Czech tourism sector presents mixed picture in 2014

Photo: Kristýna Maková

The latest snapshot of the Czech tourism sector presents mixed news with more guests overall but shorter stays. And while the relatively small top end of the market was surging ahead, the cheaper options were mostly struggling.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
The Czech tourism industry continued to score well with foreign tourists in 2014 but not so successfully with its local market. That’s one of the main messages from a report on the state of the sector released by the Czech Statistical Office on Thursday.

Overall, the number of guests at facilities ranging from five star hotels to camping sites was up 1.2 percent last year, compared with 2013, at 15.6 million. The breakdown of visitors for last year was 8.1 million from abroad, up 3.1 percent on the previous year, and 7.5 million local visitors, down by just under 1.0 percent.

Not surprisingly, Prague fared best for foreign visitors with 5.3 million, up just over 5 percent compared with 2013. Most of those visitors were from Germany, 17 percent, followed by Russia, 9 percent. Outside the capital, the most popular region for foreign visitors was Karlovy Vary; for Czechs, South Moravia.

But the overall trend for both foreign and local visitors is the same: they are both tending to cut short their visits and make shorter stays. The total visitor figures translated into 42.9 million occupied beds over the year, a fall of 0.8 percent compared with 2013. The drop in bed occupancy was biggest among local visitors, down 1.5 percent, compared with the 0.2 percent fall for foreigners. Foreign visitors thus counted for almost 52 percent of occupancy against just over 48 percent for local guests.

A breakdown of where guests stayed in 2014 showed the top end of the market performing well but a mixed picture for the rest. Five star hotels scored a 7.8 percent rise in visitors and a 7.8 percent hike in bed occupancy over the year. Down one star but not exactly slumming it, and the figures showed a 4.2 percent rise in visitors but just 1.1 percent increase in occupancy. And the figures for three star hotels, which account for around a quarter of the beds across the board at all types of accommodation in the country, was of a slight rise in numbers but unchanged occupancy levels overall. Other hotels saw visitor numbers and occupancy rates decimated, in the classical Roman sense of the word in that they were cut by around 10 percent.

Guest houses and pensions witnessed a 2.3 percent drop in visits and 6.6 percent fall in occupancy. Pensions are mostly visited by Czechs, who usually account for 80 percent of visitors. Campsites, even more favoured by Czechs, saw visitor numbers up but occupancy rates slightly down.

The wider picture is that the tourism sector contributed to 2.9 percent of Czech Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013, down from 3.5 percent a decade earlier. The number now employed in tourism is around 231,000, or equal to the total employed by the biggest 25 Czech companies, with that figure pretty stable over the last 10 years.

The main problem though, reflected by the low wages in the sector, is that although annual productivity has increased by around a third since 2003, at around 440,000 crowns per worker it is well below the Czech average of around 720,000 crowns in 2013.