Airbnb rentals under fire by residents in Budapest

Hungary: Activists in the Hungarian capital of Budapest are blaming rising rents in the city on the number of vacation rentals being listed for tourists to stay in.

As a result, they are campaigning for the government to place restrictions on rentals in the city, rentable through platforms like Airbnb, with Budapest experiencing a recent surge of tourists with the opening of the globally recognised Sziget music festival.

The festival welcomes around a thousand performers every year, and it was estimated to have drawn in close to 530,000 spectators this year with over 50 per cent of them believed to be from overseas.

Local residents are increasingly at odds with what they perceive to be the city’s ‘party district’, where crowds gather beyond the end of the final performances at 11pm. Hungary’s tourism industry has undergone a boom in recent years, particularly among younger traveller demographics.

Speaking to TRT World, local resident Attila Bajnok said: “We can’t sleep because of the noise. When we go to work in the morning, the area is filthy.”

The Sziget music festival has added fuel to the fire for residents, following the Hungarian Tourism Agency’s launch of an international ad campaign designed to attract tourism to Budapest last year. That subsequently to a record tourist number hike, with overnight stays exceeding 31 million in 2018.

Such figures would lead to tourism accounting for 16 per cent of Hungary’s overall economy by 2030 if those projections are correct.

Another factor is the fact that Hungary has its own currency in the form of the forint. The government has been able to weaken its own forint to drive down export prices and tourism into the country therefore becomes more appealing to travellers.

While the currency is valued weak though, the influx of tourists has boosted the country’s coffers with Euros from European visitors, and these are then put back into Hungary’s main trading partners.

Now, locals residing in Budapest’s seventh district, at the heart of over-tourism complaints, have decided to organise activist groups which are calling on the government to impose stricter penalties on rowdiness and intoxication in public spaces. Although this is already illegal in the capital, it is only loosely enforced and punitive measures are rare.

Other cities to fight back against perceived ‘over-tourism’ include Brussels, Amsterdam and Barcelona, with the latter having one of the highest proportions of short-term rentals listed through Airbnb in the world.

Bajnok also bemoaned the influence of rental platforms like Airbnb on the disruption in his neighbourhood.

In 2017, the presence of Airbnb rentals in Budapest reportedly rose at a rate surpassing 14 per cent, positioning the city only behind Paris and Barcelona in the global standings for that category.