Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about cruise ships, cruising on the Danube and the problems of overcrowding. Experts say, however, that the problem is not that there are too many ships, but that the industry expanded very unexpectedly, and many want to save money on the salary of staff.
According to HVG, the fact that there are lots of ships simultaneously on the Budapest section of the Danube could have been one of the contributing factors of the tragedy taking place between Hableány (Mermaid) and Viking Sigyn. Although we still do not know what exactly went down that night, it is an undeniable fact that the number of cruise ships simultaneously on the Danube has been growing. This comes as no surprise since operating cruise ships and hotel ships is an excellent business opportunity.
An insider from a cruise ship company revealed that the real problem is not the increase in the number of ships on the Danube, but that the growth came too unexpectedly. A few years ago, hotel ships also started offering sightseeing tours. So, the competition is big, and no one wants to risk missing out on such an opportunity.
In addition, most ships are on their way between 7 and 10 pm, and since there are no regulations, no one is willing to give up tours at such prime time.
According to data, there are about 130 cruise ships in Budapest and in the Danube Bend. When it comes to hotel ships, there are about 250 thousand tourists visiting Hungary on such ships every year, and from the 250 hotel ships cruising along the Danube, about 200 of them visit the capital. In addition, the Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK) also has eight ships, however, these stop running after 8 pm.
In Hungary, an average cruise ship company has a few dozen million forints of profit every year, two to six ships, and an increasing number of staff members, who do not get an especially high salary. The same trends can be observed in this field as in many others of the labour market: many people choose to go to Austria or Germany for higher salaries, and despite this, those who remain in Hungary still do not have an income that necessarily makes it worth staying.
Now, following the tragedy, people working in the business worry how much it will affect the cruise ship scene in Budapest.
A few days after the ship collision, about 4,000 tourist groups from South Korea cancelled their Central European trips that would have included Hungary as well.
A source living there claimed that it could take about six months until this shift tips back. Most people working in the business agree with this estimate; however, they expect Hungarian and Western European guests to return slightly earlier.
However, a lot depends on how Hungary handles the situation in the coming weeks and what their communication is like. It is important that travel agencies reassure everybody that despite the tragedy, Budapest is still safe. Nevertheless, it is even more crucial to make sure that South Korean media can say that searching for the bodies and investigating the circumstances of the tragedy proceeds in a professional manner.