Perspectives along the River Danube
On 30 May, several special fields met in connection with the planning of the Rajka-Budapest section of the EuroVelo 6 bicycle road along the Danube to get familiar with the national ideas, activities and major projects of each other. During the workshop discussion titled “Prospects for the future along the Danube, Rajka-Budapest”, five topics related to the presentations about traffic, tourism, heritage protection, nature conservation and the Danube Region Strategy were covered.
At the opening of the event, Miklós Berencsi, head of department at the Hungarian Transport Administration (HTA) presented the bicycle project which includes a software development, a geographical information survey, and preparation of a decision-making study in addition to the feasibility one.
During the development of the Rajka-Budapest bicycle route, the major basic criteria of planning are as follows:
- No slope above 6% is allowed on the route,
- It must be wide enough to offer space to 3 cyclers side by side,
- Food sources must be available for the tourists at every 30 km, accommodations at every 50 km, and public traffic at every 150 km.
The planning process is very complex considering that the building of an infrastructure of that nature involves many operators in the region. The HTA and the planners hold frequent and extensive discussions in order to include all major aspects in the plans. The route itself is the backbone of the connectable tourism network which is not intended to make a directly accessible string of all the sights in the region. It is rather a convenient, relatively short route of high service standard to which the various sights and services can be connected through shorter or longer routes. Proper information supply to the cyclers and posting traffic signs along the route are of highlighted importance.
Subsequently, Oliver Fodor, head of department at the Ministry for National Economy held a lecture about the current issues of tourism policy. According to him, the volume indexes (capacity, guest nights and incomes) significantly have increased in the recent years after a set-back due to the crisis. However, indexes best representing the market performance (average room price and the room price-income per lettable room) were very slowly increasing, and reached - or slightly exceeded - the level before 2007 last year. The major objectives of the National Tourism Development Concept 2014-24 and the EU resources available for their implementation in the period between 2014 and 2020 were presented.
In the Economic Development and Innovation Operative Programme (GINOP), in addition to the development of the system of institutions, energy efficiency investments and complex and network developments promoting the cultural and natural heritages, including world heritage sights, national park and geopark developments, cultural and religion-pilgrimage thematic routes, spa developments, attractions of international significant, presentation of natural values as attractions and adventures, among others e.g. the development of the EuroVelo bicycle road network were also highlighted.
The counties are in charge of the planning of the Town and Spatial Development Operative Programme (TOP). This means that the county draws its spatial development concept and programme and the partial documents related the operative programmes of the next cycle as well as a list of projects containing the developments to be implemented.
Beyond these, the development of tourism appears also among the promotion possibilities of the Competitive Central Hungary operative programme and the Rural Development Programme.
The Government’s opening to the East policy also appears in tourism at an international level. A Tourism Coordination Centre involving 16 Central and Eastern European countries and China has been established in Budapest.
Zsuzsanna Benkőné Kiss, head of department at the Ministry of Human Resources, urged to draw a map of resources for the region. There have been already initiations in this matter, e.g. a Danube value study is being made by Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and a special background work is being performed by the Secretariat of the Danube Region Strategy in cooperation with Corvinus University.
Zsuzsánna Újlaki, deputy head of the Heritage Protection Department of the Ministry of the Interior, held a presentation on the heritage potential of the Danube bank.
Since the Danube bank is one of the oldest and most densely populated areas planning related to the architectural and cultural heritage elements must be highlighted in the preparation of the investment.
Lóránd Olivér Kovács, associate at the Hungarian National Museum/National Heritage Protection Centre, believes that these developments may result in several positive achievements as regards the heritage elements, and vice versa, the heritage elements may have similar effects on the project, however, due to the very dense population and architectural activities in the historical eras additional dialogues with the parties concerned are recommended.
Brigitta Berzsényi, world heritage rapporteur at the World Heritage and International Department of the Gyula Forster National Heritage Management and Service Centre, held a presentation on the world heritage of the Danube bank. Currently, there are 8 Hungarian sights in the Unesco World Heritage List, including 2 ones closely related to the Danube bank, which are the world heritage sights of Budapest (the Danube banks, the Buda Castle District and Andrássy street) and the Fertő/Neusiedlersee cultural landscape. The tentative list of Hungary includes additional locations such as the already mentioned Ripa Pannonica or the Esztergom-Visegrád Hungarial royal centres from the middle age as well as the area of the former Pilis royal forest, the system of Komárom/Komarno fortresses, the cave systems of Buda thermal karsts.
The management plans for the world heritage sights are currently being drawn, and their process and regulatory background were also presented. Zsuzsanna Benkőné Kis, head of the Cultural Development, Heritage Protection and Management Department of the Ministry of Human Resources, presented the relevant tasks of the ministry.
Dániel Hörcher, associate at the Secretariat of the Danube Region Strategy, held a presentation under title "Heritage Protection and Tourism Network Development in the Framework of the Danube Region Strategy”, presenting the macro-regional strategies of the EU, the objectives of the Danube Region Strategy and the operating mechanism as well as the Danube Heritage Protection and Ecotourism Metaproject which focuses on the Rheine-Budapest section in its first phase.
The primary purpose of the Metaproject is economic development which is implemented via the coordination of the heritage protection and ecotourism projects performed on the same geographical axis. As regards the background work performed with the Budapest Corvinus University, it was stated that according to the plans the already drawn and accepted Hungarian special material would be expanded to the whole Danube region in the future.
In the field of nature conservation, Mónika Csőszi, associate at the Ministry of Rural Development, presented the national ecotourism concepts of the Ministry of Rural Development involving the Danube bank areas, and described the major elements of the regulation of the areas protected in the framework of nature conservation that affect the bicycle road development as well as the relevant planning aspects.
Subsequently, Dr. Pál Kézdy, head of the department of applications at the Danube-Ipoly National Park, presented the Danubeparks programme and the plans of the new visitors' centre of the National Park in Dömös.
Based on the comments, from the aspect of infrastructural developments the heritage protection is, similarly to nature conservation, known as aspects hindering the investments, it is worth viewing their role as a tourism service provider, and the Danube bank development possibilities hidden in the ecotourism system planned for the future. The participants found that it is worth thinking over the possibilities of cooperation, supporting each other's work and making use of the possibilities of each other.