The travel website Amazing Places has set itself an ambitious goal – to promote often hidden gems around the country which will guarantee an unforgettable holiday tailored to your preferences. The team of young enthusiasts creating the list have combed the country for the most magical places there are to be found from cozy wooden cottages, mills and farm houses to exceptional apartments and hotels, which offer quality services, beautiful surroundings and excellent food. I spoke to Hana Krausová, the company’s managing director, about how it all began, what her work entails and how is has been affected by the coronavirus crisis.
“Amazing Places is a project that maps the most amazing places where you can stay across the Czech Republic – hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, cottages and so on. The project started more than five and a half years ago when Peter, the founder, started a Facebook page where he posted his favourite places, places he had visited with his wife and three children and that he liked a lot. In the beginning there was no business plan how to turn this into a sustainable project in the future, but Peter owns two little hotels in Prague so he has some background in the hospitality business and knows what the places should look like. So it was his perception of the most beautiful places in the Czech Republic.”
And now there is a whole team of people selecting these amazing places. Can you tell me how you select them and in what way they are amazing? Do you have categories for people with children, adrenalin-sports, loners and such?
“We don’t have any specific criteria. When we visit a place it doesn’t mean that the place has to have a flat screen TV and air-conditioning, but it always has to have some kind of WOW effect on us. So it is very important for us to visit all the places in person, to talk to the owners, to the managers and then based on this experience we decide if the place merits being put on the Amazing Places list. So it is really selective and it is really based on our personal taste and I am really glad that there are more than 350,000 people who share our taste and appreciate our recommendations. In the very beginning, when we started visiting these places, it was really a punk project because we literally travelled around the country and knocked on each door that we liked and that was how we found many hidden gems in the Czech Republic. But as the project grew and gained increasing popularity we started getting requests from people who asked how they could be a part of Amazing Places. So we always tell them that there has to be a personal visit, we have to talk to them, experience the place and only then can we honestly say whether the place should be part of Amazing Places.”
“It is more or less the latter case. We don’t chose the places based on demand, based on what we think that people would like, we are rather kind of a trend-setter and we really discover many hidden gems that people would normally not select themselves, but we feel a special atmosphere there and recommend it from the heart. So it is our own decision.”
How many places in the Czech Republic have you put on the map?
“There are almost 300 of them today.”
I understand that your quest for amazing places has now also spread to Slovakia and Austria, is that right?
“That’s right, we have selected more than 30 places in Slovakia and 15 in Austria but we started at the beginning of this year and because of the current crisis we had to scrap our planned trips there but we hope to go there in the coming months.”
“That’s true. We flew to Bali on March 10 –six of us, which is about two thirds of our team – because we wanted to visit some Czechs who have holiday resorts in Bali and we wanted to show some beautiful places in Bali that are owned by Czechs. This was just five days before the crisis hit the Czech Republic and we were stuck on a very small island, an island called Gili Meno, which you can cross from one end to the other in half an hour. Being stuck there with your fiancée or your husband would be very nice but this was a bit trying. We had no idea when we would get back, what was happening in the Czech Republic, flights were being cancelled, hotels were closing – so it was an adrenalin experience. But we did manage to get back home finally.”
“March and April were really tough for Amazing Places, all our hotels were closed, no one knew what was going to happen but there is now an opportunity opening up for us because it looks like everyone will holiday at home this year. A lot of our places are already sold out. It started with the small cottages, bed-and-breakfasts, which were booked first, but there are still many bigger hotels and beautiful retreats that still have vacancies in June, July and August. So I hope that Czechs will finally discover the Czech Republic and go to places they haven’t seen in a while or have never before visited. They will see that the quality of services in the Czech Republic has improved a lot and that they do not have to travel abroad for a beautiful summer holiday.”
Your Hero Hotel project recently made national headlines. Tell me about it.
“The Hero Hotel Project we undertook with our partner -the technology company Mevris -and the aim was to help hotels which were at the time shut down and which had no income at all. We decided to motivate people in the Czech Republic to buy vouchers or future stays in the hotels so they would have some income in the meantime and the people can go there when the hotels reopen. And the second part was something that hotels wanted to do themselves which was to help those fighting the epidemic on the frontlines – doctors, nurses whom they offered accommodation for free so that they could live away from their families in order to protect them from possible infection.”
“It is not secret at all. It is probably one of the most popular places in our Amazing Places portfolio –Chateau Mcely which many people will already have heard about. It is a former chateau in Central Bohemia and it is amazing because of its unique, relaxed atmosphere, I always feel great there and they have the best staff that you can imagine. Everyone is always smiling, always helpful. It is also unique for me because last summer we got engaged there with my fiancé. It was really magical and the staff did their utmost to make our stay great. So I will definitely be going back. In fact it was only this morning that I booked another stay for us there this summer.”
“It is definitely a dream job, but as with all jobs it is not always just about going to the best hotels and enjoying the atmosphere, there is a lot more that is hidden to the eye.”
Do you have a dream? Where do you want to take Amazing Places?
“I would love it if one day the project would be number one for every Czech who is looking for quality accommodation in the Czech Republic. I hope that one day Amazing Places will be their first choice when looking for a hotel or a cottage where they could holiday. I believe it is increasingly important where we spend our free time, because we have much less free time nowadays than we used to. So it is worth going to places where you will have the best experience possible.”