Local activists call on Hungary to take action against AirBnB-style apartment rentals

Campaigners say apartments offered to tourists for short periods are behind the rise in rents in the Hungarian capital.

Hungarian activists are calling on their government to restrict vacation rentals in the capital, Budapest, as tourists descend into the quaint town for the massive Sziget music festival and other summer attractions.

Sziget, which offers around 1,000 performances each year, drew around 530,000 participants this year, down from the all-time high of 565,000 last year.

It is estimated that more than half of the participants come from abroad.

The influx of festival-goers, coupled with Hungary’s already booming tourist industry, means the city is filled with rowdy crowds every night after performances on Sziget’s main stage end at 11 p.m., say locals ” of festivals ”of the city.

“We can’t sleep because of the noise. When we go to work in the morning, [the area] is dirty, ”Attila Bajnok, activist and resident of Budapest’s Seventh District, a historically working-class neighborhood known for its Jewish heritage, told TRT World in an interview.

Bajnok further explained how trendy nightclubs and restaurants marketed to tourists have driven up apartment prices in the Seventh Arrondissement, forcing many residents to move elsewhere. “[The area] is not for living, ”Bajnok said.

Push for tourism

When asked to comment on complaints about excessive levels of tourism and noise related to the festival, a representative from Sziget succinctly told TRT World: “That’s good! ”

The Hungarian government has been pushing for increased tourism for years, and Sziget is part of his plan.

The Hungarian Tourism Agency, a government agency, spear the first international advertising campaign to attract tourism to Budapest in 2018.

That year, Hungary saw record increases, with overnight stays exceeding 31 million, with commercial hotels registering 12.5 million guests, according to to the Hungarian government.

If tourism figures follow government projections, tourism will account for 16% of Hungary’s economy by 2030.

Tourism brings another, less obvious, monetary benefit. Tourists bring books, euros, dollars and other currencies into the country, which has its own currency, the forint.

Hungary having its own currency also allows the government to have more control over its economic policies, in part by weakening the forint to make exports cheaper and tourism more attractive.

The forint has been low for years, making Budapest’s cheap prices increasingly affordable for tourists. The foreign funds they provide are also helping Hungary boost its supply of euros, which many of the country’s major trading partners use.

Pater Virovácz, ING Bank chief analyst Recount Local news portal Hungary Today in February, which exchanges banknotes “currently costs Hungary 10 billion forints a year”, or about 31 million euros ($ 34 million).

Bajnok, the resident of the Seventh District, said the government should find other ways to support the economy and introduce euros. The burden of the government’s tourism plan should not be on the shoulders of a district, which is home to around 50,000 people in the city of 1.7 million people, he said.

Festival-goers take part in a festival of colors at the 25th Sziget (Island) festival on Shipyard Island in northern Budapest, Hungary on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. The festival is one of the biggest cultural events in ‘Europe offering art exhibitions, theater and circus performances and above all music concerts in eight days. Over 100 programs a day and artists from over 52 countries entertain the nearly 500,000 visitors. (Balazs Mohai / MTI via AP) (AP)

EU resistance

Residents of the Seventh District have formed activist groups to lobby for tougher sentences for public drunkenness, which is illegal in Budapest but poorly enforced, and other measures to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood.

A referendum to force the closure of bars at midnight in 2018 failed, but as tourism has increased, local activists hope it will increase support for their efforts.

But Budapest is not the only city to face ”overtourism”.

Venice, with its beautiful canals and squares, is about to impose a tax of 10 euros on tourists for day trips and will no longer allow huge cruise ships dock in its historic port.

Airbnb, a roommate service that turns local apartments into tourist accommodation, has been criticized for pushing up prices in popular areas across Europe.

Barcelona has one of the highest Airbnb rental rates in Europe. The New Yorker called Airbnb’s presence in Barcelona “invasion“, Claiming that some residents see the service as a” plague “.

After the general outcry, Barcelona took action in 2018 to create an easily searchable database of Airbnb vacation rentals that have received a necessary license to operate in the city, the first of its kind.

The registry will allow authorities to easily verify whether a vacation rental listed on the vacation rental service is in good standing.

Airbnb did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bajnok said Airbnb was also contributing to the unrest in his neighborhood.

In 2017, Airbnb usage increased by more than 14%, according to to local real estate publications, making its growth second behind Paris and Barcelona.

The seventh arrondissement resident said local activists spoke to anti-Airbnb activists in Barcelona, ​​Paris and elsewhere to learn how to organize. Bajnok was confident that efforts to curb rowdy tourism will continue.

Source: TRT World

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