HN: Promised hotel support scheme now only applies to spas

Illustative photo: Ivan Janota, public domain

The minister of regional development, Klára Dostálová, has not delivered on pledges to Czech hotels and their clients hoping for state help following the coronavirus crisis, Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday.

In April Ms. Dostálová promised domestic tourists a CZK 10,000 state contribution at any hotel, the business daily said.

However, the reality today is that the maximum contribution is CZK 4,000, with that sum applying for spa facilities alone. What’s more the measure applies from July 1, not the previously flagged June 1.

In a regular social media video appearance by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Sunday, Minister Dostálová said vouchers would be available to those spending at least six nights and having five procedures at a spa hotel.

The PM then said in the same clip that the cabinet was debating a contribution of CZK 200 to CZK 400 per room.

However, the president of the Association of Restaurants and Hotels, Václav Stárek, said his members had been expecting one-off compensation for the fact they were forced to close during the lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Stárek said his organisation had begun discussing the matter with the government only last week. The main tourist season gets underway at the start of July.

Tomáš Prouza, the head of the Confederation of Commerce and Tourism, told Hospodářské noviny that clients were phoning spa facilities seeking advice on how to obtain vouchers.

The fact many spas themselves don’t know even at this late stage is causing anxiety among potential visitors, Mr. Prouza said.

The state should make CZK 1 billion – in the form of up to 300,000 vouchers – available to support spa stays this year.

High prices had meant a fall in the numbers of Czechs visiting spas in recent years. Cut-price vacation offers in other countries are also making life harder for domestic spa operators.

Hospodářské noviny says one reason the largesse initially proffered by Minister Dostálová had faded was opposition from the minister of finance, Alena Schillerová.

Ms. Schillerová had expressed support for the scheme in March, with the expectation that employers and employees would also contribute to the vouchers. However, many businesses are too cash-strapped to take part.

The fact the voucher system only applies to spas now is bad news for the country’s hotels, says Hospodářské noviny. Such facilities can draw on other government support but are still in big trouble.

Tomáš Prouza of the Confederation of Commerce and Tourism says his association will be glad if hotels reached one-fifth the occupancy of last year, when a record 3.3 foreign visitors stayed overnight.

A Ministry of Finance official told Hospodářské noviny that handing out vouchers to all could lead to an increase in accommodation prices, adding that regions and local authorities should do more to help hotels.

Some are already doing their bit. The City of Prague is providing a discount of several hundred crowns for each night spent in a hotel in the city.

The South Bohemian Region is offering not just cheaper accommodation but also half-price admission to museums and theatres.