’overtourism’ in the central districts VI and VII. Overtourism was defined by the Responsible Tourism Partnership (2018) as “destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably”. A Daily News Hungary report (2015) suggested that tourism is growing year on year in Budapest (e.g. 5.2% growth from 2013-2014) but that tourists spend significantly less than in Prague. The low spending is attributed to the popularity of “low-budget party tourism” based on the “age of ruin pubs” and a “flourishing” Airbnb market.
It was recently reported in the media that Budapest is considered to be the fifth worst city for overtourism after Barcelona, Amsterdam, Venice and Milan. It seems that the negative impacts are felt the most in the ’party district’ of Budapest which is located in districts VI and VII and the night-time economy is the major factor contributing to a decrease in local resident quality of life.
In 2017, we undertook survey research in districts VI and VII to understand the phenomenon of overtourism better and to question local residents, Hungarian visitors, and international tourists. In addition to this, we carried out a series of in-depth interviews with major stakeholders including representatives of community associations, bar owners and employees, as well as with tourism and hospitality experts.
Our research suggested that several factors have led to resident discontent and growing resistance to overtourism, which include an increase in over-crowding, street crime, dirt and litter, drunkenness, night noise, public urination, and rising prices. Those aged 50 and above were affected more significantly than those under-30 and 18% of residents are planning to leave the district as a result of some of these problems. On the positive side, although residents feel that there are too many tourists in the area, few had had a bad experience with tourists. All groups agree that they feel safe in Budapest and relatively safe in the District in the evenings.
We are now in the process of considering some solutions to overtourism, which include stricter regulations, but also the dispersion of tourist flows to other areas and the diversification of tourism away from the night-time economy. Our new project in conjunction with the Hungarian National Tourism Agency and Corvinus University is focused on cultural, creative and heritage tourism. We are in the process of undertaking questionnaires around the city to find out which cultural or creative activities tourists are the most interested in and whether they would consider alternative geographical locations to the central districts.
Recent and forthcoming publications:
Olt, G., Smith, M. K., Csizmady, A. and Pinke-Sziva (2019-forthcoming) Gentrification, Tourism and the Night-time Economy in Budapest’s District VII – the Role of Regulation in a Post-Socialist Context, Special Issue: Tourism and the Night, Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure & Events
Pinke-Sziva, I., Smith, M. K, Olt, G. and Berezvai, Z. (2019) Overtourism and the night-time economy: a case study of Budapest, International Journal of Tourism Cities, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJTC-04-2018-0028
Smith, M. K., Pinke-Sziva, I. and Olt, G. (2019-forthcoming) Overtourism and Resident Resistance in Budapest, Tourism Planning & Development, https://doi.org/10.1080/21568316.2019.1595705
Smith, M. K. and Puczkó, L. (2019-forthcoming) Post-Socialist Tourism Trajectories in Budapest: From Under-tourism to Over-tourism, in Slocum, S. L. and Klitsounova, V. (eds) Tourism Development in Post-Soviet Nations - From Communism to Capitalism, Palgrave publishers.