Prague sees boom in luxury hotels


More and more people are checking into the Czech Republic’s four and five star hotels. Last year, the number of people holidaying in the lap of luxury in this country rose by over ten percent to nearly 3.5 million. To respond to the surge in demand, tens of new and deluxe high-end hotels are planned. Prague alone can expect nearly 20 of them in the next couple of years. But will this phenomenon be felt outside of Prague in the regions?

Erik Štadler shows me around the Hotel Arkada, a newly-opened four-star hotel in the centre of the Czech capital. He tells me how the hotel’s first three months of business have been:

“Hotels in Prague were pretty unoccupied the last couple of weeks in January, but we are starting again now in March. It’s coming, because it is not high season yet and accommodation is cheaper at this time of year. We are getting students and young people who also prefer four-star hotels, but who want to pay less.”

Four and five star hotels like Mr Štadler’s are becoming more and more popular in the Czech Republic. Does the boom reflect a change in visitors’ tastes? Tomio Okamura is the head of the Association of Czech Travel Agencies:

Photo: CzechTourism
“Not exactly. The problem with the Czech structure of accommodation is that we have too many lower-category hotels, and we still have a shortage of deluxe accommodation. There is a historical reason for this – Czech citizens were not so rich in the past, their income was not so high. But in recent years, their salaries are getting higher and higher.”

So does this mean that an increasingly large number of Czechs are checking into the country’s most luxurious hotels?

“Yes. In 2006 some 43,000 Czech tourists stayed in five star hotels in this country, and last year, it was already more than 60,000. So that was nearly a fifty-percent increase in the space of one year.”

To meet the demand, nearly 20 new top-end hotels are planned for Prague in the next two years. But is Prague just a bubble? Or does the picture look the same elsewhere in the Czech Republic’s regions?

“There is a big problem in the Czech Republic, which is that all tourists are concentrated in the capital Prague. The reason for this is that in the Czech regions there is a very big shortage of four-star, international-standard, hotels. And there is a shortage of big hotels – meaning hotels which have over 100 rooms each. Because it is only in such cases that big travel agencies can put such hotels in their brochures and offer them to their clients. With small accommodation, it is a problem –big travel agents can’t offer such accommodation, and therefore the Czech countryside, to their clients.”

Mr Okamura thinks that tapping into European Union subsidies is the only way to encourage growth in the tourism industry outside of Prague. Until then, more and more people look set to check into the capital’s high-end hotels, but it is unlikely they will check out the regions, and all that they have to offer.