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The image of Budapest: conference at the New York Palace

On 15 September 2010, the Budapest Image Conference was opened by István Tarlós, the nominee for the Lord Mayors’s post in Budapest. The aim of the event was to find a possible future for Budapest by showing action spaces and good examples.

As a starting point, Attila Ughy, chair of the Budapest Municipality’s City Development and City Image Protection Committee, drew attention to the rapid development of Vienna and Bratislava, comparing them with the rather slow development of the Hungarian capital. This was followed by István Tarlós’ speech. He pointed out that although there were positive changes in the past 20 years in the capital, it is still estranged from itself and has a crowded feeling.

Tarlós thinks that Budapest – from an economic and political point of view – is far from being a cosmopolitan metropolis, and has lost its formerly owned regional leader characteristics. The Lord Mayor candidate said that he would withdraw the right from the districts to decide about urban renewal. Instead, it would be in the hands of the Budapest Municipality again. The image of Budapest will be defined by marketing work on the internet and the making of promotional films.

Mr Tarlós’ speech was followed by Bálint Németh’s, CEO of AERA Property & Destination Ltd., presentation. He analysed the present City Image Councellor’s work and the short image film made by Budapest Business Region. He noted that we still lack positive city image marketing. He also stressed that slogans are not enough: what really counts among cities racing for educated human resources is the quality and quantity of services.

Martin Schaffer came from the Vienna-based Kohl & Partner tourism advisory company. One of his first points was to comfort the Hungarian participants that Budapest has a positive overall image both in Europe and globally. Nevertheless, his presentation’s visual graphics were less reassuring: in the past 5 years Budapest has become less and less attractive as a destination, based on the number of nights spent here and the number of tourist arrivals.

n the final part of the first section, Gergely Gulyás Kovács, President of the Budapest Business Region, introduced the BBR cluster which will be exhibited at the Expo Real real estate fair between 4-6 October.

Two foreign experts had the opportunity to give a presentation in the second section of the conference. Seppo Aho, Vice President of the Finnish-Swedish Fortum Energy Trust talked about waste treatment in Nordic countries and the use of locally produced energy.

Matthew Jackson, Head of Research of the Centre for Local Economic Strageties (UK), presented the Future City Game, a joint initiative of CLES and the British Council. The British Council is also running the programme in Hungary. He highlighted the social economy’s role in urban development, quoting examples from Plzen and Ljubljana.