The temporary ban of tourist buses due to construction work on the castle’s Hunyadi Street will become permanent. Furthermore, another castle street was turned one-way, while vehicles above 3.5 tonnes were banned entirely from the quarter. As a result, a castle visit can be more difficult for numerous tourists. But what is the reason behind such drastic measures? Is it worth banning tourist buses from the castle, which is one of the most important attractions of Budapest?
According to Népszava, the tourism sector was shocked by the news because nobody expected such rigorous regulations. Bálint Erdei, the vice-chairman of the Association of Hungarian Travel Agencies, said that tour organisers contracted for similar programs 1-2 years before.
Most people visiting the Castle District by tourist buses reach Budapest by cruise ship. Many of these visitors are senior people with walking difficulties, so they would not be able to make the tour on foot. The capacity of the castle elevator is small. Now agencies transport visitors with small buses or taxis. However, the environmental footprint of that practice is larger than that of the modern tourist buses. Furthermore, it increases costs and time. As a result, tourists might visit fewer attractions in Budapest, and the sector’s revenue decreases.
Therefore, some companies have already skipped Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Instead, they take the groups to City Park.
A high-scale city renewal initiative called the Liget project promised that the City Park would be a tourist magnet in Budapest. If the Castle District remains closed for tourist buses, that will become an effortless reality soon.
What do the politicians say? László Böröcz from Orbán’s Fidesz, who was not able to win against the opposition’s Antal Csárdi in the general election in April, says that “tourist buses have no place in the inner streets of Buda.” He would like tourist buses to stop at the perimeters of the district and unload the tourists there. A local councillor of Fidesz, Gergely Kristóf Gulyás, said the same at the June session of the local council.
The district’s opposition mayor, Márta V. Naszály, said that the problem was more complex and this recent regulation was not sufficient to solve it. Therefore, they called for a round-table discussion where they invited all parties and organisations. Gábor Csobánczy (Democratic Coalition), the vice-mayor of the district, said that the ban would likely bankrupt local entrepreneurs.
An interesting survey was cited during the debate informing participants that
visitors coming on tourist buses spend an average of 47 minutes in the Castle District and very little money.
Furthermore, a ban on tourist buses would only concern senior tourists who dine and spend the night on their cruise ships. Therefore, they do not generate high income for the tourism sector of Budapest. Bálint Erdei said that such tours are about raising awareness. The majority of the visitors will return later. He added that Fisherman’s Bastion was one of the main attractions. Without it, cruise ships might skip Budapest entirely when they organise their schedules.
The local council did not accept Fidesz’s proposal but voted for councillor Dániel Varga’s proposal, which would preserve the current situation. Mr Erdei said conserving the current state meant a total ban on big tourist buses. The sector needed an alternative route for tourist buses, he added.
The district’s mayor, Márta Váradiné Naszályi said she was committed to finding a solution that would not castrate castle tourism.
The restrictions that took effect in June have already caused a 70 percent traffic decrease in the local restaurants and shops. Váradiné Naszályi would rather support the practices Barcelona or Vienna have implemented, which means scheduled tourist buses without empty vehicles.