“There’s something for everyone”: CzechTourism CEO on what country has to offer visitors

Český Krumlov

After spending time abroad in both Shanghai and Brussels, František Reismüller, CEO of CzechTourism, is back in Prague working to promote Czechia as an attractive destination for tourists coming from abroad, and also internally for natives of the country. I spoke with him about how his experiences outside of Czechia prepared him for his role as CEO, and what he is hoping to accomplish for the tourism industry of the country. 

You’re based in Prague now, but I saw that previously you were the head of CzechTourism in Shanghai. Tell me about that.

František Reismüller | Photo: Karolína Němcová,  Czech Radio

“I should start by saying that I graduated from a Chinese studies program, so I’ve always had a special relationship with China. I previously worked for a Chinese tour operator here in Prague, and then I applied for the position of Director of CzechTourism in Shanghai – I basically established the office there. I spent four years there promoting the Czech Republic to potential Chinese tourists. To this day, I still call Shanghai my second home, and I love it and love China.”

Is China a big target market for CzechTourism?

Illustrative photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio

“Definitely. Before Covid, China was number four or five in terms of international arrivals in the Czech Republic. In 2019, there were around 600,000 tourists each year coming to Czechia. Generally Asia is very important – China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan – we now have a new direct flight to Taipei. Asia is important not only because of the number of arrivals, but because these tourists also spend a lot – so they bring in a lot of money.”

Are the numbers going up again post-Covid?

“Unfortunately not from mainland China, it’s very slow. The country only opened up last year in March, and they only allowed group tourism into Czechia this past September. But the other markets are getting back, slowly but surely. Japan is still a little bit slow, probably the slowest after China. But Korea and Taiwanese tourism numbers are up again, and that’s good news.”

You’ve lived abroad in Shanghai of course but also in Brussels. How do you think your time living abroad has prepared you for the role you’re in now with CzechTourism?

Brussels | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

“Personally, it’s a great experience to live abroad because it gives you a very different perspective on your country when you see it from the outside. Professionally, I gained a lot of experience in China but also in Brussels when I worked for the European Travel Commission. I got to learn a lot and see what other countries are doing. I’m inspired by what I learned in Brussels.”

I like what you said about how when you move away, you get to see your home country from a different perspective. When you moved away from Czechia, what did you see? Things that you admire about the country, or things that you thought might need improvement?

“We all know Czechia is very beautiful, but each nation perceives beauty differently, and looks for different things. I learned that it’s very important to adjust your services. If you want to offer your services to Asian clients you have to adjust, because they aren’t looking for the same things as Germans. When you tell them about the history of a castle, make it a story and make it simple – because they might not know about the history of nobles in Europe in great detail.  What I’ve really learned is that the things we find interesting and natural, are not always natural to foreigners. We need to give them stories they look for.”

So it’s not a one-size fits all approach?


Karlštejn | Photo: Tomáš Pancíř,  Czech Radio

What are some of the main goals and objectives you’re hoping to accomplish in this role?

“We are a state-owned company, and we specialize in marketing the Czech Republic as a tourist destination. It’s hard to measure, but we spread the good name and image of Czechia across more than 40 markets around the world. While we spread the image, we can’t always track the journey of the customer until they buy tickets and actually fly to the Czech Republic.

“One of my goals is to make campaigns that will at least be partially measurable, so that I know I spent one crown of public money and I know that the one crown brought five, ten or 20 crowns back to the country. I’m working hard to set up campaigns that have measurable outputs and inputs. I want more research going into our work, so we can target potential tourists more specifically.”

Is it hard to get tourists to go places in Czechia outside of Prague? How are you working to push tourists to other parts of the country?

Prague | Photo: Klára Stejskalová,  Radio Prague International

“There is a lot of talk about over-tourism, and for Prague it’s only partially a problem. By strict definition, over-tourism means that there are too many people at all times in one place. Prague is crowded, but only during the high seasons. So that’s one way to look at this problem – we need to spread tourists over the country over time. But then again, Prague is the most famous place in Czechia, sometimes Prague is more famous than Czechia itself. A lot of people in America might know Prague, but don’t know the country it belongs to.

“We are working hard on getting people outside of Prague. It’s easier for European tourists, many may have been to Prague already and would be open to another experience. For markets that are further away, Asia or the West – it’s more difficult, everyone wants to go to Prague first. There’s the so called ‘Golden Triangle’, with Carlsbad in the west and Český Krumlov in the south, which lots of tourists visit. The problem is, people who are coming from these far away markets only stay in Czechia for two to three days, so it’s very hard to get them somewhere else in the country. Usually, they will visit another country before or after, especially if they are coming from somewhere like America. To them, Czechia just seems too small.”

Travel Trade Day 2023

Are there any areas in Czechia in particular that are struggling with attracting tourists? How do you work to support them?

“Of course there are some reasons less visited by foreign tourists. For example, the Pardubice region in the northeast, or in the east, the Vysočina region. We only promote things that we are told to promote. We regularly have workshops with the regions and they tell us what they want to promote every year, so we work with the information they give us. We help them by listening to them. Quite often it’s an infrastructure problem, that these regions don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate large groups of tourists. If this is the case, they tend to focus more on Czech tourists.”

That fits into my next question – is it a priority to advertise Czechia as an attractive ‘staycation’ destination for locals?

Photo: Till Janzer,  Radio Prague International

“This is something that changed during Covid. Before Covid, CzechTourism claimed that promoting Czechia internally was not a part of their job. The regions compete with each other, and they deal with it by themselves. During Covid, we were asked by the regions to help promote them, because it was really Czechs that were saving tourism in the country. After Covid, we still do a little bit of that. Each year we focus on a segment that is suitable for Czech tourists. At the beginning of 2022, we promoted Czech spas – we teamed up with the regions and spa establishments and helped them distribute these discount vouchers. Last year in March, we did a campaign that promoted the Czech mountain regions. This year, we’re planning a similar campaign, all about winter fun. One important thing is our website, it’s owned and run by CzechTourism, and I think it’s the biggest promotion of places in Czechia for the Czech audience.”

Let’s take a step outside of Prague. If you were going to recommend a destination in Czechia outside of the capital city, what would you recommend?

“I am supposed to be fair to all the regions, so it really depends what you are looking for. If you’re a young person who wants to enjoy art but still have fun, then go to Brno. If you’re someone who wants to enjoy historical sights, then go anywhere in the country because we have one of the largest concentrations of chateaus and castles in the whole world. If you like beer, go to Plzen, if you want to see the spas, then go to the UNESCO spa region in the west of the country – Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) or Marianské Lázne (Marienbad). If you ask me personally, I’m from a tiny town near Carlsbad in the west of the Czech Republic, so I always recommend that part.”

Mariánské Lázně | Photo: David Marvan,  CzechTourism

Even though you can’t pick one favourite spot, it’s a great point that you bring up that there is so much variety across the country depending on what you’re interested in…

Photo: Jana Pavlíčková,  Czech Radio

“Definitely, and that’s the cool thing about Czechia. We’re a small country, and of course first time travellers want to go to Prague, and that’s natural – no one would ever say don’t go to Prague. But you can make a one day trip, or an overnight trip from Prague anywhere basically. You can go by train, it’s sustainable, and that’s the really cool thing about Czechia.”

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