Czech ministry makes case for shake up of tourism sector

24-06-2010

The economic importance of the Czech tourism sector has been mapped out in full for the first time. The ministry behind the study hopes that even in these stringent times the results will encourage greater investment in the sector and push through long delayed moves to shake up how it is organized.

The Ministry of Regional Development, which has oversight of the Czech tourism sector, released the results of a far reaching study into the sector’s importance on Thursday.

The study includes the overall tourism spend in the country, the number of direct and indirect jobs created and the tax, social insurance and indirect taxes paid by tourists and workers.

When taking into account all the spin-off jobs and taxes, tourism accounts for 5.6 percent of the country’s economy. The number of full time jobs tied to tourism totals just over 370,000, or 7.6 percent of the workforce. That is more than the total in health care and social services and almost three times the total in farming.

And in spite of a fall off in the number of foreign tourist overnight stays since the peak year of 2006, the overall sector, including domestic tourism and foreign tourism, is growing. There is, for example, a clear drift to the top end of the market with shorter but more expensive stays.

More potently perhaps for those in power is the fact that around a fifth of the sector’s 510 billion crown annual turnover makes its way back in some form of other into the Czech public coffers.

The number packed study is more than a bid to get a better grasp of the sector, helpful as that is. The message behind the figures is that the Czech tourism sector is due a shake up, and that this will pay back a government willing to undertake it.

The Minister for Regional Development is Rostislav Vondruška:

“What we need is a new law that will outline the playing field for tourism. It should say who is in charge, who is managing tourism at what level and what level of income from tourism should be reinvested back in tourism.”

The ministry complains that the current system for managing tourism in the Czech Republic is complicated and cumbersome with central government and regional responsibilities ill defined and overlapping. The result is that tourist investment, especially in the regions outside Prague, is not being made at all or is poorly targeted.

There have been attempts to shake up the system before but these have failed. Poor timing, insufficient political will and, apparently, not enough figures at the fingertips seem to have contributed to the demise of those previous attempts. But the minister is now optimistic that this time the story will be different.

“We believe that now is the best time. The members of parliament are aware of the problems. We spent last year talking to them and showing them partial results of such as study. And we have promises that this time this is a theme that will be solved, not for ever, but for the next 10 years.”

Whether those are five star promises or in a lower category altogether should be seen over the next months.

24-06-2010