Tourism is an important source of income for the Czech Republic. And the country is attracting more foreign tourists every year. In 2005 their number reached a record 6.4 million. Now the Czech Ministry for Regional Development has set itself a much harder task - encouraging Czechs to holiday at home.
Encouraging Czechs to holiday at home has not proved an easy task, but the government has decided to have a go. Switch on the TV and you see an ad commissioned by the Regional Development Ministry. It shows various beauty spots in the Czech Republic with the message "Come and spend time with people who really understand your needs".
The ad is well done and the destinations shown are undisputedly beautiful but for most Czechs the lure of an azure sea coast remains unrivalled. Now, the ruling Social Democratic Party wants to give the "holiday at home" campaign more steam. The party is proposing a change of legislation which would encourage firms to make a financial contribution to their employees' holidays in the Czech Republic and then write off the money in tax cuts.
This measure is said to be producing results in France and Hungary and other European states are allegedly considering it. The Czech Labour minister Zdenek Skromach is very supportive of the proposal, on the grounds that a tourist boom in the regions would provide more job opportunities, improve services and the local infrastructure. People working in the tourist industry are also delighted with the idea. Karin Seligova of Czech Tourism, the state tourism promotion agency, had this to say:
We know that most foreign visitors who come to the Czech Republic only spend time in Prague. Do you feel that the regions are now prepared for foreign tourists or do you think that the influx of Czech holiday makers would help improve the quality of services offered?
"It depends on the individual regions. Prague meets all the requirements and some other regions do as well but not all the regions do."
What services do tourists require-which are lacking in some of the regions?
" Very good services in hotels and restaurants, good sightseeing services and a good translator, primarily."
"Yes, services for domestic tourists will eventually serve foreign tourists as well, such as new sports facilities."
All round - encouraging Czechs to spend more of their holiday money at home seems like a good idea but it's not likely to materialize unless people get some financial motivation. Their savings are usually spent on exotic holidays - and if they want a break in the Czech Republic - then their country cottage is ready and waiting. But, a bonus of ten thousand crowns might persuade them to stay at the Karlovy Vary spa town, spend time in ancient Cesky Krumlov or go mountain climbing in Cesky Raj - the Czech translation of which is the Czech Paradise -or- if you believe the ministry's add - "a place where people really understand your needs".
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