What attracts tourists to Prague?

Kafka’s revolving head by David Černý

A new study looking at differences in tourist behaviour and motivation between countries has come up with some interesting findings - and the Prague municipal government wants to use them to attract travellers who are willing to spend more money on cultural events, historical monuments and gastronomy.

Jana Adamcová | Photo: prague city tourism

Prague has long suffered from tourist blight. Like many other centres of tourism in Europe – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice – problems from litter to noise pollution to sky-high rent can in some way be attributed to the swarms of tourists that were coming to the Czech capital every year before Covid hit.

But while Amsterdam – a city of comparable size and also a frequent destination for stag parties – raked in at least USD 11 million from tourism revenue in 2019, Prague got only half as much. And Amsterdam is not an exception – in general, tourists spend much less in Prague than in other European capitals, according to the findings of a new study.

Photo: prague city tourism

Sociologist Tomáš Kostelecký from the Czech Academy of Sciences says that this is largely due to Prague’s reputation as a cheap destination to get drunk and go partying.

“The City of Prague is trying to change the structure of tourism. Prague is no longer interested in the number of tourists – and definitely there are some dark sides to mass tourism. They are more interested in tourists who are more educated, spend less time drinking beer and partying at night, and are more interested in culture and history.”

Photo: prague city tourism

In order to get away from the image of Prague as a cheap stag and hen party destination, the capital’s Prague City Tourism company commissioned a study conducted by the Czech Academy of Sciences into the motivations, behaviour and typology of tourists from different countries. Thanks to this they were able to discover, for example, that Americans are the biggest spenders, while Poles are the most frugal. However, Poles are one of the nationalities where tourist numbers quickly bounced back following the pandemic, says Kostelecký.

“After Covid, the number of tourists from Germany and Poland increased very quickly and they are at the same level or even higher than before Covid. On the other hand, the number of tourists from Asian countries such as China, South Korea or Taiwan decreased substantially during Covid and even after Covid, the recovery is very slow and the number of Asian tourists remains very low.”

The study also found differences in motivation for visiting Prague between tourists from Asian countries versus European ones.

Prague Castle | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

Asian travellers rely heavily on recommendations from family and friends when choosing a travel destination, for example, while the British, French and Americans get inspiration primarily from the Internet. Asian tourists go to Prague mainly for famous sights that they recognise from photographs, while European tourists are interested in gastronomy and entertainment as well as cultural heritage.

And there is one more thing that has traditionally attracted tourists from East Asia – popular Korean series “Lovers in Prague”, which was filmed on location in the capital, has drawn hordes of Asian tourists to the city wanting to take pictures of themselves at the places seen in the show.

Tomáš Kostelecký and Jana Adamcová | Photo: prague city tourism

But there is one finding that is particularly good news for the city of Prague.

“Israelis, Poles and Germans come to Prague more often for business or visiting friends than people from Asia, the United States or Britain, but despite the differences in the main motivation, we found that all tourists are interested in visiting historical monuments and are interested in culture.”

Photo: prague city tourism

Using these findings, the city hopes to target specific nationalities with specific narratives that speak to their culture – for example, Franz Kafka (who wrote in German but was born and lived most of his life in Prague) for German tourists, the Child of Prague (a 16th-century statue of the Child Jesus of Spanish origin located in a church in Prague) for Spanish tourists, and Vivaldi (who composed most of his works in Prague) for Italians.

Based on the findings, depending on where the user is accessing it from, the City of Prague website will appear differently to people from different countries, and a new app is also being developed, intended to provide tourists with everything they need for their entire stay, from buying public transport tickets to finding a tour guide, restaurants, and top sights.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International