It's that time of year again. When the first sunrays glisten off the small plastic replicas of the Petrin Tower being sold on Charles Bridge and the evening chorus of flocks of stag parties can be heard across the Old Town. The tourist season is upon us; another wave of the estimated 6 million people who visit the city each year. And it's no wonder. Prague has a lot to offer as a tourist destination: stunning architecture, cultural heritage and of course you can't leave out the national drink. But I can never help but wonder how many visitors are
Every year the Association of Historic Towns and Villages in the Czech Republic holds a competition, to award the town it feels has done most to preserve its architectural heritage. Dozens of towns traditionally take part but only one can win the prize which includes a cheque for 1,000, 000 crowns (around 43,000 US dollars). This year the award went to north Bohemia's Ceska Kamenice.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has brought over 1,000 American experts in tourism to Prague this week. Their goal is to become specialists on the Czech Republic and other Central European countries with the help of sightseeing tours, seminars, and a trade fair at which Czech and Central European travel agencies are presenting their holiday packages.
OK, so some of the jokes about women having a poor sense of direction may be grounded. At least in my case. When I'm sitting next to the driver with a map on my lap you can be fairly certain that I will miss pointing out a vital turning or point it out a few kilometres further down the road. So the news that the world's leading cartographers were meeting in the town of Cesky Krumlov last weekend to debate whether the days of the printed map are numbered gave me a glimmer of hope that I would soon be replaced by a superior satellite navigation
An hour and a half's journey south of Prague lies the medieval Hussite town of Tabor. On first arrival, as you step out onto a busy square from the packed train station, the place looks nothing out of the ordinary. But once you pass the bustling high street in the newer area of town, the cobbled and winding paths of the Old Town lined with their quaint houses make this a location where you can feel history at every turn. And indeed history is something of which there is no lack in Tabor.
"Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic" is the name of a new book which has just been launched in the United States. It features - as do all the books in the "Travelers' Tales" series - the work of a number of writers of varying backgrounds, including a couple of very well known names. One of its editors, David Farley, discussed the new publication with me on the phone from New York.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 thousands of Western tourists flocked to Prague for their first-ever visit to the Czech capital. This intense interest lasted for several years and together with the city's architectural treasures it ensured a steady stream of tourists. But now - more than sixteen years later - the Prague tourist authorities have a new goal: to keep tourists coming back for more.
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.