As Prague faces billions in tourism losses, industry leaders warn of economic fallout

With government compensation programs coming to an end this summer, the Czech Tourism Union says an economic crisis is looming.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 15.10.2021 16:30 (updated on 22.10.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The pandemic led to an inevitable crash in tourism as international travel was restricted. Now, air links are reopening, and the first foreign tourists are starting to trickle back into the Czech Republic. But a full return to business as usual for Czech tourism companies is still a long way off.

The Czech Tourism Union is now warning of potentially catastrophic losses in the industry as businesses continue to rack up debt while the government no longer provides Covid-related financial support for businesses affected by the pandemic.

Government compensation programs came to an end this summer as business activities were allowed to resume without restrictions. The rules may have returned to normal; but for companies operating in tourism, business levels still have not. In the second quarter of 2021, 252,427 travelers arrived in Prague. Although a significant improvement on the dire numbers seen in 2020, this was still only 11.3 percent of usual tourism levels.

The ongoing absence of foreign visitors has led the Czech Tourism Union to call on Prague authorities to act quickly to avert an economic crisis brought about by a long-term lack of income. Prague accounts for around 60 percent of tourism in the Czech Republic, according to the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of the Czech Republic.

The future is not completely bleak, though. Airlines are announcing renewals for various connections: significantly, direct flights from the Czech Republic to the U.S.A. should restart next spring, with Delta Airlines opening ticket sales for direct flights from Prague to New York’s JFK Airport from May.

Prague City Tourism has meanwhile launched a new campaign trying to attract European visitors. The marketing effort will present Prague as an upmarket destination for discerning travelers. With a budget of CZK 40 million, the campaign will run until the end of the year. It is hoped the break on tourism imposed by the pandemic may be a chance to reconfigure the city’s tourism industry, doing away with some of the elements which caused dissatisfaction in the past.

“We want to rid the capital of its label as a destination for cheap alco-tourism. We are building a brand for Prague that will appeal to a classy clientele interested in culture, heritage and fine dining. The city will benefit most of all from welcoming the kinds of guests who will develop a personal bond with the metropolis and will keep coming back,” said Hana Třeštíková, Councilor for Culture and Tourism, about the new campaign.

The Czech tourism industry is facing tough times ahead. The end of government support programs, coupled with a continued absence of large numbers of foreign travelers, could spell trouble for many tourism providers. Yet the slow return of tourists to Prague could also be a chance to recreate the city’s tourism industry in a new image.

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