Urging Czechs to holiday at home

Ever since borders opened 16 years ago Czechs have been exploring foreign tourist locations. At first they headed for - London, Paris and Rome - cosmopolitan cities which Czechs were dying to see for themselves. Then as holiday prices became more and more affordable they headed further afield - and coming from a landlocked country they usually chose a destination where part of the time could be spent on the beach. In recent years Czech tourists have been heading for safari tours in Africa and holidays in south east Asia. And the more they travel the better they like it.

Foto: CzechTourism
Now the ministry for regional development has set itself a daunting task - to encourage more Czechs to spend at least half of their holidays at home and pour some of their holiday money into Czech coffers. Statistics show that last year Czechs spent 51 billion crowns abroad and a mere 18 billion here in the Czech Republic. Of course you'd think that it would make more sense to encourage more foreign tourists to come here - which of course hundreds of travel agencies are doing. The problem is that most tourists tend to focus on Prague alone and then move on to the next destination in a whirlwind tour of Europe. Last year 5,5 million tourists visited the Czech Republic and only a third of them ventured outside of the Czech capital.

There is some wonderful architecture out there but the network of tourist services is still inadequate. The ministry for regional development is now encouraging the regions to tackle this deficiency and think about what else they could offer foreign visitors apart from a tour of a castle- albeit a castle on UNESCOs list of world cultural monuments.

Some towns are holding mid-summer celebrations, others are enacting historic battles and others yet have gone for the concept of "farm holidays" which are so popular with Dutch tourists for instance. Still they would need to offer much more to lure tourists off their hectic European trail and the ministry for regional development thinks it would be great if Czechs themselves could pave the way to more attractive tourist sites - by spending part of their holiday in a hotel, inn or spa resort somewhere in the Czech Republic. There's just one major hitch: most Czechs own country cottages - a legacy of the communist years when they could not travel freely and spent their savings on a holiday home. And while many of them do spend a part of their holidays at home it is almost inevitably time spent at their country house - which brings very little extra revenue to state coffers. After forty years of travelling the country back and forth -due to closed borders- it will be very difficult to persuade Czechs to give up their exotic holidays in favour of their own "back yard".