BUGA 2021: development, tourism, and challenges in Erfurt

Joschua Kemper
Gardens in Erfurt

Photo: BUGA Erfurt 2021

On April 23, 2021, the Federal Garden Show was opened in Erfurt and has welcomed more than 15,000 visitors over the weekend. Since 1951, when the first edition happened in Hanover, the biennial Bundesgartenshow (BUGA) and the decennial International Garden Show have been an integral part of Germany's cultural life and urban development. Over the decades, the BUGA has had different central themes and focuses. Particularly, in its first two decades, the BUGA promoted the construction of parks as a component of reconstruction in Germany after the II World War. With the reunification of Germany in 1990, the BUGA  shifted its focus to urban development in the new federal states, but  since 2007 it emphasizes green development of urban centers.

To reach its development goals, the 2021 BUGA is the result of a 10-year planning and so far an investment of 190 million euros by the European Union, the federal government, the state of Thuringia, and the city of Erfurt. In a effort to support local businesses, 90% of the amount has been spent regionally, according to Alexander Hilge, BUGA representative of the city of Erfurt. For instance, the pavers came from Gotha and the paving stones themselves, from the Thuringian quarry. Furthermore, the BUGA investment is not limited to the official gardens in Erfurt. Besides the official BUGA areas in the city, a 43-hectare exhibition field spread between Egapark and Petersberg, there are other nonofficial exhibition sites, such as the Geraaue in Erfurt or the 25 external BUGA sites within Thuringia. All of them enjoyed considerable improvement to meet the requirements of BUGA. Therefore, the garden exhibitions may enhance regional development and promote tourism in the long run.

However, the immense investment also bears some risks, especially if visitors keep away, as happened  to the 2015 BUGA in the Havel Region. At that time, bad weather conditions increased BUGA’s costs and reduced its final number of visitors by half a million.  

Now, the Covid-19 pandemic challenges the success of Erfurt’s BUGA. On the one hand, the city may not reach the expected number of visitors – almost 2 million over the 6 months of the exhibition. On the other hand, the exhibition inauguration, despite the current health safety situation, has caused controversy. For instance, due to the recently passed emergency brake amendment, schools and kindergartens in Erfurt should close. The BUGA maintenance, however, was not highly affected so far.

It is still unclear whether the garden show will overcome all these obstacles in the next 6 months. In any case, even if the 2021 BUGA does not receive the expected number of visitors during its official timeframe, its green development and tourism legacy will impact Erfurt thoroughly, as it did to other cities in previous editions.

About the author

Joschua Kemper is a first-year MPP candidate at the Brandt School, specializing in development and socio-economic policies and conflict management. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Groningen. His main interests are democratic governance and foreign policy.

~ The views represented in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Brandt School. ~