Budapest has scored well in a business travel index published in the Economist magazine. It comes out ahead of destinations like Frankfurt, Hong Kong and New York when it comes to meeting the needs of the travelling executive. To put this to the test, Radio Budapest spoke to Les Nemethy, the much travelled president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Budapest:
"I must confess I have visited most of the cities on that list and I'm not one bit surprised. What surprises me is that Hungarians in general do not realise what a wonderful city they have by international standards."
What makes it wonderful?
"The combination of the river, the hills, the architecture...it's a gem. It's definitely in the top 5-10 capital cities in Europe."
Compared to other major cities in the region like Vienna, Prague, or Warsaw, what are the advantages and disadvantages of Budapest?
"I think compared to Vienna we have a cost advantage. We have a similar architectural heritage, in terms of great buildings but we have the panorama of the Danube and the Buda hills that cannot be matched in Vienna. We have a very open way of doing business here in Budapest, which is perhaps more welcoming to the international community than in Vienna. With respect to Warsaw, I don't think it's possible even to compare the architectural heritage. Unfortunately, Warsaw had its 'Blitzkrieg' in WWII and hence has very little left of the old heritage and it's a flat city with most of it not built along the river.
"I think our toughest competition in terms of a combination of beauty of architecture and beauty of natural landscape comes from Prague. Prague has actually done a better job than Budapest, in some ways, of renovating its buildings; there are fewer potholes and that sort of thing. But it sometimes takes on a bit of a kind of Disneyland atmosphere. With so many tourists going through there, it's a little bit like Tinsil Town, where everything's so perfect. Budapest feels more like a city that is lived in. While Prague does have that panorama and river combination but it has quite a number of sub-centres in the city and a number of areas that are like valleys separated from the other areas in the city, Budapest is one big grand sweeping scene. They are both very attractive and I'm quite captivated by Prague but I think Budapest holds the best with any of them."
"We still do not have a world-class convention centre. We talk about our huge endowment of thermal water but we still do not have a truly world-class spa right here in down-town Budapest. The spas that are out in the countryside are often much better than the ones in Budapest. Infrastructure - I made reference earlier to the potholes on the road; a lot more could be done to renovate buildings faster. There is no excuse why we should be less renovated than Prague. So, these are the areas where we still have some catching up to do."
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