Holiday bookings down by 20 percent as Czechs fear risk of catching coronavirus

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio

The number of advance sales for summer holiday tours has been falling since the end of last month, according to travel agencies questioned by Czech Radio. The main reason is the ongoing coronavirus scare.

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
It was all fine until the end of February, but then it all came to a sudden halt, says Markéta Horčičková, the owner of the Engeltour travel agency which specialises in trips to Dresden, Poland and the picturesque region of Bohemian Switzerland.

While before then the company registered around 12 reservations a day, now the amount is closer to one or two, usually internal trips within the Czech Republic.

Ms Horčičková says that if the situation continues like this for the next half year it will result in a financial slump for the company, which is now creating more offers for internal travel tours to minimize the damage.

It is not just small businesses like Engeltour which are feeling the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Fischer, one of the largest travel agencies in the country says its summer holiday bookings to sea destinations are down by a fifth compared to last year, mainly due to the coronavirus.

The company is now offering a special deal wherein those who purchase a holiday by the end of March, will receive beneficial conditions, such as the ability to change the destination up to three weeks ahead of travel.

Andrea Řezníčková, the spokeswoman for another large agency, Invia, told Czech Radio that they too have noticed a 20 percent decrease in bookings.

She says the lower interest levels are particularly marked among the company’s Asian tour offers. Italy is also unpopular. However, the company hopes that the offset will be negated by a sudden increase later on through so-called last minute reservations from mid-May onwards.

Overall losses for travel agencies could range between CZK 1.5 billion to CZK 1.7 billion if the slowdown in reservations continues for the next few weeks, according to Jan Papež from the Association of Travel Agencies.

If i tis indeed just a temporary plunge, the hit to the sectors businesses will not be crippling. However, if the phenomenon were to continue until October the impact would be “equal to liquidation”, he says.

Related sectors, such as the hotel and air travel industry have also registered serious problems. Věra Janičinová, the trade director of Student Agency’s flight bookings division, says that demand for flights to Northern Italy is down by 90 percent.