At the start of the year Prague was gearing up for another record tourist season, but as the coronavirus pandemic hit, the city’s tourist figures plummeted. Cancelled flights and closed borders saw the number of foreign visitors to the Czech Republic drop by nearly a third in the first quarter and the outlooks for the rest of the year are bleak. In fact, Barbora Hruba, from Prague City Tourism says there is scant hope of a revival anytime soon.
“We cannot expect the number of visitors to rise to the amount we had before the crisis anytime soon, by which I mean years and years to come. We have to take into account that other countries may have closed borders, or a state of emergency in place and another very important factor is the fear. We have to take into account that many people will be afraid to travel abroad, will not want to travel abroad for a very long time.”
Are there any nationalities who might come back sooner?
“Definitely it will be people from neighbouring countries and Europe. However the issue is that more than 80 percent of visitors to Prague come from abroad and now we have to focus more on the domestic market, which will never be able to replace the amount of foreign visitors we had. But this is one of our safest options at this point – to focus on Central Europe, neighbouring countries and mainly the domestic market.”
“Yes, this is a special campaign that will run from June till September and its goal is to bring as many Czechs to Prague as we can. There will be discounts and free admissions to Prague monuments, museums and galleries because we want to show the locals that Prague is an interesting city and they can enjoy it as never before without the crowds of people in the centre. However we understand that prices in other regions of the country are very different from those in Prague and we are aiming for overnight stays.”
What are the attractions that Czechs from the country visiting Prague will want to see? Are we talking about the newly-trendy neighbourhoods or the usual tourist destinations?
“In the first wave we expect people to want of visit the traditional sites – Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Prague Castle, places they were not willing to come visit because it was so overcrowded and maybe remember what Prague looked like when they were young, maybe thirty years ago. But since most Czechs have been to Prague already and seen all these sights we are trying to attract them to the newly trendy neighbourhoods with interesting restaurants and cafes, such Holešovice or Karlín.”
Are you not afraid that with an economic crisis following hard on the heels of the coronavirus crisis people will not have money to spend in Prague?
“Tourism as an industry is of course probably the most sensitive to any crisis, economic more than any other, because if people start losing their jobs and running out of money the first thing they will stop doing is travelling. This can have a really destructive impact on the city itself because tourism as an industry is extremely important for the capital since there are services and other industries that are very closely connected to it. So this is one of our biggest fears –how hard the crisis will hit and how big the impact will be. So together with other institutions –also private enterprises, hotels and so on – we are trying to restart tourism as fast and as efficiently as we can.”
“Yes, this is why we are launching the mentioned campaign that will give visitors more benefits the longer they stay. Basically, for every night they spend in Prague they will get two points that they can use to gain entry to some monument or site, a museum or gallery…so for two nights they will get four points and so on. That is one of the ways in which we are trying to help them save money because domestic visitors who come to Prague usually do not stay in hotels, they come for a cultural or sports event and then return home or else they stay with friends and family. So a big part of the campaign is to show them that there are reasons why they should stay in the city for longer.”
What about foreign tourists from close by – neigbour states or EU member states who may come during the summer months -in the short space of time before the situation may potentially worsen again with a second wave of the pandemic? What are you doing to attract those?
“At this point we do not have a specific campaign running, because there are still quite a few restrictions in place, the situation is changing every day, but definitely we will be launching some campaigns as soon as we can to attract foreign tourists to the city. We will use the fact that in general Prague is perceived as a very safe city world-wide and the way that the city and country reacted to the pandemic is also something we can emphasize in our campaign – that Prague is a place where you don’t have to be afraid and you can come and enjoy your holiday here.”
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