CzechTourism presents revival plan for hard-hit tourist industry

Charles Bridge, photo: Sabina Vosecká, Czech Radio

Tourism has been one of the hardest-hit industries by the coronavirus crisis. In the Czech Republic, which is a popular tourist destination, the tourist sector employs a quarter of a million people and brings significant revenues to state coffers. In a video-conference on Tuesday the government agency CzechTourism presented its long-term strategy for reviving this all-important sector.  

Tourism revenues in the Czech Republic last year amounted to 300 billion crowns, making up 3 percent of the GDP. This year, as a result of the pandemic, the industry is struggling to survive. The head of CzechTourism Jan Herget says the damage is overwhelming.

“The impact of the pandemic has been brutal. Revenues this year will drop by 53 percent to 139 billion crowns, in Prague revenues are down by 80 percent, putting 200,000 jobs on the line, not just in the tourist industry itself, but in related professions such as bakeries or cleaners.”

Jan Herget,  photo: archive of Czech Radio

The government agency CzechTourism, the Ministry for Regional Development and the Czech Foreign Ministry have now joined forces to come up with a rescue project that will jump-start the tourist industry in the shortest possible time.

In a video-conference on Tuesday the head of Czech Tourism Jan Herget stressed the importance of adopting this as a common goal and pulling together to bring it about, regardless of whether the chosen slogan to promote the Czech Republic will be “ Czech Republic –Land of Stories” “ Czech Republic – Country for the Future” or simply “ Visit the Czech Republic “.

In the past politicians have argued over what slogan is best and whether to move away from presenting the country as a land of beer and castles, which they argued had served its purpose and no longer attracted new visitors. There was even disagreement as to whether to use the country’s formal name –Czech Republic or the shorter and snappier Czechia. Now a special commission has been set up to agree on a new strategy for presenting the Czech Republic abroad.

According to Herget, this interest in reviving Czech tourism and the will to promote it is one of the few positive side-effects of the pandemic.

Photo: elPadawan,  Flickr,  CC BY-SA 2.0

“We have had intensive consultations with regional bosses and entrepreneurs, about the approach we want to take and agreed that in order to respond to the situation as it develops we will need to act like a start-up–we must be flexible, fast and digital.”

The basic plan is already in place and according to Jan Herget the immediate priority is to get tourists back to the Czech capital, to its restaurants and hotels which are dependent on foreign visitors and, at the right time, to use Prague as a gateway to the regions, to its chateaus and spas.

According to Herget, it will be necessary to balance a rational and emotional approach in the months following the pandemic, not just to show the country’s numerous attractions, but to present it as a safe destination where the risk of infection is low.

CzechTourism will first target tourists within driving distance – Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and The Netherlands. In the second phase it will run a campaign with Czech Airlines to bring in tourists from Spain, France, Italy and Great Britain and in the third phase focus on tourists from the United States, Canada, Asia and Russia who spend the most money here.

The agency is also planning to launch a unified system for registering visitors in the country in the near future, something akin to the e-Visitor platform, which operates in Croatia. It should facilitate mandatory administrative processes and provide a comprehensive overview of the number of tourists who come to the country.